It’s been about 48 hours since Harry Kalas passed away here in Washington. There is a part of me that has wanted to pour out every little bit of emotion into this space, to tell people what he meant to Phillies fans and to me personally. But I won’t.
Columnists like Bill Lyon and Bob Ford and Rich Hoffman and Bill Conlin all did a great job of conveying what we were all feeling. Even our own Thom Loverro, who is not from Philadelphia and never covered the Phillies—heck, he grew up a Mets fan—wrote a very nice column in Tuesday’s paper.
I will say this: teams should never underestimate the value of having a good play-by-play man that is respected and admired by fans. An announcer is the constant in a sport where very little stays the same. Think about this: during Harry Kalas’ 38 years as the Phillies voice, the team switched ballparks, changed ownership, changed uniforms and went through 14 managers. And think of all the players that came and went. He called Mike Schmidt’s first home run, his 500th and his last. Literally, nothing remained the same over that 38 years except the team name and Harry Kalas. He was the glue that connected the Phillies teams of my generation to those of my father’s generation. That is a very powerful thing.
Other teams can take a lesson from this. The Washington Nationals, with their tumultuous short history, would be wise to provide as much consistency in the broadcast booth as possible. Enough with the uncertainty of who’s going to be calling games from year to year. If Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble get along as well as they say they do, then the folks at the Nationals and MASN should do whatever it takes to keep them together in that booth for the next two decades. And the radio guys, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, are young enough and respected enough that they could work together for 40 more years if they wanted to.
Of course, all of these announcers need to become more ingrained with the Washington community. Carpenter still resides with his family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Slowes resides in Florida and Jageler resides in Boston. No doubt, they’ve done that because of the year-to-year uncertainty of their status with the Nationals. But it’s problematic because they are virtually invisible in Washington during the offseason.
Everyone loved Harry Kalas because he was a part of Philadelphia. He lived there. He raised his kids there. He emceed at banquets, made apperances at weddings and all kinds of community events. He narrated the team’s videos and did all kinds of local voice-over work. Carpenter, Slowes and Jaggeler could have the same presence here in Washington if the Nationals and MASN were to provide them with some long-term security.
The Nationals need to start creating a legacy. Winning is the most important building block, but a consistent, well-respected broadcast voice should not be overlooked.