World Series: Harry the K on Phils' minds

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - November 1, 2009

The always stylin' J-Roll plans to put on a powder blue blazer and white loafers. That's no fashion statement, though, it's a gesture to honor late broadcaster Harry Kalas.

"That's my next hope, that I can put on the jacket and the shoes, so H.K. doesn't miss a parade," Rollins said last month. "There's no doubt about it. We go down Broad Street, believe me, I will be rockin' it."

The Phillies are three wins from making it happen. They trail the New York Yankees 2-1 entering Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night.

Kalas' customary jacket and shoes hang in the team's dugout during games as a daily reminder of one of the most beloved sports figure in Philadelphia history.

Not that fans or anyone in the organization need the reminder. Every time someone hits a big homer, makes a great catch or gets an important strikeout, people wonder how Kalas would've called it. There's no denying, Phillies baseball just doesn't sound the same anymore.

"He's irreplaceable," longtime fan Mark Murphy said. "I still enjoy whenever something great happens and when they win, but Harry always made it seem more special. He was the best. He'll be missed forever."

Kalas died April 13 in Washington after collapsing in the broadcast booth before a game against the Nationals. The Hall of Fame announcer was 73.

"It's one of the first things you think about when you get to the park," radio broadcaster Scott Franzke said. "You know how much he enjoyed this time of year and everything that went along with it, how important the games were and being on the big stage. You talk about a red light broadcaster, he would always nail the moment every single time."

Kalas was the voice of the Phillies for nearly four decades. He was known for his baritone delivery, soothing sound and youthful enthusiasm for the game. Most of all, fans everywhere recognize Kalas for his signature "Outta here!" home run calls.

Kalas arrived in Philadelphia in 1971 and became a legendary figure in a city where passionate fans are tough to please. He was never too busy to sign an autograph, take a picture or record a message on a stranger's cell phone. He once read the names for a bridal party as if he were calling out the starting lineup.

No, he didn't even know the couple who got married. "He loved the Phillies and he loved the city of Philadelphia," Franzke said.

Everyone loved Harry back.

Kalas had a close relationship with many players, from Hall of Famers like Mike Schmidt to mediocre types that passed through Philadelphia on their way to anonymity.

The current group of Phillies appreciated Kalas for his professionalism and personality, and now wear a circular "HK" patch on the front of their jerseys, near the heart.

After Philadelphia clinched the NL East title in late September, players made sure to include Kalas in their celebration. The team jogged together to the outfield wall and poured champagne on the sign that honors him. Rollins and Shane Victorino then led the entire team to Ashburn Alley, where each player touched Kalas' plaque on the Wall of Fame.

"Harry would be down here partying, too. He would have been down here getting soaked," Rollins said. "You know Harry wouldn't miss a party, so we couldn't let him miss this one."

There were plenty of tears in the ballpark during that emotional tribute.

"The spontaneity of it was outstanding," said Tom McCarthy, who replaced Kalas in the TV broadcast booth. "I found myself getting choked up at that moment and I thought it was so weird because it had been so long since he had passed. It was a great moment, an unbelievable gesture on their part."

Fans at Citizens Bank Park still get to hear Kalas' voice during games and after wins. When the Phillies hit a home run, the giant Liberty Bell in center field lights up and Kalas' famous call is piped into the sound system: "That ball's outta here!"

After every win, the scoreboard shows a video of Kalas singing Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes." The song was among several Kalas standbys that endeared him to the Phillies faithful. Another favorite: He would call Schmidt's homers by noting his full name - "Michael Jack Schmidt."

"Harry put the Jack in Michael Jack," Schmidt said a few days after Kalas died. "Everywhere I go now, people I've never met before in my life, they say, 'Nice to meet you, Michael Jack.' It's a cool thing."

During a rain delay Saturday night, a video of old highlights played on the scoreboard with Kalas making the calls. At the end, his initials went up and the crowd roared.

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

When the Phillies won it all last fall, Kalas - who normally called only the middle three innings on radio - was in the booth for the last out of the clincher. The video of his memorable call was played before every game this season.

"The biggest thing is when there is a big moment or a culminating moment and he's not there to make the call," McCarthy said. "We'd be sitting around in the office and it'll be dead quiet and out of nowhere he'd pop in a comment and make us all break up. Not having him here, not having that friend here, that's what's hard."

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.

The team placed a billboard with his initials around a microphone on the wall in left-center field. They also named the television booth after him.

"He was a special guy," Franzke said. "You know how much he would've loved this time of year and how much he would've loved doing it."




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