Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrating Harry Kalas

No matter how many times the people try to tear it apart, baseball just keeps coming back stronger. Today one of the great caretakers of the game passed away in the broadcast booth before the start of today's game with the Washington Nationals.

There are a million Harry Kalas stories, but I would like to share mine. My dad and I didn't have much in common, we like to hunt, sometimes together and we like to root for the Phils if they didn't tear out heart in the end.

It goes back to my childhood, growing up a few houses away from the baseball diamond playing out game all day while either going to little league practice our watching a good adult softball game at night. When the sun went down or the softball game came to an end it was time to listen to a small transistor tuned into WISL 1480 AM in Shamokin, PA and hear one familiar voice. It was the voice of Harry the K.

I heard his call of the Mike Schmidt 4-homer game in the wild one at Wrigley in April of 1976 and Pete Rose extend his hitting streak in 1978. The audience was always the same. It was my dad, me and the family pooch with the echo of crickets in summertime in Pennsylvania.

On the field, before a Philles game in the 1990's, I made eye contact with Harry and struck up a conversation. I did get to tell him how he was like a family member on those broadcasts with my fathers nearly 20 year earlier. He appreciated the conversation and what I had told him. Longtime Phillie personality and former manager Dallas Green, who was on the field for a charity softball game, cracked some jokes about Harry having a fan club.

Deep down Harry loved the players and the fans. Without know the players, he couldn't sell it to the fans. Without any fans, we don't have the great game of baseball. Harry understood that.

As for his announcing he is also know for his longtime friendship with the late Richie "Whitely" Ashburn. He had a good natured ribbing of Whitey and some of his golf exploits, never didn't he question Ashburn on his career or baseball knowledge.

When Ashburn's daughter Jan died in a car accident in April, 1987, the Philadelphia Daily News published on April 28th "Smile with me for Jan," written by Ashburn. By dumb luck, I read the article that day and was moved by a father's love for his daughter and eulogizing her for the public to see. Later that night, Kalas acknowledged to Whitey what Philadelphia had read earlier in the day about his broadcast partner, but more importantly his friend, grieving father Richie Ashburn.

Ben Franklin, Rocky, Richie Ashburn, Wilt Chamberlain, Chuck Bednarik, Steve Van Buren, Bobby Clarke, now add Harry Kalas to the list.

"Outta Here"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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