Harry Kalas, 1936-2009
Legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas passed away today, a couple hours before the Phils took the field in Washington. He was 73 years old.
I'm having trouble putting into words what Harry meant to me, or probably to most anyone who grew up a baseball fan in the Philadelphia area over the last forty years. He was, very simply, the voice of the game, someone who shaped my enjoyment of the game probably to a greater extent than anyone else--players, writers, other broadcasters, whoever. One common sentiment on Back She Goes and The Good Phight today was that Harry's joy, his love of baseball win, lose, or rainout, helped make the team and the game fun even when the Phils were dreadful, as they were through the late '80s and most of the '90s. It was a treat to enjoy the game with him, every game; his voice and style were perfect for the day-in, day-out nature of baseball.
(And as I'm typing this while listening to the Nationals announcers butchering Harry's craft with a barrage of homerism, forced camaraderie and useless information--finally muting the computer for some blessed relief--I'm just thinking of how fucking great a broadcaster he was. Harry let silence tell the story as much as speech: he seemed to recognize, as so few young announcers do, that the background hum of a ballpark filled with fans is itself thrilling, and far superior to words that hold no value. There was something almost sacred about being in the car, usually by myself, listening to that background hum before Harry's midwestern tones broke through the silence with the next pitch: "fastball down low, the count is two and one.")
My childhood at its best was Harry calling a Mike Schmidt home run. Earlier today, Schmitty returned the favor.
He went fast, doing what he loved--he'd called a thrilling comeback win in Denver yesterday and was getting ready for today's game when his time came. He got to enjoy the 2008 championship, and best of all, we got to enjoy it with him.
Rest in peace, Harry. You'll be deeply missed.