Monday, April 13, 2009

Remembering Harry the K.

AP Images/ George Widman

One of the greatest voices in baseball has left us. Harry Kalas, broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, died today at the age of 73. He was also the voice of NFL Films.

Every fan has their childhood sports idol. My grandfather’s was Stan Musial, my dad’s was Bobby Orr, my mom’s was Willis Reed, and my brother’s was Michael Jordan. While I had my share of sports idols on the field (Shaquille O’Neal and Dan Marino are the guys that come to mind), Harry Kalas was the guy that resonated most with me. I don’t know if I can explain why exactly. Maybe it was his great pipes. Maybe it was his signature calls. Or maybe it was the fact that I knew Harry Kalas would always return next season as a Phillie. I remember the disappointment I had at the time when Curt Schilling was traded and the bitterness and betrayal I felt towards Scott Rolen. But no matter who came or left through the revolving door of Phillies players, Harry Kalas was always going to be broadcasting the games to me.

You build a certain kind of closeness with a broadcaster listening to and watching the same team day after day. Unlike the players, who are on the field for their own reasons, the broadcaster is there to talk to you and tell you what is going on. Harry Kalas joined me for every Phillies telecast and radio broadcast I ever watched and heard. We shared all the awful seasons the Phils had as I was growing up, and we rejoiced when they finally won it all in 2008. I’ll always remember how I spent my summers sitting on the beach in the sun, staring at the ocean, and listening to Kalas through the crackle of the airwaves telling me that Doug Glanville just stole another base.

I’ll remember the time my parents took my family to a Phillies game at the Vet and I got Kalas’ autograph. We had gone to the players exit behind the stadium after the game to try and score some autographs from the players. Players walked out, walked past the group of fans calling their names, and into the team bus. Then Harry Kalas came out and signed autographs for every single person in the crowd. He didn’t have to, but he did.

This isn’t just a Phillies thing. Or an NFL Films thing. This is about a man who connected the fan to the game. He had an unmatched enthusiasm and love for the sport. He is a legend. It will be strange when I go home for the summer and watch Phillies regional broadcasts (as opposed to national broadcasts on ESPN that don’t use the hometown announcers) without Harry Kalas.

So one last time: “Swing and a miss! Struck him out!”

Video from YouTube.

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