Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009. R.I.P.

Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1971, died suddenly today. He was 73 years old.

Kalas collapsed in the press box prior today's game between the Phillies and the Washington Nationals. He was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The game, which is the Nationals 2009 home opener, proceeded as scheduled. As of this writing, Ryan Howard has just hit a three run homerun to give the Phillies a 7-4 lead in the top of the 7th. Make that 8-4. Raul Ibanez just hit a homerun. Boy, this is the kind of game Kalas would have loved to call.

Kalas was well known for his homerun call "it's outta here." His most famous homerun call was in 1987 when future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt hit his 500th career homerun.

Schmidt said today upon learning of Kalas' death, "I will never be called Michael Jack again without seeing his smile."

Kalas saw the Phillies in good times and in bad. In 1972, the Phillies had a won loss record of 59-103. But by the mid-1970s the Phillies had become a powerhouse winning three consecutive NL East titles and he would broadcast their first World Series triumph in 1980. Kalas got to see the Phillies reach the World Series in 1983 and 1993 though they would not win either Fall Classic. He also covered the Phillies when Terry Francona took his first stab at managing in the late 1990s and weren't so good. But Kalas tasted World Series success again in 2008.

Kalas was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame winning the Ford C. Frick Award in 2002.

He was also well known to NFL fans as the narrator of NFL Films.

Although Kalas had been complaining of respritory problems in recent weeks he continued broadcasting unabated. He threw out the first pitch of Wednesday's game at Citizens Bank Park against the Atlanta Braves. He broadcast his last game yesterday afternoon in Denver where the Phillies played the Colorado Rockies. The Phillies came back from behind to win the game 7-5. His last home run call was for Matt Stairs, whose pinch hit dinger was the game winner.

It has not been an easy week for MLB. Last Thursday, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car accident after pitching six innings of shut out baseball against the Oakland Athletics. Although Kalas was not a player nor a young man his death is no less shocking, especially for baseball fans in Philadelphia.

No comments: