Apr 13, 2009
Just wanted to chime in today on the death of broadcasting legend Harry Kalas.
Although I’ve worked for Comcast Sportsnet, the broadcast partner for the Phillies, for seven years, and even worked at NFL Films, where Kalas also worked, I’ve never met the man. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know him. Living in the Philadelphia area for all but seven of my years, I grew up and grew older with Kalas, and I knew him. So did everyone else.
When I was a very young, before the internet and, hell, before cable TV, there wasn’t much for a young kid to do in his room late at night other than listen to ball games on AM radio, and I spent a lot of time listening to Kalas call Phillies games from about 1978-1983. Being a Dodger fan, I always stayed up late for the broadcasts when they played in LA, even on a school night. It was fantastic. The only time I ever rooted against the Phils is when they played the Dodgers. Otherwise, I ignored my general (but not total) dislike for Philadelphia fans and rooted for what Harry was rooting for because he was so likable and so memorable. That was a very special time for baseball and to be a kid following the sport, and the 1980 championship was a thrill, even though my beloved Dodgers were following at home, like me. Thank God the Phillies won again in 2008, and Harry the K was there to call the final out.
I haven’t listened much the last 5-10 years, but his voice has always been there, and it was always nice to hear it over the years while walking through the ballpark, or sitting in a local bar. He wasn’t the type of broadcaster you treasured only when he was gone; you knew he was a true gem, and you really appreciated him while he was around. Quite frankly, every one of the last 10 years or so with Kalas still calling the games has been something of a gift, and locals in the Philly area knew it all too well. Unfortunately for us, the older we all get the more of these living legends we’ll lose, and they won’t be replaced by pros like Kalas who are void of an ego, most likely. I don’t even want to think about this day coming for Vince Scully, who I have actually met and have great things to say about beyond his broadcasting greatness.
While from all accounts Kalas was a great guy, his appeal was clearly his voice and broadcasting style. In 2009, the number of people who can break out a Kalas impersonation is in the hundreds of thousands, I’m sure. But I was doing it at 10, in 1978, and in fact used to record myself doing the play-by-play, as Kalas, while watching the Phils on TV. Once my voice changed over – ’83 sounds about right – I actually had the impersonation down pretty well, and do it all the time. So given that fact and how he was a part of my childhood, it was very cool for me to learn that Harry was doing live promos on Comcast Sportsnet for the fantasy show I do for the station – and that he said my name. I never got a chance to hear him do it live because I just didn’t watch their games, but that was a thrill and I feel lucky to know he did them.
One of the main things I’ve learned growing older is that change always comes and you have to accept it.
But this one’s going to be tough.