Harry Kalas, RIP

T.S. Eliot wrote it, in an utterly different context:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
As much as all of us adhere to April as a time of rebirth in our shared game and the greater life it symbolizes, the month can just as easily take away, as give. Remember John McSherry? A wonderful man, that rarest of umpires beloved by players even if they thought he missed a call, dead on Opening Day in Cincinnati, dying as he prepared to do what he loved.
And this year, today, it’s Harry Kalas, the gifted and unmistakable voice of the Phillies, who collapsed and died just before the team’s game in Washington this afternoon. Of his endurance and wisdom and style, you probably knew – over nearly 45 seasons he had grown into the league of the Scullys.
But just as importantly, Harry had one of the best senses of humor about himself I’ve ever encountered. In the ’90s at ESPN Radio, my Philly-based colleague Tony Bruno and I regularly lapsed into a bad impression of Harry, especially for names that were easily elongated. Harry never did, but as him, we could take the phrase “here’s the two-two pitch to Mickey Morandini” and make it last fifteen seconds. 
This, needless to say, bled into my narration of highlights on SportsCenter, after two or three years of which, I happened to draw as my only play-by-play assignment, an Astros-Phillies game at The Vet. Bruno came out with me to the ballpark and introduced me to Harry who immediately asked “So, Keith, how many innings of me are you going to?” He then laughed loudly and offered me any help I might need – volunteering, on the spot, a couple of tips on why the Phils would be resting some of their regulars. 
I can also say, having known his son Todd, first of the Mets and now of the Rays, nearly as long as I knew Harry, that Harry must’ve been a pretty good parent, because Todd’s as good a guy as you’d want to know.


  1. jwock

    Mr. Olbermann, first this was be an odd week for you. I know you’ve had so many thoughts and prayers for your mother. I watched that night your tribute. I was kind of on the other end of the city METS. My dad NEVER got over Brooklyn. As a girl people woud laugh at me all the time when I would give the great attributes of baseball. My father as a child would tell me about the Negro Leagues and explain that it wasn’t a sport for wimps it takes guts to stand in front of a ball coming at your head at that speed and you have the guts to stand there and say “bring it on”. Last week, I cried just because I thought about you, your mom and then my dad. Now, Mr. Kalas. Wow. I know this sounds silly to cry, but it’s just a beautiful art of a sport announcing. When you’re mad, when your family has done a silly thing, when you don’t feel well, there Mr. Kalas was making us forget and just be right there. We don’t even get to know those emotions he felt. Maybe in many ways we took him from granted. Yesterday, I just said ok tonight the Nationals and the Phillies always start slow, so who knows? Well, this…is beyond me. Just listen to him yesterday afternoon on Coors Field. Wow.

  2. roronj

    I was a Yankee fan until the late 70’s when I moved to the Philly area and as a condition of marriage, reluctantly became a Phillies fan. It didn’t take long to fall into the routine of listening to Whitey and Harry as a ritual of summer. As a 30-year diehard Phils’ fan, I can’t help but recall when Harry comforted the phillies faithful, after the passing of Richie Ashburn. Through Harry’s obvious and heartfelt sadness, and through tears, he reminded all of us that Richie (Whitey) probably couldn’t have planned a better way to leave us — on the road, in his hotel room, after calling a game. Now, it’s Harry, and knowing that he was in his “church,” the broadcast booth, brings it full circle. Thank you Harry. Thanks, Keith. There aren’t enough words. And it’ll never be the same. RIP

  3. jcantwell1@mac.com

    I am still in shock over the news. I was at the Rockies/Phillies game in Denver yesterday and smiled when the father of a family of Phillies fans pointed to the broadcast booth and said to his kids “there’s Harry Kalas.” Growing up in Philly and keeping in tune with the Phillies since I left, Harry The K has always been the voice of baseball to me.

    Thank you for sharing these great memories of a great sports broadcaster and ambassador for our city.

  4. pagevalnat

    I shared MY memory of Kalas in my own blog, but…
    When baseball left Washington after ’71, I had to find SOME team to follow. So I wound up listening to (the then-) WCAU in Philadelphia and hearing Harry Kalas, By Saam and Richie Ashburn describe the exploits of Mike Schmidt, Greg (“the Bull”) Luzinski…and Del Unser. Del is the one responsible for the phrase “GO NASTY NATS!!!” (which is why my Nats blog[s] are named that way, BTW), so it was nice to follow an ex-Senator…even if he WAS playing in Philadelphia!!! LMAO
    Anyway, you said this better than I ever could. I have one more “timely” death you left out: Bert Bell, the man who preceded Pete Rozelle as NFL commisioner. He bought the farm at Franklin Field in Philadelphia just as the Eagles scored the winning touchdown…at least I think the Eagles scored; it could’ve been whoever they played (I forgot who, actually).
    You can research that last bit before you go on tonight.
    Nasty Nats Live Here (and Everywhere)

  5. Degree Pending

    I’d love to think you read our comments Keith, but with the way some people feel the need to turn the blog into a vehicle for unrelated nonsense, I can’t say I blame you.

  6. astrophann

    I can’t say I knew Harry Kalas but I’d met him, talked with him, and even hung out a little with him on maybe a dozen or so different occasions over the past ten years.

    I’d see Harry out on the smoking porch, up on the Club Level at Minute Maid Park in Houston, literally steps away from the media suites.

    Yes, Harry smoked and he once chuckled to me that he ought to write the damn things off to the IRS as they, he said, helped make his voice what it is. But this isn’t about the dangers of smoking but about the Harry Kalas I only barely knew over a dozen or so 10-20 minute increments.

    I had heard his voice on NFL films but I didn’t know who he was and growing up in Houston, I was too young to remember Harry’s stint in Houston in the 1960’s where he worked with a fellow Ford C. Frick Award recipient, issued by the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gene Elston.

    One day, almost ten years ago, I was out on the Minute Maid Park Club Level smoking deck, and Harry walks out onto it from inside. We were the only two people on the deck and he looks around and comes over, asking if he minded if he sat down at the table I was at.

    I didn’t know who he was but I knew I had heard his voice somewhere and “Sure, no problem, have a seat.”

    I introduced myself and he, himself, we shook hands, and we chatted about the game, how Wagner was looking, talking pitchers.

    The discussion moved to what we were doing at the ballpark and finally I asked him if he had ever done anything for NFL Films because I KNEW I’d heard his voice before and he smiled. It was a wry smile but his eyes glittered. He seemed amused – in a good way.

    “Yep, I’ve done a little here and there.” He chuckled.

    I laughed and apologized for being such a fanboy but also manage to blurt out how I’d feel bad if I didn’t take the opportunity to acknowledge to him that I thought his work was remarkable and it was truly a pleasure to meet a guy with chops like his.

    He smiled and gave me a gracious thanks and we got back to baseball. And that’s the way it would go for the rest of the series. Nothing special or planned. – our pre-game downtime simply coincided.

    The next season he appeared again. Same place, same scenario. I tried to re-introduce myself thinking the guy sees and works with so many people – but he remembered me and we picked up the conversation pretty much from where we left off.

    We were at the ballpark shooting the breeze and talking baseball which sometimes can legitimately compete with anything for the title of “the best thing in the world.”

    And that’s it – nothing remarkable except to say he was a remarkably nice man and by all accounts, a hell of a talent, and I’ll miss talking baseball with him whenever the Phillies are in town.

    * * *

    Btw, on an unrelated note if you read this, Keith, your show is Top Notch. Great writing. Nice production. I enjoy it and try not to miss it. Keep up the good work and thanks for the insightful baseball blog.

  7. gilbarnesphila@aol.com

    I CANT BELIEVE ITS TRUE………harrys voice is stitched into my memory as a sport, and baseball fan……….this town wont be the same without him…….i actually shook his hand before the final series game last october; he smiled gracously and let me talk a bit, but i could see he didnt look well, even in lieu of the PHILLIES iminent victory…….HE IS WITH WHITEY NOW………..

  8. historymike

    Just as the news came that Harry Kalas died, Vin Scully was throwing out the first pitch to commemorate the start of his 60th season with the Dodgers. And Vin then did a lovely tribute to Harry. It reminded me of how much a part of our lives our baseball broadcasters become. I can only begin to imagine the pain that Phillies fans feel right now.

    I’d like to thank you, Keith, not only for your memories of Kalas, but also for your reminiscence of John McSherry, a great umpire and from all I have heard and seen, a great and funny guy. And I would like to add that I did hear Harry the K say Mickey Morandini’s name, and it did take about 10 seconds. When Morandini made that triple play, I’d swear Kalas’s call of it lasted into the next inning. Just priceless. That voice was incredible, and it may be stilled, but we will always have it with us.

  9. strike29

    Harry was the Shakespeare of what he did, with his unique way of both conveying and accentuating the unbridled drama of the game to such a degree that, had one somehow found a way to not be smitten with the poetry of baseball, Harry’s voice would bring you in, ready or not.

    One of my most lasting memories of Harry was back in the mid-’70s; having called a big-finish pennant-clincher after uncountable seasons of Phailure, with all the emotion he brought to the mic, with the last out recorded and the celebration commencing, the camera panned to Harry for a stand-up wrap. And there he stood: his cheeks literally dripping with tears of joy for the team he’d worked for only a few years, for the fans who’d persevered all their lives, for the joy of the moment we were all sharing.

    Now the tears are ours. Goodbye Harry. We love you.

  10. timkavanagh1200@yahoo.com

    If umpires are a lot like trial court judges, then broadcasters are a lot like the judges that make up baseball’s Court of Appeals. They review and comment on plays and calls, frequently validating and sometimes questioning the eyesight and/or the wisdom of their earth-bound brethren.

    The very best of these broadcasters are baseball’s Supreme Court. Justice Curt Gowdy, Justice Vin Scully, Justice Harry Caray, et al have now retired or passed on, but their love and devotion for the game of baseball will never die because it lives on in the hearts of those baseball fans who were so fortunate to hear them. Their commitment to incisive commentary, their joyful recall of the perfect anecdote or the never been heard before story, and above all their palpable sense of fair play, decency and good humor is a tonic that lifts the human spirit.

    Justice Harry Kalas. Rest in Peace.

  11. randyc27

    As a 38 year old life long Phillie fan, Harry Kalas is the voice that brought me baseball every night. Most of what I know of baseball I learned from Harry and Richie Ashburn.

    Harry loves his Phillies and even more he loved the game of baseball. God knows he had to endure some awful Phillie teams in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s. Harry’s passing makes the World Series Championship even more special to me that Harry got to see it before his untimely passing.

    As great of an announcer as Harry he was, he was an ever greater person. Harry always take time to talk to his fans and even surprised many by remembering their names after only one meeting. Harry never forget where he came from, and made sure he made everyone feel special. He was one of those people that could make you feel you were the only one in a crowded room.

    I have heard so many great stories over the last two days about Harry and Richie and the way they touched those who they never met.

    RIP Harry, you will be missed. My Sunday afternoons will never be the same without you.

  12. angelchereb@chilitech.net

    Keith…Thank you for writing a fitting tribute for Harry Kalas. I sent an email to Countdown to ask you if you could do a tribute to Harry, but when I heard on Rachel’s show last night that you have this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find this tribute today. Thank you!
    As a Phillies fan since the day I was born, I was saddened on Monday when I heard the news of Harry’s death. He will be missed by everyone who was within the sound of his voice on the radio or television. One of my favorite calls of Harry’s was when Mike Schmidt hit his 500th home run in Pittsburgh! Although, Harry had a way of making every call memorable, especially with the nicknames he had for certain players. Mitch Williams will forever be known to Phillies fans as “Mitchypoo”. I have many special memories of listening to Harry and Whitey over the years. They truly brought the Phillies to life and kept an upbeat outlook on each game in every season, even if the Phillies were in last place.
    Phillies broadcasts will never be the same! May you rest in peace, Harry!

  13. historymike

    Tim, wonderful comments, but one correction. Justice Scully is still ruling from the Vin Scully Press Box at Dodger Stadium and for all road games involving NL and AL West teams. His contract expires after this season and he long has made noises about not liking the road, so my hope is that if he no longer wants to travel, he’ll decide to do only the home games.

    Ex-player Doug Glanville blogs for The New York Times and, if I may, he did a wonderful piece on Harry the K:


  14. prdaise@ptdprolog.net

    Harry was a class act !! I have listened to him for all of his 38 years and Harry & “Whitey” while he was with us. My grandson and I met Harry and “Whitey” in the booth in 1993. They treated us as if they knew us forever. In the 1980’s I began writing him letters twice a year for my Mom”s and Wife’s birthdays. He never missed a year. I respect the fact that even after all the mail they receive, they read it all. I sent him a congrats card after the Hall of Fame induction, and a few months down the line received a nice handwritten acknowledgement from him and and autographed picture. All of the above definesd why he is a class act. My prayers to his family. Just as a sign I seen at the ballpark on TV – “He was a Treasure through and through, Harry Kalas, “WE LOVE YOU”

  15. smg22@ptd.net

    The most enjoyable thing about listening to Harry call a Phils game was not what he said , but rather what he didn’t say. When you watched a Phils game, it was just that: a game. You could hear the murmur of the crowd, the hot dog vendors calling out, kids laughing, fans cheering.

    There was none of the incessant banter back and forth like between Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. (Someone should fire those two a**holes.) Analysis of the game down to the finest minutiae has taken its toll. I really don’t care if Manny ever cuts his hair or if Johnny Damon grows it out again. I want to hear a game called in its purest form. Ball and a strike. That’s it. Now I will never get to hear another game called by him. RIP Harry the K.

  16. filzfaninchitown

    Harry first came into my life as a broadcaster for the brand-new Houston Colt’45s; imagine my surprise and great pleasure when I later heard him announcing for my Phillies. My favorite Harry-moment was one day when he said the Phils’ defense was at “tripple-play depth.” You never knew where Harry was gonna show up next: commercials here, football there, everywhere Harry! We’ll miss you, Bud. You’re not our broadcaster any more, but you’ll never be “OUTA-HEEEERE!”

  17. filzfaninchitown

    Harry first came into my life as a broadcaster for the brand-new Houston Colt’45s; imagine my surprise and great pleasure when I later heard him announcing for my Phillies. My favorite Harry-moment was one day when he said the Phils’ defense was at “tripple-play depth.” You never knew where Harry was gonna show up next: commercials here, football there, everywhere Harry! We’ll miss you, Bud. You’re not our broadcaster any more, but you’ll never be “OUTA-HEEEERE!”

  18. alanhawk2930@gmail.com

    He smiled and gave me a gracious thanks and we got back to baseball. And that’s the way it would go for the rest of the series. Nothing special or planned. – our pre-game downtime simply coincided. Admission essay | dissertation

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