Remembering Harry Kalas, a year later

It has been a year since an unforgettable day in Washington, when "we lost our voice," as president David Montgomery so eliquently put it. We remeber Kalas for everything he was and still is.

By SHAY RODDY
Managing Editor — sroddy@highhopesblog.com
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It was a day that will never be forgotten. It was rainy, just like today — not a good baseball day in Philadelphia. The Phillies were in a series with Washington, after flying into DC from Colorado the night before. It was one o’clock and last minute preparations were being made for the Phils trip to the White House the next day, where the President would greet them and congratulate them on their World Series championship.

Harry Kalas wanted to bring someone along, his stepdaughter Julie, but front office restrictions prohibited broadcasters from bringing guests. So Harry asked Ryan Howard to add her as his guest. Anything for Harry, was the slugger’s response. Howard went to find Frank Coppenbarger, Phillies travel director, but Frank told Howard he couldn’t add her to the list. He was following orders.

Rob Brooks, the Phillies director of Broadcasting had to go break the bad news. He rode up to the press level, from the clubhouses with Kalas, Larry Andersen and John Finger. All four got out at the fourth floor. Finger turned around when he realized he got off a floor too low. Andersen and Brooks headed into the radio booth and Harry to the TV booth, where he unloaded his brief case and began writing the lineups on his scorecard. Brooks and Andersen concluded a brief conversation and Brooks left to tell Harry Julie couldn’t come. Only when he opened the door, Harry was collapsed on the floor. He was pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital.

And this unforgettable day ended the life of the legend that was Harry Kalas.

However, the Kalas legacy will never be forgotten. You see, Harry Kalas was bigger than any player or any team. He represented nearly four decades of Phillies baseball and won the fans’ hearts with his tremendous kindness and passion. His deep baritone voice and signature calls can never be rivaled.

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 calls 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 — a broadcaster from Houston, a man by the name of Kalas… Harry Kalas. 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 only be described as a long-running 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 they 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, an 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.

He is a Hall of Fame announcer and a Hall of Fame human being. Now, one year after his death, we remember him for not only everything he was, but for everything he is to this very day.

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Kalas’ death story according to Randy Miller’s Harry the K.

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