One year ago today, the Phillies were scheduled to meet President Barack Obama in the usual tradition of World Series Champions meeting the president. The Phillies were scheduled to play the first of a three game series against the Washingtion Nationals. The Phillies were picking up where they had left off as reigning National League Champions. Then, the unexpected happened, and the President of the United States of America got bumped by an announcer. Let me rephrase that. Not just AN annoucer, but THE annoucer. THE annoucer who had become the voice of a team in good times and in bad. THE annoucer who became apart of the listening audiences family for 162 plus days a year. Harry Kalas, or Harry the K, or just Harry, was gone.
As you all know, Harry collapsed that morning in the broadcast booth. He was in the thick of his pregame activites. He was filling in his scorecard. The last name Harry would ever write down was ironically “Dunn”. The last time we heard our beloved Harry, the Phillies were finishing up a win in the getaway game against the Rockies. Matt Stairs would be the last person Harry would ever use one of his patented home run calls for. Brad Lidge would be the last pitcher Harry let us know saved the game for our Fightin Phils.
Harry had been feeling ill in the days leading up to his death. Reports had shown that family members and co-workers alike had noticed it. Kalas’ widow is on the record that Harry told her “he wasn’t feeling right”, and she tried to persuade him to see the team trainer. Harry, the ever shifter of attention, never went to the trainer. He did not want the focus to be on him as opposed to the team. Unfortunately, none of us will ever know what could have been. We will never know if Harry would have retired and set off into the sunset.
Following Harry’s departure from this world, the Phillies made the attempt to move on. The game was still played, though the usual excitement for the game was lossed between the sounds of tears hitting the microphone and the cracking of voices. I distinctly remember Franzke commenting on how “no one really cared how the game ended.” I couldn’t have agreed more. I never felt so horrible after a win in my life.
The one thing that I am thankful to had been apart of, like so many other millions of Phillies fans, was listening to Harry’s call of the Championship in 2008. “The 0-2 pitch. Swing and a miss. STRUCK HIM OUT. The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 Champions of BASEBALL.” The highlight on TV with the always professional Chris Wheeler doing the later dubbed “Wheels” victory celebration dance in the background. Harry wasn’t allowed to call the 1980 Championship. The broadcast of the Playoffs then were only covered by national radio so Harry missed, what was looking like, his only chance at history. The Phillies of 2008 gave him that chance, in what would be his last full season on this earth.
I think that while I will remember the day he passed, where I was, what I was doing, etc. forever. I will always have that championship call in my heart to remember him by. As the broadcast team moves forward, all the regulars remain. Tom “T-Mac” McCarthy has sat in for Harry. Rumors swirl about possibly adding Hall of Fame 3B Michael Jack Schmidt to the broadcast team. I don’t believe that he would try to fill Harry’s shoes, but ultimately just replace Sarge. So while Harry is gone, he will NEVER be forgotten. Everyone has their favorite Harry call. Everyone has High Hopes, which hopefully will be more than just a one year tribute after every home win. Also don’t forget to donate, even if only a dollar, towards the Harry Kalas statue that the FANS will be donating to the Phillies. The guys are about a quarter of the way there, but need more support. Please visit http://www.harrykalasstatue.com for more information.
I guess the most important thing isn’t that Harry is gone. Because he will never be gone for as long as we hang on to the memories. The most important thing is Harry will be with us the rest of our lives….and after. Phillies fans now have something to look forward to after we die, hearing Harry and Whitey calling the games from Heaven.
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