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.