Thank You Harry Kalas

Today I had planned to write about opening day at the new Citi Field. As I was walking out the door, I heard the news that longtime Phillies announcer Harry Kalas had just passed away. My writing about Citi Field will wait for another day.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, in a non-sports house, people always asked me how in the world did I ever become such a huge baseball fan? It’s easy to say that largest influence was – listening to Harry Kalas. I remember like it was yesterday, listening to broadcasts on KYW, the home of the Phillies back in the day. There was something about that voice that led me to tune in faithfully day and night, season after season. It was easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm, because he seemed to know those mid-70’s Phillies were getting better each year. I’m on shaky ground claiming to have ever been a true Phillies fan, but I have no problem admitting that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to Phillies baseball broadcasts throughout my life.

I rooted for rain delays so that I could listen to his stories. I’d stop everything when Phillies pitchers had two strikes on a batter just so I wouldn’t miss “Swing and a miss he STRUCK him owwwwwt.” And although I don’t remember hearing the “Michael Jack” Schmidt calls as much as everyone else seems to, I DO remember how much fun it was to hear Harry get juiced for “swing and a LONG FLY BALL TO DEEP LEFT FIELD…” you all KNOW how those signature calls ended.

I have three personal Harry Kalas stories to share:

When I was 11 years-old, Harry Kalas appeared at the Eugene Jacobs clothing store in the nearby Westgate Mall, and I made my Dad take me. After I got Harry’s autograph, I entered a drawing at the store. Much to my surprise I found out moments later that I had won a $100 gift certificate after Harry pulled my name out of the bowl. I got to take my picture with him, and boy I wish I knew where that picture was today. More importantly, I got fitted for my very first (and only) Leisure Suit. Bright green. And yes, I thought I looked great, and made sure to tell everyone how Harry “hooked me up”. And unfortunately, I’ve got LOTS of pictures of me in that bright green polyester nightmare.

When I started working MLB games at the ballpark, I had just left a pretty cool music career. I really had no interest in meeting players or other baseball royalty – but I wanted to meet Harry. And then one day pregame in the Shea Stadium pressbox, there he was – and he preceded to sit down right next to me and ask me some questions about the Mets. I gave him all the information he asked for and left, never giving me the chance to gush. I think he knew.

Harry Kalas at the Vet. Photo by George Widman, AP Photo

Harry Kalas at the Vet (photo by George Widman-AP Photo)

Finally, I got an assignment at Veteran’s Stadium in its final season. It was the first and last time I ever got to work there. After the game, I wandered into the dining area, empty except for one person – Harry Kalas. He was sitting by himself, having a cold one, gearing down from the game. He called me by name, and invited me to sit down and talk with him. He seemed content to listen to me babble awhile, and after I finished my thoughts on the imminent closing of Veteran’s Stadium, I broke out the leisure suit story. Harry was horrified. He humorously apologized for what he called “the negative impact he had on my childhood”, which of course couldn’t have been further from the truth. But from that day forward, whenever I saw him in Philly or in New York he always made sure to tell me how good I looked.

Harry Kalas – thank you for introducing baseball into my life.

God Bless You.

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One Response to “Thank You Harry Kalas”

  1. Threshers Nation Says:

    Truly devastating news for the entire world of sports…

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