at the 2008 Phillies World Championship Parade
|Birth name:||Harold Norbert Kalas|
|Date of birth:||March 26, 1936|
|Birth location:||Naperville, Illinois|
|Date of death:||April 13, 2009 (aged 73)|
|Death location:||Washington, D.C.|
Westwood One NFL Sunday Afternoon Doubleheaders
|Official site(s):||Harry Kalas Tribute (bio), at Phillies.com|
Harold "Harry" Norbert Kalas (March 26, 1936 – April 13, 2009) was an American sportscaster, best known for his Ford C. Frick Award-winning role as lead play-by-play announcer for Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies. Kalas was also closely identified with the National Football League, serving as a voice-over narrator for NFL Films productions (a regular feature on Inside the NFL) and calling football games nationally for Westwood One radio.
Born in Naperville, Illinois, Kalas graduated from Naperville High School in 1954 and from the University of Iowa in 1959. Upon graduation, he was immediately drafted into the United States Army and stationed in Hawaii. After his discharge in 1961, Kalas began calling minor-league baseball games for the Hawaii Islanders.
Kalas made his major-league debut in 1965 with the Houston Astros, replacing Al Helfer and working alongside Gene Elston and Loel Passe. He called the first game at Houston's Astrodome, on April 12, 1965.
He was hired by the Phillies in 1971 to succeed Bill Campbell, and was the master of ceremonies at the 1971 opening of Veterans Stadium. After the retirement of By Saam, Kalas was paired with Andy Musser and Hall of Fame player Richie Ashburn.
Kalas joined NFL Films as a narrator in 1975. He became its primary voice, following the passing of John Facenda in 1984. He provided the narration to the highlights on Inside the NFL from its inception in 1977 through the 2008 season. Following Kalas' death, fellow Philadelphia Phillies announcer Scott Graham took over his Inside the NFL duties.
While initially meeting with a lukewarm reception due to his replacement of the popular Campbell, Kalas soon won the hearts of Phillies fans with his easy-going style, his mellow, baritone, leathery voice (which rose to great excitement upon great plays on the field or Phillies' home runs, especially in key situations), his love of the game and also his accessibility to Phillies fans, for whom he professed a strong love.
During his Phillies career, he called six no-hit games, six National League Championship Series, and three World Series (1983, 1993, and 2008). However, due to MLB rules at the time, he could not call the 1980 World Series, as local broadcasters were not allowed to call games due to contract conflicts with MLB, NBC and CBS Radio. Public outcry caused MLB to reverse that decision three years later.
Kalas also called the first game at Veterans Stadium (April 10, 1971), the last game at Veterans Stadium (September 28, 2003), and the first game at Citizens Bank Park (April 12, 2004).
Kalas was sidelined for a few days in late July 2008 to treat a detached retina.
On April 8, 2009, the Phillies honored Kalas by having him throw out the first pitch before a game against the Atlanta Braves. Kalas's pitch was part of the pre-game ceremony in which the Phillies received their 2008 World Series championship rings. Unknown at the time, the ceremony would be part of Kalas's last home game.
On May 15, 2009, during a series in Washington, the Phillies visited the White House and were congratulated by President Barack Obama for their 2008 World Series championship. The visit had been postponed from April 14, due to Kalas's death the preceding day. The President mentioned Kalas, his voice, his love for the Phillies, and his legacy.
Kalas and Ashburn became beloved figures in Philadelphia, and also became best friends. They worked together for 27 seasons until Ashburn's death on September 9, 1997 of a heart attack in his sleep in a New York City hotel room after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game at Shea Stadium. It is believed by many that Kalas never got over the death of his partner and friend, openly stating more than 11 years afterward that he still grieved over Ashburn's death.
Kalas' familiar home run call was "Swing ... and a long drive, and this ball is ... outta here! Home run <insert player's name here>." If it was a gigantic home run, he sometimes inserted "deep (section of outfield)" after "and a long drive" and described it as "that ball's way outta here!"
As a guest on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball on July 15, 2007, Kalas recounted that his famous "outta here" call originated in the mid-1970s. While standing around the batting cage during batting practice, he saw Philllies slugger Greg Luzinski hit a ball into the upper deck, to which Philly shortstop Larry Bowa reacted with the words, "Wow! That's way outta here." Kalas said that it had a nice "unique ring to it and has been using it ever since".
Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!
In 1980, after the Phillies won the World Series, Kalas and the rest of the Phillies' radio crew re-created the call that Kalas probably would have made when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson to win Game 6 and the World Series between the Phillies and the Kansas City Royals.
65,000 plus on their feet here at Veterans Stadium. The Tugger needs one more ... Swing and a miss! Yes, he struck him out! Yes, they did it! The Phillies are world champions! World champions of baseball! It's pandemonium at Veterans Stadium! All of the fans are on their feet. This city has come together behind a baseball team! ... Phillies are world champions! This city knows it! This city loves it!
This call was not made live by Kalas, as MLB radio-broadcasting regulations at the time forbade local stations from producing live coverage of World Series games, instead forcing them to air the national CBS Radio feed of the games. Philadelphia fans were so outraged about this afterward that they started a letter-writing campaign to the Commissioner's Office, demanding a change to the rule. Due at least in part to this outcry from Philadelphia fans, CBS-owned and operated station WCAU (the Phillies' radio flagship at the time) was allowed to air a local Series broadcast with Kalas in 1983, and MLB later amended its national radio contract to allow any team's flagship station to broadcast World Series games with local announcers, beginning in 1984.
Another memorable call by Kalas was his description of Mitch Williams's strikeout of Bill Pecota for the final out of Game 6 of the 1993 National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Atlanta Braves:
Could it be...could it be...it...is...OUTTA HERE! Number 400 for Jim Thome!
Chase is going to keep going and he's safe at home plate! Chase Utley, you...ARE...the...man!
Here is Kalas's call of Brett Myers' strikeout of Washington's Wily Mo Pena to clinch the 2007 National League East division title for the Phillies on the last day of the season, completing a comeback as they erased a seven-game deficit behind the New York Mets in early September:
Myers ... has the sign from Chris Coste ... curveball, struck him out! The Phillies are National League East champions! Look at the scene on the field! Look at the scene on the stands! This is incredible! The Phillies are the National League East champions and will go to the postseason for the first time since 1993! Wow!
One strike away; nothing-and-two, the count to Hinske. Fans on the their feet; rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0-2 pitch — swing and a miss, struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball! Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season! 48-for-48 in save opportunities, and let the city celebrate! Don't let the 48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment, and the celebration. And it has been 28 years since the Phillies have enjoyed a World Championship; 25 years in this city that a team that has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are ready to celebrate. What a night!
Nicknamed "Harry the K" by Phillies fans, Kalas received the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2004, he was named Person of the Year by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. That year, he was also inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, as a member of the charter class (21 members). He was named Pennsylvania Sportscaster of the Year 18 times.
At Citizens Bank Park, the restaurant built into the base of the main scoreboard is named "Harry the K's" in Kalas's honor. After Kalas's death, the Phillies' TV-broadcast booth was renamed "The Harry Kalas Broadcast Booth". It is directly next to the radio-broadcast booth, which is named "The Richie 'Whitey' Ashburn Broadcast Booth".
When Kalas died on April 13, 2009, fans created an impromptu memorial tribute to him at the base of the statue of Mike Schmidt at the Third Base Gate of Citizens Bank Park.
In June 2009, the National Radio Hall of Fame and Museum announced that Kalas would be posthumously inducted into its Hall of Fame. Thirteen other sportscasters were previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In 2009, Kalas was that year's inductee into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. As of 2009, Kalas is the only person inducted who was not either a player or manager.
In addition to his work with the Phillies and NFL Films, Kalas called various sports over the years for the Mutual Broadcasting System, CBS Radio, and Westwood One (including the NFL, MLB, college basketball, and Notre Dame football). For many years, he narrated the "Alcoa Fantastic Finishes" in-game highlights spots, for use during NFL telecasts. His voice was used for narration of the PBS 39 documentary on the Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry Football Game, produced in 2004.
Harry lent his voice to the commercials for the movie Leatherheads, as well as commercials for the Campbell Soup Company (including Campbell's Chunky Soup), GMC Truck, Sega Genesis Sports Games, Coors Light, and others.
He also made an appearance on the song "Rain Delay" by the Philadelphia-based rock group Marah.
Kalas was known for his love of the Frank Sinatra song, High Hopes. He sang that song at numerous events, including the Phillies' championship celebrations in his later years. His most famous singing of High Hopes came in 1993 when he sang to the team after they clinched the NL East division title. On April 17, 2009, at the first home game after Kalas' death, fans sang along with a video of Harry singing High Hopes during the seventh-inning stretch, instead of the traditional Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
Kalas had sung "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on several occasions during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field in Chicago on several occasions in tribute to Harry Caray, the late voice of the Chicago Cubs, who had led fans in that song at most home games. However, by that time, Kalas, a native of the Chicago area, had become an openly-avid Phillies fan, and held the microphone out to the audience to hear them sing "the Cubbies" as they replaced their team's name for "the home team" in the song's lyrics.
Kalas attributed his leathery voice to his habit of smoking Parliament Lights cigarettes, which he affectionately called "heaters", and some of the Phillies players lit up Parliaments after Kalas' death as a tribute.
He was very accessible to Phillies fans, for whom he professed a deep love. Kalas would take time after every home game to greet fans and sign autographs at the stadium's employee entrance, and would not leave until all fans' requests were taken care of. He also answered all of his fan mail personally, sometimes completely in his own handwriting.
Kalas also wrote numerous poems, primarily related to baseball.
Kalas died of heart disease on Monday, April 13, 2009, in Washington, D.C. He had collapsed in the Nationals Park press box at approximately 12:30 pm, several hours before the Washington Nationals' home opener against the Phillies. Kalas was rushed to George Washington University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:20 pm EDT. "We lost Harry [today]," David Montgomery, the team president, said. "We lost our voice." Before the game began, Kalas' death was announced to the crowd, his picture was displayed on the scoreboard, and the stadium observed a minute of silence. The Phillies went on to win the game, 9–8. The Phillies saluted Kalas by placing a picture of him in their dugout during the game. Center fielder Shane Victorino also saluted Kalas after hitting a solo home run by pointing up to the press box where Kalas would have called the game. Phillies fans created a makeshift memorial at the Mike Schmidt statue outside of Citizens Bank Park (at the Third Base Gate) shortly after Kalas's death was announced.
Kalas suffered from atherosclerosis and hypertension in his later years, but those illnesses did not seem to affect his announcing abilities; he had called the Phillies/Rockies game in Denver on April 12, the day before his death. Kalas was in his 39th season with the Phillies.
Though the Phillies were scheduled to visit the White House on April 14 to celebrate their 2008 World Series championship, the visit was postponed so that the day could be set aside to remember Kalas. Their White House visit was pushed back to May 15, coinciding with the Phillies' next scheduled visit to town to play the Nationals.
On Saturday, April 18, 2009, Kalas became the fourth person to be given the honor of having their body lie in repose inside a major-league baseball stadium — after Babe Ruth, Jack Buck, and Miller Huggins — when his casket was displayed behind home plate and fans were encouraged to pay their respects at Citizens Bank Park. Kalas's casket was passed along by friends, broadcast partners, and every player on the Phillies team roster, before it was placed in a hearse which carried him out of Citizens Bank Park one final time. After leaving the ballpark, Kalas' body was laid to rest in a private service at Philadelphia's historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. His gravesite is situated on a scenic bluff above the Schuylkill River, overlooking the city he so loved. In August 2009, two pairs of seats from Veterans Stadium were installed at his graveside, one pair on each side, facing each other at a 45º angle.
The Philadelphia Phillies honored Kalas for the remainder of the 2009 season with a round, black "HK" patch over the heart on all player, coach, and manager jerseys. Additionally, Kalas's famous "Outta Here!" call was played at Citizens Bank Park after every Phillies home run, and a billboard featuring a microphone, his initials and lifespan ("HK 1936–2009") are displayed on the wall in left-center field.
Immediately after the Phillies won the 2009 National League Championship Series, the players all went to the billboard, lit cigars and poured beer and champagne on the billboard as a symbolic way of including Kalas in the celebration, as Kalas had participated in all of the Phillies' victory celebrations during his tenure in Philadelphia.
The Phillies players, led by Shane Victorino, hung Kalas' signature baby-blue blazer and white loafers in the dugout for every game.
Following Kalas' death, the Phillies began playing a video of Kalas singing the first verse of "High Hopes" at Citizens Bank Park after every Phillies win.
The Phillies TV broadcast booth was renamed "The Harry Kalas Broadcast Booth" (which is situated next to the Phillies Radio booth, named "The Richie 'Whitey' Ashburn Broadcast Booth"). Both booths are draped in black. Replicas of his autograph ("Harry Kalas HOF 2002") were painted on the field at Citizens Bank Park in foul territory along the baselines near the coaches' boxes just beyond first base and third base for the first home series after Kalas's death. The wording "HOF 2002" refers to his receiving the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Phillies fan Antonio Jose initiated an online petition seeking support for a statue of Kalas to be erected outside the Phillies' ballpark. As of November 2009, there were 18,000 signatories. Sculptor Lawrence Nowlan has begun work on a model for the statue.