Legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalas dies

"We lost our voice today"
April 13, 2009 9:15:02 PM PDT
Radio and TV broadcaster Harry Kalas, whose baritone delivery and signature "Outta here!" home run calls provided the soundtrack to Philadelphia baseball for nearly four decades, died Monday after collapsing in the broadcast booth before the Phillies' game against the Washington Nationals. He was 73. "We lost our voice today," Phillies president David Montgomery said. "He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization."

RELATED SLIDESHOW: Remembering the legendary Harry Kalas

Familiar to millions of sports fans outside Philadelphia for his voiceover work with NFL Films, "Harry the K" was beloved at home. Since 1971, he was the man who was the bearer of news - good and bad - to those who followed the losingest franchise in major professional sports.

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RELATED VIDEO: Fans, players reaction in Washington, D.C.

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"Players come and go," Phillies radio broadcaster Scott Franzke said, "but 'Outta here!' - that's forever."

When the Phillies won their second World Series title last fall, Kalas - who normally called only the middle three innings on radio - was in the booth for the last out of the clincher. He then joined the on-field celebration, grabbing a microphone to sing Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes."

That song was among several Kalas standbys that endeared him to Phillies supporters. Another: He would call homers off the bat of a certain Hall of Fame third baseman by noting the player's full name - "Michael Jack Schmidt."

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The Phillies had been scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, a day off, to be honored as World Series champions, but the event was postponed. A new date has not been set, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Kalas didn't get to call the final out of Philadelphia's other title, in 1980, because Major League Baseball prevented local broadcasts of the World Series games. But Phillies fans complained and the rule was later changed.

A 2002 recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game, Kalas was one of the last longtime announcers closely associated with one city. Another, Vin Scully, threw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Dodgers' home opener Monday, marking his 60th year with that club.

"He was not only a multitalented fellow with a wonderful voice. He was a lovely guy. I mean, everybody liked Harry. The city of Philadelphia will just be in mourning because they loved him so much," Scully said. "I'm happy for him that his team was world champions last year, so he had the thrill of that."

The Nationals and Phillies discussed whether it would be appropriate to postpone the game, but Montgomery said Kalas "would have wanted to play the game." There was a moment of silence in Kalas' memory before the first pitch in Washington and at other baseball stadiums around the country Monday.

RELATED: Mourning Phils beat the Nationals

To a whole generation of football fans, Kalas also was a signature figure.

Joining NFL Films as a narrator in 1975, he did the voiceover for "Inside the NFL" from 1977 through 2008.

Kalas predecessor John Facenda "was the 'Voice of God' and Harry Kalas was the 'Voice of the People,"' NFL Films president Steve Sabol said in a written statement.

"In many ways, Harry is the narrator of our memories. His voice lives on not only on film, but inside the heads of everyone who has watched and listened to NFL Films."

Kalas also was the voice for Chunky Soup commercials and Animal Planet's annual tongue-in-cheek Super Bowl competitor, the Puppy Bowl.

The Phillies taped up a color photo of their broadcaster inside the dugout Monday, with the words "Harry Kalas 1936-2009" written underneath. When Philadelphia's Shane Victorino homered in the third inning, he paused after touching home plate, crossed himself and pointed with his index finger toward the broadcast booth, where Kalas would have been working at Nationals Park.

Instead, Tom McCarthy handled Kalas' duties at the start of the Comcast SportsNet telecast of the game.

"The voice that carried all the memories since 1971, when the Vet opened, will no longer be behind the microphone," McCarthy said on the air.

Shortly after noon Monday, Kalas was in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, jotting down the Phillies' lineup so he'd be ready to help call the game. About half an hour later, he was discovered in the booth by the Phillies director of broadcasting. Kalas was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Phillies said.

"It sounds like he passed in the place he would want to," Phillies slugger Ryan Howard said after Philadelphia beat Washington 9-8. "He was up in the booth."

Kalas had surgery earlier this year for an undisclosed ailment that the team characterized as minor. He looked somewhat drawn last week as the Phillies opened the season at home.

Kalas is survived by his wife and three sons, including one - Todd - who is a broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays. Funeral arrangements were pending.

RELATED VIDEO: Harry Kalas and his son, an annoucer for the Tampa Bay Rays, during the 2008 World Series. Keith Russell reports.

His family issued a statement saying they were "overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from all of Harry's fans and friends cross America. Especially the Phillies fans whom he loved as much as the game of baseball itself."

Back when he first arrived in Philadelphia, Kalas wasn't immediately embraced by the local fans. But Kalas evolved into an iconic sports figure in Philadelphia, sharing the booth with Hall of Fame player Richie Ashburn until Ashburn's death in 1997.

"I heard Harry's voice probably for the first time as a 9-year-old kid. I grew up listening to Harry," said 46-year-old Jamie Moyer, the winning pitcher for the Phillies on Monday. "He was just a great ambassador for the game."

Said commissioner Bud Selig: "Baseball announcers have a special bond with their audience, and Harry represented the best of baseball not only to the fans of the Phillies, but to fans everywhere."

The son of a Methodist minister, Kalas graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959 with a degree in speech, radio and television. The Naperville, Ill., native was drafted into the Army soon after he graduated.

In 1961, he became sports director at Hawaii radio station KGU and also broadcast games for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and the University of Hawaii. Kalas was a member of the Houston Astros' broadcast team from 1965-70 before joining the Phillies.

Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen - who worked with Kalas in the booth after being a Philadelphia pitcher whose play was documented by Kalas - had tears streaming down his cheeks as he spoke about his partner before Monday's game.

"He found the good in everybody, especially the players," Andersen said. "He loved the players. He loved being around them."

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AP Sports Writer HOWARD FENDRICH wrote the above article.

AP freelance writers Pete Kerzel in Washington and Joe Resnick in Los Angeles, AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker in New York, AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia, and Associated Press Writer Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.

The following statement was issued by the family of the late Harry Kalas:

"The Kalas family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from all of Harry's fans and friends cross America. Especially the Phillies fans whom he loved as much as the game of baseball itself."

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting contributions be sent in Harry's memory to Phillies Charities, Inc., Phillies, 1 Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Contributions will be earmarked for different charities at a later date.

Funeral arrangements remain pending.

Career highlights, provided by the Phillies:

  • Three World Series, including the Phillies' 2008 championship (was not permitted to broadcast the 1980 World Series due to national broadcast rights, which caused such an outcry that the rights were revised the following year to permit local radio broadcasts)
  • Seven National League Championship Series, including four of the Phillies' six NL Championships (1980, 1983, 1993 and 2008)
  • Six no-hitters (Don Wilson in 1967 and 1969, Rick Wise in 1971, Terry Mulholland in 1990, Tommy Greene in 1991 and Kevin Millwood in 2003).
  • All of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's 548 career home runs, including #500 on April 18, 1987 at Pittsburgh.
  • All of Hall of Famer Steve Carlton's starts from 1972 to 1986, including his Cy Young Award-winning seasons in 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1982.
  • Pete Rose's 3,631st career hit on August 10, 1981 vs the Cardinals, breaking Stan Musial's National League record.
  • Don Wilson's 18 strikeouts in 1968 vs the Reds, as well as Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling's 16-strikeout efforts in 1982 vs the Cubs and 1997 vs the Yankees, respectively.
  • The last two cycles hit in Phillies club history: Gregg Jefferies on August 25, 1995 vs the Dodgers and David Bell on June 28, 2004 vs the Expos.
  • All 38 games of Jimmy Rollins' club-record hitting streak (2005-06).
  • All of Ryan Howard's franchise-record 58 home runs in his 2006 MVP season.
  • Chase Utley's first major league hit ? a grand slam on April 23, 2003 vs the Rockies.
  • First game at Houston's Astrodome, April 12, 1965... First game at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, April 10, 1971... Last game at Veterans Stadium, September 28, 2003... First game at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, April 12, 2004.
Career honors, provided by the Phillies:

  • Honored by the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter with the David Henderson Humanitarian Award in 2008
  • Inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame (Salisbury, N.C.) in 2008
  • Named 2004 Person of the Year by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
  • Received the Legacy of Excellence award from the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on February 9, 2004; was among 19 first-year inductees
  • Named Sportscaster of the Year by the Chicago Pitch & Hit Club in 2003
  • 2002 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Received the Board of Governor's Award at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards in 2002
  • Received the Ken Garland Lifetime Achievement Award at the Philadelphia A.I.R. (Achievement in Radio) Awards in 2002
  • Presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Sports Congress in 2002
  • Named Pennsylvania Sportscaster of the Year 18 times (1978, 1980-90, 1992-96; 2002)

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