“Outta Here” but Never Forgotten; Soundtrack of Phillies Fans’ Youth, Harry Kalas Dies
If you grew up in Philadelphia the past forty years and you listened to or watched Phillies games, he was “the voice.” Simply put, he was the soundtrack of our youth. Harry Kalas died in the broadcast booth as he was preparing for today’s game against the Washington Nationals.
It is perhaps fitting the Hall of Fame broadcaster passed away amidst his stat books and papers doing what he loved doing. We should all be so lucky.
No point going into a full biography here. Others will do that much better than I ever could. I can only offer my own memories of the voice and the man.
As a kid I remember being in the car with my dad listening on the radio as Harry, along with his friend and fellow Hall of Famer, former Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn, called the games. Hearing his famous “outta here” call on a Mike Schmidt homerun was a privilege. And I heard it plenty of times. It never got old. There is something about being in the car with your father listening to a baseball game that carries a special magic to it. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.
Later, as I became interested in possibly working in sports broadcasting for a living, I got to meet Harry for the first time during the off season after the 1979 season. “Colleges? Broadcasting? Sure, let’s sit down a moment and I’ll give you my thoughts,” he said. I remember thinking then how generous and completely approachable he was.
Years passed and players came and went and still Harry Kalas remained as the voice and face of the Phillies. There were some pretty terrible teams, but Harry kept it interesting – always engaging with his mellifluous baritone and good humor.
How fortunate I felt to have come full circle in a manner of speaking, when for the first time I had Harry on my radio show. Once again, he was completely generous with his time and always gave one hundred percent to everyone he worked with. This was a man who was long past proving anything to anyone, but he took every interview and radio appearance seriously and treated each host with dignity – the mark of a true professional, and a gentleman.
Last year when the Phillies were in town to play the Marlins, I took my son Peter up to the booth to say hello. And there was Harry, as pleasant as always, taking a genuine interest in what an eleven year old boy had to say.
Today, a city and a sport says goodbye to a true legend. But more than that, for Phillies fans, he was a connection to utter joy and to memories and to dreams. He was the voice. He was the soundtrack to our youth.
We are not likely to see a broadcaster or man of his caliber again. He was one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” people who come along, well, once in a lifetime. I’m glad he came along in mine. Actually, I came along in his. So long Harry.