Three years ago to this day, Philadelphia lost the greatest voice in the world; Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. The voice of the Phillies, the voice of our summers. The voice of Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park. The voice of the 2008 World Series Champions. There is no chance that anyone could ever forget Harry calling Brad Lidge's perfect 48 for 48 saves as he struck out Eric Hinske to win the series for the Phillies, making them World (expletive) Champions.
Not only was it the World Series call that made him unforgettable, but of course all of the memorable moments in Phillies history, such as Mike Schmidt's five hundredth homerun, Mitch Williams closing out games in 1993 and the 1993 World Series, Jim Thome’s four hundredth home run , and many more fond memories (and not so fond memories) which led up to the 2008 World Series.
You will never forget where you were when you found out that Harry Kalas had passed away in Washington, D.C. during a Nationals series. From MLB.com beat writer Todd Zolecki's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
"Everyone was heartbroken, and everyone cried. It was without a doubt the saddest day in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was agonizingly painful to watch the Phillies and Nationals share a moment of silence on that day, and just as painful to see Harry's casket being carried onto the field and into the hurse just days later, by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and the rest of the Phillies. The Phillies wore an HK patch over their hearts for the remainder of the season, and fans all over the area bought shirts with the patch on it, too. Since that day, Harry's rendition of Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes" has been played at the end of every ball game at Citizen's Bank Park."
His voice will forever be the soundtrack of the Phillies. He was there for it all for 38 years, even when the Fightins fought through tough battles until 2007, when they made it to the postseason for the first time since 1993. More recently, he was there in spirit when the Phillies won the Division Series and Championship Series in 2009, and he was there in spirit when the players came out of the clubhouse (cigars in mouth and champagne in hand) and gave Harry's memorial banner in left field a nice round of high fives, and a few showers of beer and champagne. The fans wanted the Phillies to win it all in 2009 for Harry, but the Yankees had other plans for the Phils. That did not mean that they wouldn't stop fighting for the trophy in 2010 and years to come.
Despite the 2011 season ending sooner than expected, we all know that Harry Kalas was proud of this team. Harry would have loved to see these Phillies winning 102 regular season games. He would have without a doubt loved the starting rotation, the newly acquired right fielder Hunter Pence, and he would have been proud of seeing his Phillies make it to the postseason for the fifth straight year. The 2012 season will be another victorious one, because the Phillies have it all including the greatest voice in their heads to remind them everyday that they should have high hopes. These games will forever more be for you, Harry. Philadelphia loves you, the players love you, and we here at Philliedelphia love you.
Rest in peace.
From Philliedelphia blogger Mike Frohwirth:
It seems like I spent almost my entire life listening to Harry call
Phillies games. As a youngster, I listened to him on WCAU 1210 from my
radio. Later, I was fortunate enough to be able to watch him broadcast
games on cable, MLB.TV, and MLB Extra Innings. He was the voice of my
childhood. He was the constant in my life as a Phillies fan.
I'm still shocked that he is gone. I'm still saddened that I will
never hear him call a Phillies game again. I'm disappointed that he
didn't get to visit the White House with the WFC. I'm frustrated that
we will never be able to celebrate Harry's memorable career with him,
in a massive retirement ceremony at CBP.
But I feel privileged to have been able to hear him on thousands of
Phillies broadcasts. I feel honored to have heard him voice so many
great moments in Phillies history. Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. The
great teams of the 70s. 1983. 1993. I'm glad that he got to enjoy the
1980 and 2008 World Championship seasons. I'm pleased that he was able
to take part in the WFC Parade, and the WFC Ring Ceremony. And I'm
happy that he is reunited with Whitey now.
Thanks for everything, Harry. You are the man.
From Philliedelphia blogger Stephen Gallo:
When I think of Phillies baseball, I think of Harry Kalas.
I was 12 years old when my parents split up, and was moving back to Philadelphia with my mother. I'd be starting high school that September. That summer, I didn’t know anybody. I hadn’t lived in Philly for years, so I had lost contact with everyone I knew when I lived there before (of course, this was before the days of Facebook, Twitter, or even AIM). I had no friends, but I had Phillies baseball and Harry Kalas as their voice to pass the time.
Of course I was young and jobless, so the best part of every day was watching the Phillies and teaching myself how to keep a baseball score book. That was the summer I fell in love with baseball, more specifically the Phillies and their golden voiced announcer, Harry Kalas.
The way Harry told the story of each game was magical. Even back then, when our Phillies were dreadful, he made watching every game an event, and I didn’t want to miss a single one. He had charisma and a love for the game of baseball which I had never heard before. His calls, whether for a first inning homerun or for a game ending double play, always shot chills straight through me. He had a gift. I’ll never forget how I felt when I heard of Harry’s passing. I felt like I had lost a close friend.
Harry’s memory lives on. His famous homerun call, as well as his favorite song “High Hopes” are still staples at the ballpark for every game. He is responsible for so many Phillies fans’ love of the game, including this one.
Thank you, Harry.
"This is to the Philadelphia fan.
To laud your passion as best I can.
Your loyalty is unsurpassed.
Be the Fightins in first or last.
We come to the park each day,
looking forward to another fray.
Because we know you’ll be there,
we know you really care.
You give the opposing pitcher fits
because as one loyalist shouts, everybody hits.
To be sure in Philly, there might be some boos.
Because you passionate fans, like the manager, hate to lose.
Your reaction to the action on the field that you impart,
spurs as broadcasters to call the game with enthusiasm and heart.
We feel your passion through and through.
Philadelphia fans, I love you."
From Philliedelphia blogger Frank Klose:
I was seven years old when I became a baseball fan, thanks to the lure of baseball cards and playing catch with the two boys next door. I still distinctly remember the first Harry Kalas call that resonated with me:
"Long drive, left-center field! Home run, Chris James!"
That call has stuck in my head since. Looking it up, that game was July 17, 1988. I am not sure I would even remember Chris James for any other reason than his being the first home run call I ever heard from Harry Kalas.
I was fortunate enough to meet Harry in September 2007 at RFK Stadium. Apparently, the press box food was as lousy as the stadium itself, and all the broadcasters came out to eat something in one concession area available to fans. As Sarge ventured over to Cluck-U Chicken, Harry stepped towards the balcony area overlooking D.C. to have a cigarette, and I followed, getting the chance to shake his hand and pose for a picture.
On Easter Sunday, 2009, as my mother-in-law gave us our Easter baskets, she asked me about Harry Kalas.
"I don't think he looks too good," I told her.
The next day I stepped onto the treadmill to attempt to burn off the previous day's Cadbury Creme Eggs and put my television on, and my fears were realized: Harry was gone.
We all lost a loving grandfather that day: one who kept us happy and optimistic when things were not going so well; who experienced the good and the bad alongside us through our life's journey. But we could not help but smile, for we knew he finally got to call a World Series victory just months before. Mission accomplished.
From Philliedelphia photographer and blogger Lindsey Crew:
My whole life has been centered on baseball. I can't remember a single time when it wasn't there. I consider myself quite lucky to be born into a family passionate about this game. As a toddler my mom would turn on the Phillies broadcast on the radio for me to fall asleep to. It got to the point that I couldn't sleep well without it.
I fell asleep to Harry and company every single summer night. Once I began competitively playing softball I started to take in the meaning of what Harry said. He knew so much about the game and really taught me to respect it. Harry loved baseball, he loved the Phillies and he loved us. My passion grew from listening to his stories, his enthusiasm in calling the games and from taking his words to heart. I always like to say that my father taught me how to play the game but Harry Kalas taught me how to love it.
The day Harry died I didn't know what to do with myself. I tried imaging Phillies baseball without his voice and it just seemed too foreign of a concept for me to grasp. Three years later and I still can't think of Harry without tearing up. I miss him every single day. When I have kids I'll be telling them about this era of Phillies baseball with a huge emphasis on Harry and what he meant to the fans and the entire organization.
Harry, I hope you and Whitey are causing a ruckus up there in heaven and watching over this team. We love and miss you so very much.
From Philliedelphia blogger Erik Seybold:
From Philliedelphia photographer and blogger Steve Trapani:
For someone who didn't grow up in Philadelphia or the area, I didn't have the opportunity to grow up hearing Harry Kalas' voice. I didn't have the joy of hearing his great "Outta Here" home run calls or his raspy voice say the words "Michael Jack Schmidt". However, I did know who Harry Kalas was, How could I not. He was a Sports icon not just in Philadelphia but across the country. By the time I was 15 and starting paying more attention to the Phillies and baseball in general, I would soon learn more and more about the man behind the mic, and just how beloved he truly was by the city of Philadelphia.
I think back to the first Phillies game I attended in Philadelphia. It was opening day 2002, I was already 23 years old and having lived in a city without baseball or a baseball voice all my life (Washington DC) I knew i was venturing into something special. Being at the Vet on that Sunny April day was like a dream come true. Seeing Harry Kalas on the field before the game and hearing the crowd react to his every word was heart pounding, That is when I first realized just how special this man was to the Phillies and the City.
April 13th 2009 season was just getting underway when the Phillies came to Washington for their home opener. I got to the stadium that day at about noon for the afternoon game. I was in the outfield seats watching BP when I heard someone say "Harry Kalas just died" I stopped paying attention to the Phillies pitchers on the field shagging fly balls and turned to the man in shock and said "what"? He repeated himself "Harry Kalas is dead".
I could not believe my ears. I then grabbed my cell phone and checked online to see the news was in fact true. He had been in the Visitors broadcast booth at Nationals Park, just an hour before. As word spread around the stadium you could see the Phillies fans in attendance with a shock and sad look on their face. I wondered if they would play the game, I wondered if the team knew, I wondered how the team would react to the lose of their voice?
Well the game went on, In the pre-game ceremony's the Nationals paid tribute to Harry with a moment of silence. Very touching since it was so recent and ever so fresh in the minds of everyone in the stadium. People made signs on the back of pizza boxes that they just bought at the park. "RIP Harry" read most of them. At the end of the day the Phillies would go on to win that game and I know beyond doubt they did it for Harry.
From Philliedelphia blogger Christina Angelos:
It's hard to believe, but, three years ago, Philadelphia sports fans lost our "Voice."
I got to meet Harry Kalas once in 2005, only 16 years old. When I was leaving the ballpark one day, I had my opportunity to say hello and talk baseball while he was walking to his car. I was starstruck a little. It was probably the most random time I ever met a person who is related to baseball, even if it was 5 minutes. I think I got to know him and how much he really loved the city of Philadelphia. We got to talk about who won the game, who scored the runs... never a dull moment of being able to talk about baseball. Before he stepped into his car, he told me "always remember baseball is more of a mystery."
And that same teenager who is now 23 years old, can still admit that she gets as choked up now thinking about that moment as she did when it first happened.
For all of the deserving and astounding accomplishments Harry Kalas received during his time as an announcer, his greatest feat is that of a human being that so loved his city, the fans, and his team.
And when the impossible happened, when a World Series title run erupted in front of his eyes, his town couldn't be totally sure this mind-warping event had actually happened until the great Harry Kalas' golden voice exploded with the words: "The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball."
Cheers Harry. We will never forget you and thank you for being such an incredible part of our lives.
From Philliedelphia blogger Kevin Durso:
He was the voice on my TV that rose with excitement every time the Phillies hit a home run. The greater the stakes, the greater the excitement. “Outta here!” was just as much a part of Philadelphia as it was the Phillies broadcasts.
For me, an aspiring sport writer, Harry Kalas was a hero and a role model. I never heard someone call a game with such grace and majesty in his voice. I never heard someone sound so devoted to the team he was calling. I learned early on from watching games that Harry was calling that there was only one way to watch Phillies baseball. It had to involve Harry and it had to be with the same passion he brought to each broadcast.
In the early Phillies seasons of my life, that was easier said than done. The Phillies weren’t a playoff team then, so while Harry went game by game treating every one as if the Phillies were on their way to winning the pennant, fans knew what the standings said.
That’s what makes his final two seasons of calling baseball so special. Harry’s voice was the first thing I heard the moment the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. I didn’t watch the final out live. I lived it in my backyard with Harry’s voice bellowing with euphoria over the radio. There was simply nothing better. Two days later, at the parade, I saw Harry host the new World Champions in their celebration. When Harry ever said anything about the fans, like he did on this day, it hit you personally. You and everyone around you felt personally touched by his words, like a little part of that was meant especially for you.
That’s what I always loved about Harry. And to me, Harry is now part of the baseball experience at Citizens Bank Park every game. When you look at that statue, you almost want to offer Harry a greeting, as if he was still here. On every home run, at least one fan is screaming that “that ball’s outta here!” At the end of every game, some fans just can’t leave the ballpark until they sing “High Hopes.”
Three years ago, when Harry passed so unexpectedly, it was a personal loss. I’ll be honest, I had not watched the Phillies with the same devotion I do now for my entire life. Several summers came and went without me ever really knowing what was going on in the world of the Phillies. But I always knew who Harry Kalas was. I always wanted to be like him in some way and I still do. I want to find that love for a team through my own work.
Now that I’m in college chasing that dream, I do slightly understand it. Part of the reason I love it so much is because of Harry Kalas and his lessons on loving what you do.
I still think of Harry every game. I await the start of every game with the hopes of saying “outta here!” as many times as possible and ending the night with a rousing rendition of “High Hopes.” That’s simply what Harry did and what Harry still does, even three years since his untimely death. He keeps making baseball great for people in Philadelphia and his legend grows with every game.
We leave you with Harry's rendition of "High Hopes," and one of my favorite quotes from him.
“In between the exuberance of youth and the serenity of the Golden Years lies a lifetime of memories. For a baseball fan, a million images here mark the passage of time. Whether it’s witnessing part of the game’s history, or simply making contact with a favorite player, the image is indelible. Who can forget that first look at a big league ballpark? The colors, the sounds, the smells. These are as lasting as the day they first happened. We choose our favorite players by the most subjective means: we like his stance in the batter’s box, or the way he wears his cap. His smile. Or maybe we just like his name.”