As fans began trickling into Nationals Park on Monday, sad news also crept in.
Harry Kalas, the longtime broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, had collapsed in the ballpark’s television booth. About an hour later came news that Kalas, 73, had died.
“Growing up, I’d always watch Phillies games on TV, and you’d always hear that voice,” said Mike McCoach of Philadelphia, reflecting with friends in the Red Porch restaurant. “It’s always the same, and now it’s not the same. It’s not going to be like we were little.”
The cause of Kalas’ death was not immediately known, but the Phillies said he was found unconscious at about 12:30 p.m., then was rushed to George Washington University Medical Center. He died at about 1:20.
The Phillies declined the Nationals’ offer to reschedule Monday’s game but postponed a visit to the White House, where they were going to be recognized for winning last year’s World Series.
Kalas had been the Phillies’ main play-by-play announcer since 1971 and was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award by the Hall of Fame in 2002. Kalas was also well-known as a narrator for NFL Films and a broadcaster of football games on Westwood One radio. Friends and colleagues remembered him for his unmistakable deep voice, his signature home run call - “It’s outta here!” - and his kindness.
“He never turned down an autograph request, never turned down a photo with somebody, never turned down being somebody’s outgoing voice mail message,” Phillies radio broadcaster Scott Franzke said, choking back tears. “We love this game. We make a good living at it, but we do it for the fans. The players can come and go, but ‘outta here’ lasts forever.”
Funeral plans for Kalas have not been determined. Phillies president Dave Montgomery said players have suggested a special honor for Kalas, but nothing has been finalized.
Kalas was born in Naperville, Ill., and began his broadcasting career in 1962 calling minor league baseball games in Hawaii while stationed there in the Army. He made his major league debut in 1965 with the Houston Astros and joined the Phillies six years later.
Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement expressing sympathy to Kalas’ wife and three sons, calling him “one of the great voices of our generation.”
“Baseball fans 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,” Selig said.
Colleagues said there was concern for Kalas’ health in recent months, but he had called every game for the Phillies in the regular season. He missed some time during spring training for a medical procedure the team did not disclose. Last year, he missed several games to have surgery for a detached retina.
Phillies color analyst and former pitcher Larry Andersen said Kalas recently began sitting toward the front of the team plane rather than in the back rows, as he had done most of his career.
“I remember thinking, ‘That’s not right,’ ” a tearful Andersen said. “It was almost like an omen. … He wasn’t feeling well, and you could tell. But it was Harry Kalas. Nothing was going to happen to him.”
Andersen said his favorite moment with Kalas came when he was a pitcher in 1993. After the Phillies won the National League East, Kalas led the team in singing “High Hopes.”
“I don’t know if I ever want to hear that again,” Andersen said.
When the Phillies won the World Series in 1980, home broadcasters were not permitted to broadcast the game. Montgomery said Kalas considered it one of the “great disappointments” of his life, but it was remedied 28 years later when he broadcast the final outs of last year’s World Series on the radio.
“He conveyed what that meant by how he called it,” Montgomery said.