Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

On Monday afternoon I arrived home after class and immediately turned on my television for the Phillies’ matinee. I turned the volume all the way down and listened for Harry’s voice which was still lingering in my head.Harry Kalas, the Philadelphia Phillies broadcast announcer since 1971 was announced dead at 1:20 p.m. Monday, April 13, 2009. Kalas was 73 years of age.

“We lost our voice today,” Phillies President Dave Montgomery said.

A young boy would get tucked into bed by his parents around eight at night, told he could not stay up all night watching baseball because of school the next day. After his parents left the room the child would creep across the room for a tiny radio he kept stored in his closet. Turning the volume all the way to “1” on the dial he placed that radio under his pillow and let Harry Kalas’s voice lull him to sleep. “At the belt… the 2-2 pitch…”

Born Harold Norbert Kalas, the Phillies announcer began his career briefly working with the Houston Astros in 1965 before being signed as the “voice of the Phillies” in 1971.

“Harry exuded a love for what he did, a love for the team he covered. It was just his signature calls, I don’t know anyone who cares about sports in Philadelphia that isn’t walking the streets doing an impression of Harry Kalas,” ESPN writer Jayson Stark said.

When the Phillies won the World Series in 1980 only national broadcasters were allowed to announce the games of the World Series. Kalas recreated some famous calls from the game for later use but was not given an opportunity to make a live call during the legendary Phillies win over the Kansas City Royals.

In 1981, due to a public outcry by many Philadelphia fans, Major League Baseball amended the ‘no local announcers’ rule. Many attribute the change to Kalas’ popularity.

Kalas always remained positive, even during the darkest years of Phillies baseball, but he was not afraid to speak the truth if a manager made a wrong move or the team was struggling.

“I’ve never heard him say a bad thing about a player,” Kalas’ long time partner and former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Larry Anderson said.

Perhaps that is what made his partnership with long time friend and Hall of Fame player/announcer Richie “Whitey” Ashburn one of the most well known announcing duos in all of baseball. Whitey was famous for his harsh remarks, including offering to “get his bat” when a Phillie’s pitcher was allowing an abundance of hits. Whitey died of a heart attack in 1997. The two worked together for 27 years.

In 2008 Harry was finally given an opportunity to call a Phillies World Series victory after being snubbed eighteen years before. Kalas sat alongside Chris Wheeler as Brad Lidge delivered the slider that struck out Eric Hinske to clinch the Phillies second championship in their history.

The call will remain a part of Phillies history forever.

“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 watch the city celebrate.”

“That moment still gives man-hole sized goose bumps,” Wheeler said.

Kalas will also be remembered for calling Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run in 1987. “Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500. The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!” was the call. Schmidt remains the only player to hit his 500th home run in a Phillies uniform.

In 2002 Kalas was awarded with the Ford C. Frick award, an award given to Major League Baseball broadcasters for “major contributions to baseball.” Kalas also has his own restaurant built into the Citizen’s Bank Park, Harry the K’s, which sits below the big scoreboard in centerfield.

On the day of Kalas’ death, the Phillies competed against the Washington Nationals. Powered by three home runs, the Phillies downed their division rivals 9-8. Ryan Howard broke the 4-4 tie in the seventh to put Philadelphia ahead for good. While Howard’s shot soared majestically over the left-center field wall an entire nation of fans thought “watch this baby.. outta here.”

Brad Lidge picked up the save.

Kalas was not only the voice of the Phillies but also had several other ventures in announcing besides baseball. Nationally, Kalas may be better known for his work with NFL films as the voice-over for Inside the NFL films. He also called NFL games on the radio for Westwood One. Kalas’ work was not just limited to sports as he also was the announcer for Puppy Bowl, a Super Bowl alternative offered by Animal Planet.

Though Kalas called his last game for the Phillies Sunday afternoon, a 7-5 win over the Colorado Rockies, he will remain a part of Phillies, and MLB history forever.

Kalas is survived by his wife Eileen and three children Todd, Brad and Kane. Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Phillies charities.

“Players come and go,” Phillies’ radio announcer Scott Franzke said. “But ‘outta here’ is forever.”

Though Kalas is gone “swing and a long drive, deep centerfield, watch this baby.. outta here!” will remain a part of the Phillies organization eternally.

Ken Schmidt is a fourth-year student majoring in english with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at KS609536@wcupa.edu.

Author profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *