Sports Scene: Harry will live on

By Nick Pitts
April 16, 2009

It is through tear-filled eyes that I remember a man who came from the cornfields of Iowa and warmed the hearts of even the most callous of Philly fans.

Harry Kalas, voice of the Philadelphia Phillies spanning my entire life, has passed away and along with him, so has April through September throughout the Delaware Valley.

It is simply amazing how much just one voice can mean to so many people. One voice, Harry’s voice, resonates through highlights from the best of moments, to the worst of seasons.

The clips that don’t feature Harry the K seem like they never really happened.

Players come and go, coaches get fired and upper management moves on, but Harry was the constant.

Harry was our soundtrack.

Baseball has not been watched as dearly as it has been listened to in Philadelphia. In this town of row homes and blue collars, it is hard to stop life long enough to enjoy a full three-hour game.

But Harry always came along for those graveyard shifts, family outings and summers down the Jersey shore.

As all of the reports from ball players, coaches and other bigwigs tell their favorite Harry the K moments, just as astonishing are the amount of stories pouring in over the airwaves from ordinary Delaware Valley citizens.

While listening to 610 WIP for hours desperately seeking closure, one of the many stories was about a fan who was at the game to witness Ryan Howard tie Mike Schmidt’s season homerun record of 48. He bumped into Harry on the way out of the stadium, and told Harry that the worst part of going to ball games, was that there was no baritone narration.

Harry mentioned that Howard hit that homer in the top of the sixth, and he was off that inning.

Then, Harry smiled, and made the call for that fan, one that hadn’t been broadcasted, as if it were the real thing.

Everyone has a Harry story, because Harry had time, for everyone.

There is no way to truly measure just how many people Harry reached out to, but the best thank you we could have ever given him was fighting that worthless Major League Policy, which forbid him to broadcast the Phillies first World Series title in 1980.

Harry and Richie Ashburn did not get to call the World Series back then because of a restrictive policy protecting the network who bought the rights to the games.

There were many teams that went on to win the series without their true narrators, because their fans never spoke up.

It took Philadelphia to right that wrong, and assure Harry and Whitey that should the Phillies ever reclaim the title, the proper voices would be there.

That rule was changed the very next season, and the Phillies 2008 World Series victory has become unbelievably special with Harry’s passing.

Although Harry is up there in that skybox with Whitey, death will not silence him in the Delaware Valley.

The next Ryan Howard, Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins game-changing homer will not be accompanied by the boozy, heart- warming voice of our beloved Harry the K.

But we all know how he would have called it, even if it never comes through the static-filled speakers.

“Lonngg drive, watch that baby, outttta here!”

Yes, that voice, that one that just read that line aloud, that’s the one.

That’s Harry, living on.

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Nick Pitts

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