Saturday, April 18, 2009

Harry Kalas

I was watching the video tribute to former Phillies announcer Harry Kalas and thinking about almost 40 years of baseball with him. My brother and I used to play wiffle ball in the back yard and we would break out our baseball card collection and choose up our teams by position. The thing was, you then had to hit and play like the player you were emulating. I liked Phil Neikro because I got to throw a knuckleball, which is an amazing thing when you have it working with a wiffleball. I also like Steve Carlton because he was a Phillie and he threw hard. My brother used to grab the Joe Morgan card, convinced that the "chicken flap" of the arm before hitting made the ball go farther when he got into one...more than once "Joe Morgan" parked it in the neighbor's backyard, by rule, a homerun. And we announced the game, trying to sound like a real announcer, trying to sound like Harry.

I don't usually get all maudlin about the passing of celebrities, but by all accounts Harry Kalas was a gem precisely because he was not a celebrity. Person after person speaks about his approachability, his humility and his simple love for his beloved Phillies and the game they played. I remember summers at my Uncle Charlie's shucking corn by a transistor radio while he chain-smoked unfiltered Pall Malls in a blue haze; I remember driving in the front seat of my dad's car with no seatbelt with "the game" on; and I remember the wiffleball games in the backyard with "Joe Morgan" squaring off against Steve Carlton. And the constant was the call of the announcer, the only one my brother and I had ever known: Harry Kalas.

I'm going to miss him.

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