It’s still hard to believe that the sound of our summers is gone. For many of us, Harry Kalas provided the sound track to the shore, or your porch in South Philly. He was the sound of baseball in the Delaware Valley. He was one of a kind.
He called games through the worst of seasons, where losses often outnumbered wins. But with his singular voice and trademark calls, he made those years enjoyable. He didn’t disappoint in the Philies’ good years either.
He called games in 1980, where he reached a high-note in the League Championship Series as his beloved Phils moved on to the World Series. But that’s where his run came to an end. Local broadcasters were forbidden to call the World Series, a rule that sidelined Harry for that chapter of baseball history.
The absence of Harry when the team was on baseball’s grandest stage infuriated Phillies fans. Through their letters and protests, they got the rule changed a year later.
Harry came to Philly in 1971, after the Phils lured Bill Giles to Philly to help unveil the Vet. And Bill Giles knew the perfect master of ceremonies. When he got here, he wasn’t instantly popular. He was far from a legend. He was known as “the guy who replaced Bill Campbell.” But it didn’t take Harry long to win Philadelphia’s heart.
He joined a team of some of the single greatest broadcasters ever, including his long time broadcast partner and lifelong best friend, Richie Ashburn. Ashburn and Kalas teamed up to become what could be described as a long running Broadway act. They performed each year from April to September, bringing their shows to the homes an cars of Phillies fans.
They were the perfect team.
But in 1997, the Phillies ventured to New York, where the Phillies would take on the Mets at Shea. And after the game, a tragedy occurred- Ashburn had a heart attack and died.
In the years following Ashburn’s death, Harry was never quite the same. He worked with numerous broadcast partners, none of which were anything like Whitey.
In 2004, Harry received Baseball’s grandest honor, and induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He continued to call games for the next few years. And as his beloved Phils began to build up hopes of winning another World Series title, Harry brought fans all of the action, as only he could.
Finally, in 2008 there was justice. On a perfect autumn night, with the sky-scraping buildings shimmering in the background, the Phils once again wrote their name into the history of this city. This time, Harry was there to document every second, calling the final out.
After Harry led the city in celebration, he returned to his home in Media. He was a super-star, but that’s never how he looked at it. He was still the same guy, who you would regularly see at the Wawa, filling up his coffee cup and chatting with everyone in the store. He never lost sight of why he had a job in the first place—the fans.
After arriving at 2009 Spring Training late, after having what, at the time, was an undisclosed operation, Harry seemed to fit right back into his groove. He called games the same way he always did for the first weeks of the 2009 season. But, on April 13, he died, after collapsing in the press box at Nationals Park.
It was the most unbelievable day. A monument had fallen. No one knew quite how to react.
His memorial service was held at Citizens Bank Park. He was one of three people ever to be remembered with an on-field memorial service. The others- Jack Buck and Babe Ruth. And I don’t doubt for a second that Harry fits right into that category. He transcended the game of baseball, which is something you can’t say about many people.
Tonight, at Citizens Bank Park, Harry will be remembered once again and honored, in a ceremony for the consummate master of ceremonies, as he will join the Phillies’ Wall of Fame.