Anyone who knows me at all knows how I feel about my beloved Phillies. Today, Phillies phans everywhere lost a true legend, a piece of their collective soul, their voice. Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed and died in the broadcast booth in Washington, DC, prior to the Phillies game versus the Washington Nationals. The Phillies have lost their voice, a part of their identity.
My love of the Phillies started in 1985 when I was eight years old. Players like Mike Schmidt, Juan Samuel, and Steve Carlton inspired me to want to play but it was the voice and enthusiasm of Harry Kalas that made me love the game. Harry had a style and delivery like no other and you could instantly see how much he truly loved the game. Harry's wonderful rapport and chemistry with Richie Ashburn brought them out of the booth and into your home.
I listened to Harry during Harry's induction into the Hall of Fame, his tribute and eulogy of Richie Ashburn in 1997, and his tribute to America and baseball following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
After 24 seasons of watching the Phillies with diehard enthusiasm and faithful, I finally got to hear Harry Kalas call the final out of the World Series in 2008 as they Phillies finally won the World Series that I had been waiting so long for them to win. 24 years of baseball equates to almost 3,900 baseball games and for once, finally, I got to hear Harry cry out, "Swing and a miss, struck him out.... the Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!"
I wish we could bring him back, just like anyone wishes they could bring back a loved one. Harry felt like he was one of my family. I loved listening to him and I couldn't wait until Spring Training every year after a long, cold winter so I could hear Harry call a Grapefruit League game.
Harry was certainty in a world of change. As I grew older and my life situation changed from year to year, as Presidents changed, as economies rose and fell, and entire countries came and went, I could always count on hearing Harry broadcast a Spring Training game and know that all was right as long as we have baseball in the world. I always felt like Harry was speaking directly to me, as did millions of others in the listening area.
I got to meet Harry one time, briefly, in Clearwater, Florida, about ten years ago. It was a pleasure to speak with him and he was a gracious and genuine person. He even signed a baseball bat for me. At the time, his signature was just one of about twenty-five or so signatures that I was able to collect. Now, that bat is all about Harry's signature with twenty-four others.
I write this post with tears in my eyes and heaviness in my heart. With his death, I feel like I lost a dear friend, a family member, a loved one. Now that he is gone, he becomes even more immortal than he was in life. The Phillies have lost their voice and baseball will never be the same. Thanks for the memories, Harry, we all loved you and will miss you. Your legend will live on forever, as long as there is baseball in the world.
So long, old friend.
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