It’s been about 18 hours since the legendary Hall of Fame Broadcaster Harry Kalas passed away and I’ve been consumed with what to write about a man who was such an integral part of my life as a sports fan. I’ve listened to countless radio interviews and legendary Kalas calls. I’ve read dozens of articles about Harry the K. I’ve spoken to family and friends about the sadness we’re all feeling over his death. It’s all been very therapeutic as I’m pretty torn up about this. While lying in bed last night, it came to me…I shouldn’t try to pigeonhole what Harry Kalas meant to everybody, he meant something different to everyone that was a Phillies fan. Just write about what he meant to me.
Many of my friends and my sister went to overnight summer camp outside of our hometown of Philadelphia. It’s definitely an east coast Jewish thing, but I never had any desire to be away from home during the summer nights. That meant I couldn’t sit with my grandfather during Phillies games and listen to Harry Kalas. It meant I couldn’t discuss different baseball strategies with my dad night after night. Or play wiffle ball with my friend Ian and imitate Harry Kalas when one of us hit a home run or struck out. I just couldn’t imagine a summer without Harry Kalas telling me a different story before I went to bed each night. Players came and went, players had slumps, but Harry Kalas was always there and he batted 1.000.
I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Harry Kalas on a few occasions. He was a gem and might have been the nicest person I’ve ever met. Harry and my grandfather shared the greatest quality in life, the ability to make people feel like the most important person in the world when you were with them. My first encounter with him was on opening night in 2000 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix when the Phillies opened their season against the Diamondbacks and I was hosting a show on the radio in Phoenix. I saw him in the pressbox a few hours before the game and introduced myself to him. I told him I was born and bred in Philly and a lifelong Phillies fan. We talked for awhile and after listening to so many of his broadcasts, I knew that he often gave shout outs to Phillies fans, I asked him to say hello to my parents. Around the 3rd inning, I received a call from my parents in shock that Harry the K mentioned them and their son Jimmy on the Phillies opening night broadcast.
About seven years later, I worked with Harry Kalas during a Seahawks football game in the broadcast booth. I was spotting for him (which means pointing out who made the tackle during a play). It was one of the great experiences of my professional life. Seeing the legendary Harry Kalas in action from that close was a sight to behold. That voice up close for more than three hours gave me the chills. He was so polished, so prepared, and thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing. I’ll never forget his little trick for keeping his voice strong throughout the game. He kept a bottled water by his side with a Halls cough drop in his water. And don’t think for one minute I haven’t tried that numerous times when I’ve had a sore throat!
A great Harry Kalas broadcast tribute and interviews on Harry Kalas with Mike Schmidt, Curt Schilling, John Kruk, Ernie Harwell, and many others after the jump.
In an era of canned and fake broadcasting voices (referred to as pukers in the industry), Harry Kalas managed to always be real. His voice and catch phrases came naturally and were never forced. While I’m tremendously saddened by his passing at the age of 73, I take solace in the amazing storybook ending his life had. The Phllies won the World Series in his last full season as a broadcaster. In his last home game, he threw out the first pitch on the day the Phillies got their 2008 World Series rings. In his last broadcast, he got to call a mammoth game winning pinch-hit home run by Matt Stairs in the top of the ninth inning. And his storybook life and career ended when he passed out in the pressbox. Now that’s a game Harry would have liked to broadcast.
Here at Sports Radio Interviews, we’re proud to bring you the thoughts and interviews of a variety of people memorializing Harry Kalas, but first here’s an amazing Harry Kalas tribute video put together by Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (hat tip to Mike Meech of TheFightins.com) as well as a great audio tribute put together by Kevin Shockey of KJR in Seattle who is a lifelong Phillies fan like myself. (note, I will continually be updating this post with more interviews about Harry Kalas)
Mike Schmidt, former Phillies third baseman and MLB Hall of Famer
“He carried a great burden in his life and he carried it tremendously well, and that’s to keep everyone who had any interest in Philly baseball in a good mood, which is what Harry was able to do…He’s an icon in Philadelphia. It will take an entire generation that’s living today, our grandparents all the way to our kids’ kids before we get to a generation that isn’t familiar with Harry Kalas and his voice and his passion for baseball and people.”
“Think of all the people that sort of need an uplifting period to their day in Philadelphia; they work 9 to 5, tough jobs, tough lives. They really look forward to their evening with Harry, that evening of listening or watching baseball, listening to Harry Kalas. That really brightened their day. I’m talking multiples of millions of people that, on a daily basis, were affected by what came out of his mouth when he was watching a baseball game. You only realize how important people are after they pass away.”
“To us, the players, he meant the world to us. I remember winning the division, I remember clinching the National League championship and we couldn’t wait for Harry to get in. We couldn’t wait for Harry to get in to sing “High Hopes”. He would grab a microphone in the clubhouse and sing “High Hopes” and he was just a special man. We wanted him to be a part of everything that we did and everything that we accomplished we wanted Harry to be a part of, and that’s not gonna happen anymore.”
Stan Hochman, long-time Philadelphia Daily News columnist
“He said he owed it to the listeners. He just owed it to the people who were tuned in and wanted to hear a broadcast that was lively and fun. The game itself was meaningful, even if it wasn’t meaningful in the standings. And I was really impressed by that. I mean, this was a professional guy who in late September was not going to cut corners and not going to sound disinterested or bored or anything like that.”
Curt Schilling, former Phillies pitcher
“Harry Kalas was the only member of the media, in 23 years of baseball, that I’ve ever been around that players wanted and allowed to ride on the team bus. Guys that cover baseball teams can make you understand the magnitude of the human being to allow that to happen. Harry rode on our player bus for the nine years that I was in Philadelphia as one of the players … One of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known, one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known, and I told him and talked to him many times in my career that one of the highlights of my career has been to go back and see things that happened in my career and to hear him call them as play-by-play is one of the all-time favorite memories and thrills of my life.”
Larry Bowa, former Phillies shortstop and manager
“Harry had a bond with the city of Philadelphia that was unbelievable. He was the voice of the Phillies and he’s going to be greatly missed. Believe me. I was shocked today, I was getting ready for the game and it came across the screen and I had to do a double take. I just couldn’t believe it. A lot of great memories. If there’s ever a place where someone’s going to pass away, Harry passed away where he loved to be…in the booth.”
Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, former Phillie
“Harry announced the game of baseball for the Phillies with such enthusiasm…There’s something special about him; unique voice, he had a style that he created. He could add these things to calls that other guys in the business can’t do.”
Jayson Stark, ESPN Analyst and former Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer
“He just connected with so many people. I got off the phone with my daughter a little while and she has Harry Kalas’s call, the last out of the World Series, as her ringtone. We tried to call my neighbor and he wasn’t in and what do you think his voicemail message was? It was Harry Kalassayinghe had gone on a long drive and he was outta here. This was the way Harry Kalastouched so many lives in the town where I live.”
“He had such an incredible love for everything baseball and it showed in every word he spoke. I’m such an admirer for people who love what they do and come to work with a smile on their face. That was Harry! I never saw him at the ballpark without a smile on his face.”
Listen to Jayson Stark on ESPN Radio with Tirico & Van Pelt (13:45 into podcast)
Mitch Williams, former Phillies reliever and current Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia Analyst
(after hearing a clip of Harry calling a Williams 1-2-3 save, which almost never happened) “Any time there’s a player, when you do anything on the field that amounts to anything and you have someone the caliber of Harry Kalas, the one calling it…of course it’s always going to send chills up your spine when you hear it again.”
“Broadcasters are considered media. Media is never allowed in the back of plane. Harry Kalas and Whitey (Richie Ashburn) were always allowed in the back of the plane. They were a member of the team. They were not considered media. There’s very few people that hold that job that can cross that barrier. Harry and Whitey, it was never a second thought. They were always in the back of the plane with the rest of the team. They were family, they weren’t a member of the media.
Ernie Harwell, Hall of Fame Tiger Broadcaster
“I’ve always felt that when an announcer comes into an area in baseball, if he stayed 5 or 6 years you get to be part of the family; they take him to go to the beach and to the kitchen and wherever he wants to go. He just belongs to the family and he’s a part of the region that he talks to. Harry has certainly achieved that status in Philadelphia with the Phillies.”
Bill Conlin, longtime Daily News Columnist, and former Phillies beat writer
“I never saw a man who liked what he did more than Harry Kalas liked what he did.”
Milo Hamilton, Hall of Fame Broadcaster for the Houston Astros who also went to the University of Iowa like Harry Kalas
“He was one of a kind. because he had a voice that all of all us would have loved to have in this business. That’s not to diminish other voices, but when you heard him you knew it was him.”
Bill Giles, part owner of Phillies who brought Harry Kalas into town in1971
“I didn’t know they were going to be so good (Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas). I don’t think in the history of sports there’s ever been a duo that’s got along so well, was so entertaining, so funny…yet created a lot of excitement. It was unbelievable to hear those two guys together.”
“Back in 1980, the local broadcasters did not broadcast the World Series…the radio or the TV. You couldn’t hear Harry or Whitey do the World Series in 1980. Well, the Phillies fans were so passionate about Harry and about their guys that they really got Major League Baseball to change that policy. So now you have the radio broadcasts frm the local broadcasts. To hear Harry tell that story this spring, you could sense there was a lot of emotion building up in him. He would tear up every time he told that story and he would thank the Phillies fans again.”
Merrill Reese, long-time Eagles radio play-by-play announcer on what made Harry Kalas so great
“The ability to capture a moment. The ability to have that great clarity, whether it was radio or television…you would hear every inch of that home run, you would feel the velocity of that strikeout pitch and that great passion…that great love for the game and the ability to communicate. It wasn’t just mechanical. He grabbed our veins. He came through to our hearts.”
Bill Campbell, former Phillies broadcaster and Philadelphia broadcasting legend
“Well, he knew when to talk and when not to talk. He just kept quiet and let the game proceed. He didn’t overtalk, as so many broadcasters tend to do these days. He let the game create excitement. I think that was his biggest thing. He had a great set of pipes, he had a great voice, he knew the game and he never stopped learning the game.”
Garry Maddox, former Phillies gold glove centerfielder
“He made every player seem that he had a special relationship with him, that he was your best friend. I don’t care how anyone else said your name, he made it sound special.”