Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…
I, along with many Phillies fans, paid their final respects and said goodbye to longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas at a memorial service held this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.
My fiancee and I got on line at 8:30 a.m. and entered the third-base gate about 40 minutes later. Once through the turnstiles, I saw a table with free coffee set up on it. As a huge fan of coffee, especially a little after 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I was excited. However, I caught a glimpse of two people standing a bit beyond the coffee station…and I was floored.
I whispered to my fiancee, “Oh, wow! Bill Giles and David Montgomery are up there greeting everybody.”
Now, Bill Giles is one of the Phillies’ owners and is the team’s chairman. David Montgomery is president and chief executive officer of the Phillies. And they were personally shaking hands with every single person walking into the ballpark and thanking them for being there.
During the late 1990s and the early part of this decade when the Phils were pretty much dreadful, both of these men took a lot of heat from some of the very fans they were now shaking hands with on a very emotional day.
Seconds after I noticed them, a few other people on line in front of us did too…and had pretty much the same reaction as I did (“Oh, wow!”). I said to a guy in front of us, “That is real class. They did not have to do that.” He agreed.
It was the first of many first-class touches the Phillies displayed during the day. And that’s one thing I want to bring up in this post…for all-non Phillies fans out there, say what you want about Philly fans and the teams, but anytime the Phillies hold a ceremony, they always do a top-notch job with it. Some of the so-called “upper crust” teams in baseball might want to take a lesson from the Phillies on how to stage a special event.
OK…so, anyway…I was going to write a lot more, but it really comes down to this: The Phillies did a great job this week with honoring the legacy and memory of Harry Kalas. And they capped it off with an outstanding memorial service and final goodbye to an icon whose voice will echo around my mind for the rest of my life.
This is a song I wrote over the days following Harry Kalas’ death. I used some radio calls, which are likely not covered by fair use, but I felt they added to the song and were an appropriate tribute. I’ll remove them if asked.
I became a Phillies fan in April 1979 and Harry’s voice is practically embedded in my brain — something I am sure I have in common with many other die-hard Phillies fans.
I convinced my family to make the trek up to Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2002 to see Harry enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing as that year’s Frick Award winner. I even shook Harry’s hand a couple of times in my life, both coming while getting his autograph. However, the second time features a pretty cool Harry the K story.
My friend, Cliff, and I were at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium to see the Phillies play in a spring exhibition game. After the game, we went up to the window of the broadcast booth to get Harry’s autograph. However, Cliff saw the people in front of us give Harry a cell phone and he was either recording a message or talking to somebody. So Cliff decides to call our friend Jimmy — a huge Phillies fan — with the hope that Harry would talk to him for a few seconds.
So we finally approach Harry. After Harry talked to us for a few seconds and signed our programs, my friend handed Harry the phone and asked him if he could just talk to our friend for a bit. Harry says, “Sure, what’s your friend’s name?” We tell him that it’s Jim…Harry takes the phone and all we hear is something like this:
“Hey, Jim, this is Harry Kalas. How are you?…Watching the NCAA Tournament, eh?…Well, take care, Jim. It’s getting late so I am outta heerrrrre!”
We again shook Harry’s hand and thanked him. Cliff puts his phone back up to his ear and hears Jimmy say this: “That was awesome. I gotta call my dad.”
Earlier today, I sent Jimmy a text message saying that I was thinking about that time. In his reply, he said “…that’s how cool Harry was. It’s like a small piece of my life is gone.”
A lot of Phillies fans feel the same way.
RIP, Harry the K…Phillies baseball will never be the same.