"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
The above headline was the first reaction
when learning of the sudden passing of Harry Kalas. You gotta be kidding! To
the best of my knowledge there had not been any stories, facts, rumors,
medical reports, ongoing updates of any sort indicating that Harry was ill,
suffering from any malaise that could take him so suddenly from his family and
the world of sports.
"Legend" is a term used too easily, off the cuff, a descriptive adjective that
takes talent to another level when that should not be the case. But we all
just nod, smile and accept it from whatever the source may be because we know
better. However, Harry Kalas was, and is, a legendary broadcaster. He was
much more than that. No, he was not someone whom I could call friend or
invite out to have a gin and tonic after the game. But he was someone I had
met on a number of occasions when I was broadcasting and his most notable
characteristic was not his talent; it was his being. Casual, friendly,
informative, as down to earth as anyone whom I had ever met in the world of
We ran into one another three or four times, at airports, after I had turned
to the world of business over broadcasting, and he always stopped to say "Hi!"
and ask how I was doing during whatever moments we had before catching our
respective flights. That spoke volumes of Harry Kalas.
Through the years I often remarked that there are, through some miracle of
nature, voices that are created in the womb and then, recognizing what could
be, natural forces of the universe, God or otherwise, as you choose to
believe, create a body around them. Their ubiquity, substance and character
flow forth as a matter of due course and individuality. Harry Kalas will be
remembered as one of those special people.
Harry Kalas was not just the voice of the Phillies, but the voice of the city.
In Philadelphia it was John Facenda, on the national stage Walter Cronkite and
Edward R. Murrow. Is there any voice more distinctive than that of James Earl
Jones? When I was a youngster in New York City, it was almost sacrilegious
not to listen to the voice of William B. William on WNEW, possibly the most
heralded disc jockey in the nation.
Harry Kalas was taken too soon. There is no doubt about that. He will not be
replaced. Another will fill the vacancy but it will not be the same. It
never is. That is the tribute to the man Philadelphians have often referred
to as "the voice." Not just of the Phillies, whose games he has covered for
38 years, but of the city.
A Hall of Fame broadcaster about whom many will not recall his stints as an
NFL announcer for Westwood One Radio or as the voice-over narrator for NFL
Films. It was said of Frank Sinatra, when he was alive, that all he needed
was one take in the recording studio; it has been said that Kalas was much the
same when preparing features for Inside the NFL. He was the consummate
"That baby is outta here!" It is the defining description of a home run by
Kalas and has to be put away for posterity, not to be utilized by anyone else
at any time. It actually originated in the mid-1970's when, standing around
the batting cage during batting practice one day, Philly slugger Greg Luzinski
hit a ball into the upper deck and Philly shortstop Larry Bowa reacted with
the words, "Wow! That's way outta here." Kalas liked the ring of that and
used it ever since.
He might have been nicknamed "Harry the K" by some, perhaps by many on a given
day but, in reality, he was, and still is, Harry Kalas...despite the
restaurant built into the main base scoreboard at Citizens Bank Park..."Harry
An announcer is an author, he is the publisher of a split second book, he
creates a visual that miraculously transports you to the event itself and is
so descriptive that you can feel the pressure, the exultation, the
disappointment. And, he has to do that in about a second without preparation
of any sort.
The best of them walk that narrow line of rooting for the home team and being
as objective as possible. They are few and far between. The mute button is
for those that you find...being a fan of that team aside concerning
yourself...on the Fox Network. Harry Kalas loved the game of baseball, sports
in general, almost as much as he loved the Phillies. It was close but he was
the pro that simply understood.
There are not many of them, and they are sorely missed when they are no longer
with us. When I lived in New York as a youth, it was Mel Allen, whose
signature phrase was, "Going, going, gone!" Harry Caray who, with apologies
to Phil Rizzuto, is credited (in Chicago at least) with coining the phrase,
"Holy Cow!" New Yorkers would take umbrage with that however. Curt Gowdy,
the longtime voice of the Boston Red Sox, Jack Buck for the St. Louis
Cardinal, Vin Scully, Red Barber, Dave Niehous, Ernie Harwell, By Saam, Bob
Wolff and a scant few others. All storied sports figures, announcers that
made the game something special. Harry Kalas is in the starting line-up of
that group. Of that there is no doubt.
The game lives on, the Phillies will dedicate the rest of their season to
Kalas, there will be a memorial tribute to him in Philadelphia, a monument in
front of Citizens would be appropriate in the months to come and he will be
missed, sorely so. But, he will be remembered as much for his "It's outta
here!" as for who he was, one of the nicest guys in sports, complete
professional and extraordinary human being. The accolades will flow in as
though the dam of near deification had burst but they are all well-deserved.
If there is a Field of Dreams somewhere, they just acquired a new announcer to
sit in from time to time and make a few home runs more notable than they were
the day before.