As you all probably know, Harry Kalas passed away 3 years ago today. I was living in the DC suburbs at the time, not terribly far from where he died. Like everyone else, I was in disbelief upon hearing the news.
Every Phillies game I watch, I miss Harry. He is THE reason why the Phillies are my favorite team in all of sports. My family moved out of Philly during the summer of 1984. That meant for the next 2 decades, I didn’t get to see too many Phillies games. When I was lucky enough to see one, it would be through the Braves, Mets, or Cubs feed, which meant no Harry. During many summer vacations, I’d have extended visits to both sets of my grandparents’ houses in Philly. My absolute favorite thing to do was watch Phillies games.
The team was more or less abysmal during this time in the late 80’s and most of the 90’s (except ’93 of course), but it didn’t matter. I found comfort in listening to Harry. He made watching the Phillies interesting, fun, and joyful even though the on the field product stunk. Even if I thought the entire team were bums, I didn’t care and I craved to watch Phillies games. While visiting my grandparents, we would mute the TV and put the radio on for the innings that he was on the radio. I get more excited for baseball season to start than any of the other sports. I learned from Harry that baseball is just different from other sports, it’s special and there’s nothing like it in the world.
I’m too young for any memories of the early 80’s great Philly sports teams. My earliest sports memories start at around 1985. So, in 2008, when the Phillies finally won, I had never known how that had felt. To be the fan of a champion. I had only known the disappointment of losing in the championship for the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and NBA Finals. After suffering through Joe Buck and Tim McCarver for the World Series and celebrating, I saw this clip…
Tears streamed down my face. The near 25 years of my rabid frustration were officially over. Even though I had watched the games, was literally in Citizen’s Bank Park to hear Chase proclaim the Phillies as “World Phucking Champions”, saw the trophy with my own eyes, and had the World Series Champions hat and t-shirt on my body, it still wasn’t truly real until Harry told me it was. I watch that clip every now and again and I still tear up every time.
My brother and I happened to be in Philly when the Phillies held their memorial service for Harry. We felt like we had to go. I remember being surprised at how empty the stadium was. We got to go down to the field and see the coffin. We heard speeches from past Philly greats. It was very emotional. I took some pictures that day, but I never showed them to anybody. It just didn’t seem right.
I’ll save you all from my bemoaning of the current announce team. They really had no chance anyway. Harry was irreplaceable.
Thank you, Harry, for teaching me baseball and teaching me how to love the Phillies. I’ll try and pass that passion to my kids and my future grandchildren too. High hopes always and forever.