Harry Kalas died today. He was in the booth prepping for today’s game at Washington when he collapsed. He was 73.
He was legend.
If you ask any real Phillies fan what baseball means to them, it’s Kalas and Ashburn on the radio on a hot summer night. Maybe there’s a couple of beers involved, or a cheesesteak, or a soft pretzel and some mustard. The Phils are probably losing; you don’t get to be the first team to lose ten thousand games easily. It’s humid. The radio is clear from the 50,000 watt tower of WCAU-AM 1210.
And Richie Ashburn, quietly chewing on his pipe, maybe throwing in a “Hard to believe, Harry”.
But maybe it’s a good night, and Schmidt hits one out, and those pipes of Harry’s bellow out, “Swing AND A LONG DRIVE OUTTA HERE HOME RUN MICHAEL JACK SCHMIDT!”
But that’s rare. Most of the time, it’s bad baseball. But you sit there with your dad, and you listen quietly. Maybe during the commercial you ask a question. Maybe your dad talks about playing semipro ball, like mine did. But maybe not. Maybe your dad doesn’t talk much. He just works quietly in the garage.
And you learn the manly art of saying as much as possible in as few words as possible from Ashburn. And you learn when to celebrate the good times from Kalas.
I want to say something profound about Harry’s death; something about how we’re all lucky to have had him for so long (he’s been calling games for the Phils since the early 70s). Or that it’s great that he called the last out last year (I heard it in the car). Or how he died doing what he loved. And maybe someone else will write that.
Right now, it hurts. For me, Kalas was as much a part of my childhood as Fantastic Four comics and Atari. We’ll never hear those dulcet tones, aged with tobacco and midwestern horse sense, over WCAU again. As I type this, the Phils are up in the game that Kalas died before. I’m in central Jersey, so I can’t pick up the game, but I’m not sure I’d want to.
Goodbye, Harry. Thanks for everything.
UPDATE: Thanks to We Should Be GM’s for this: