Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Remembering a Legend: Harry Kalas

Phillies CF Shane Victorino points towards the broadcast booth in honor of the late Harry Kalas after hitting a home run during yesterday's win over the Nationals.

Harry was loved. We all knew people adored and respected the man with the deep baritone and resonating home run calls. But did we realize how much people loved this man? There are stories far and wide of people remembering the legend. How many of those people actually interacted with Harry? Few. And yet people are mourning as though they lost an uncle or a grandfather. That's how important Harry Kalas was to Philadelphia and its fans.

For those of you interested, here is my story.

The first baseball season I vividly remember took place in 1993. I was 8 years old. My parents weren't die-hard sports fans; they were more casual types who had rooting interests and loved sports in general. They certainly loved their football and hockey, but baseball was a distant third. So then how did I become such a big baseball fan? My grandparents. My mom's parents were all about the Phillies. The only games I remember from that epic '93 season were ones I took in in front of the TV set or radio on the floor of the living room at my grandparents' farm. I can recite many of the players from that 1993 squad. Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Mickey Morandini, Dave Hollins, Kevin Stocker, Curt Schilling, Pete Incaviglia, Jim Eisenreich, Lenny Dykstra, etc. Why do those names stick in my head? It's not just the names, it's the way they were said. And who was saying them.

Harry Kalas had a way with names (and home run calls and strike outs). That's what I remember from those '93 games. Mic-key Morandiiiiinniiiiiiii!
"Righetti stretches.... 1-2 pitch... swing and a well-hit ball to deep right.... this ball is a grand slam, a grand slam home run Mickey Morandini and the Phillies have broken this game wide open."
That's the only one I can translate from sound to text but he had this swagger and staccato about him when he'd say any of the Phillies names. It wasn't just during '93; no, it was every year, no matter how good the team or particular player was. I remember Kalas' calls more so than the games themselves. You may think I'm exaggerating but it's true. The calls are what I remember. It's Harry's voice in my head when I think back to the Phillies storming back to beat the Giants on April 26. After trailing 8-0 entering the bottom of the 6th the Phillies scored 9 runs, the last coming in the bottom of the 10th on a wild pitch. Your winning pitcher? Phillies broadcaster and Harry's friend Larry Andersen.

There were tow memorable games - marathons really - within five days of each other in July. On the 2nd, the Padres and Phillies took part in a double header. The first game started at 4:44 PM. Terry Mulholland took the loss as the Padres beat Philadelphia 5-2. The game was marred with rain delays. The second game began at 1:28 AM on the 3rd. At 4:42 AM, with the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th, pitcher Mitch Williams stepped to the plate with Incaviglia on second and Eisenreich on 1st. Then this happened.
Line drive... left-center field... Incaviglia scores and the Phillies win it on a base hit by Mitchie-poo!
-- Harry Kalas in the early morning of July 3, 1993
Phillies win, 6-5, after nearly 12 hours of baseball.

On the 7th, less than five days later, the Phillies embarked on yet another event that helped define that magical 1993 season. It's 5-3 Phillies in the top of the 9th against the Dodgers. Closer Mitch Williams is on the mound. Williams proceeds to allow a walk, single, walk, walk, bringing the game to 5-4. Williams is replaced by Larry Andersen who immediately allows a single to tie the game. The damaged ended there but the game was tied. After the Phils could muster nothing in the bottom of the frame, extra innings were needed. Another 10 innings passed - yep, a full game and then some - and the score remained 5-5. The top of the 20th arrived. It was time for some scoring. The Dodgers took a 6-5 lead when pitcher Mitch Williams tried to get Jose Offerman at home but the throw was wild. During the home half of the 20th the Phillies offense woke up. Eisenreich and Morandini singled followed by a fielder's choice by Stocker advancing the runners. Dykstra stepped to the plate and hammered a line drive down the left field line for a ground rule double. Phillies win 7-6 in 20 innings. Unbelievable.

The Phillies clinched their first division title since 1983 on September 28th. Just over two weeks later they were headed to the World Series.
Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Phillies are the '93 National League Champions! Mitch Williams, a 1-2-3 save and this place is bedlam at Veterans Stadium.
-- Harry Kalas calling the final out of the '93 NLCS
Though that season didn't end the way Harry or the fans of Philadelphia wanted, last year did.

Kalas' Recent Memorable Calls
2007 N.L. East Division Champions
Curve ball, struck him out. The Phillies are National League East champions. Look at the scene on the field. Look at the scene in the stands. This is incredible. The Phillies are National Leagues East champions and going to the postseason for the first time since 1993. Wow!
2008 N.L. East Division Champions
The pitch to Zimmerman... ground ball up the middle... J-roll dives... to Utley one.. relay... double play. The Phillies are the National League Eastern Division champions on a spectacular double play by J-roll to Utley to Howard. What a play by J-roll!
2008 World Series Champions

One strike away, nothing-and-two the count to Hinske. Fans on their feet, rally towels are being waved.... Brad Lidge stretches ... the 0-2 pitch ... swing and a miss! Struck him out! ... The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball! Brad Lidge does it again and stays perfect for the 2008 season, 48-for-48 in save opportunities and let the city celebrate!
There are plenty of other great videos and tributes around the internet today. Here are a few...

Wheels, Franzke, Sarge, LA, and T-Mac had to go on yesterday and do the Phillies-Nationals broadcast, less than 2 hours after Harry passed away.
Phillies Broadcasters Remember Harry Kalas | The 700 Level

On this post you'll find Kalas' final home run call on a moon shot hit by NLCS hero Matt Stairs.
The Final Outta Here | The 700 Level

More 700 level views here.
Harry Kalas Has Left Us | The 700 Level

meech.one has the CSN tribute to Harry.
CSN's Tribute to Harry Kalas | The Fightins

And he has the video reactions of former Philadelphia beat writer and resident, Jayson Stark.
Jayson Stark on the legend that is Harry Kalas | The Fightins

The combined efforts of The Fightins and Birdland bring us this

Available here. All proceeds go to Phillies charities.

Kevin McGuire at Macho Row has a plethora of posts up about the legend.
Phillies Win With Heavy Hearts, Baseball World Mourns the Loss of Kalas, Quotes About Kalas, and NFL Films Remember Kalas

Remembering Kalas, a heavenly voice | Bill Conlin, Philly.com
I Remember Harry | The Zo Zone
Memorable cals during Kalas' time with the Phillies | Pocono Record

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