- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Harry Kalas stood near the mound, wearing a bright red sportcoat and blowing kisses to adoring fans, ready to deliver the ceremonial first pitch on a day the Philadelphia Phillies received their World Series championship rings.

The Hall of Fame announcer shook his head, pretending to call off the catcher’s sign, blew more kisses, wound up and threw a one-hop strike to Carlos Ruiz before last Wednesday’s game against Atlanta.

It would be the last time Kalas appeared at Citizens Bank Park.

Kalas, the longtime radio and TV broadcaster known for his signature “Outta here!” home run calls, died Monday after collapsing in the broadcast booth before the Phillies’ 9-8 victory over the Washington Nationals. He was 73.

“We lost our voice today,” Phillies president David Montgomery said. “He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization.”

Familiar to millions of sports fans outside Philadelphia for his voiceover work with NFL Films, “Harry the K” was beloved at home. With his distinctive baritone delivery, soothing sound and youthful enthusiasm for the game, Kalas 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.

The fans remembered Kalas on Monday night, building a shrine of flowers at Citizens Bank Park around a statue of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Someone left a small radio at Schmidt’s feet and several fans left baseballs and notes, many of them signed by entire families. One note said, “Heroes get remembered, legends never die. We’ll miss you Harry.”

Since 1971, Kalas was the man who was the bearer of news _ good and bad _ to those who followed the losingest franchise in major professional sports.

“Players come and go,” Phillies radio broadcaster Scott Franzke said, “but ‘Outta here!’ _ that’s forever.”

When the Phillies won their second World Series title last fall, Kalas _ who normally called only the middle three innings on radio _ was in the booth for the last out of the clincher. He then joined the on-field celebration, grabbing a microphone to sing Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes.”

That song was among several Kalas standbys that endeared him to Phillies supporters. Another: He would call homers off the bat of Schmidt by noting his full name _ “Michael Jack Schmidt.”

“His voice will resonate in my mind the rest of my life,” Schmidt said. “I will never be called ‘Michael Jack’ again without seeing his smile.”

Fans loved the way Kalas would pronounce every syllable of some player’s names like Mickey Morandini and Rico Brogna. His deep appreciation for gritty, hard-nosed players like Chase Utley came through when Utley scored from second base on a bouncer to the mound during a game against Atlanta in 2006.

As Utley crossed the plate, Kalas proclaimed: “Chase Utley, you are the man!”

The Phillies had been scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, a day off, to be honored as World Series champions, but the event was postponed. A new date has not been set, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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

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. Another, Vin Scully, threw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home opener Monday, marking his 60th year with that club.

“He was not only a multitalented fellow with a wonderful voice. He was a lovely guy. I mean, everybody liked Harry. The city of Philadelphia will just be in mourning because they loved him so much,” Scully said. “I’m happy for him that his team was world champions last year, so he had the thrill of that.”

The Nationals and Phillies discussed whether it would be appropriate to postpone the game, but Montgomery said Kalas “would have wanted to play the game.” There was a moment of silence in Kalas’ memory before the first pitch in Washington and at other baseball stadiums around the country Monday.

On the radio, Franzke and his partner Larry Anderson cried during the first inning. Tom McCarthy handled Kalas’ duties at the start of the Comcast SportsNet telecast of the game, working with Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews.

“The voice that carried all the memories since 1971, when the Vet opened, will no longer be behind the microphone,” McCarthy said on the air.

To a whole generation of football fans, Kalas also was a signature figure. Joining NFL Films as a narrator in 1975, he did the voiceover for “Inside the NFL” from 1977 through 2008.

Kalas predecessor John Facenda “was the ‘Voice of God’ and Harry Kalas was the ‘Voice of the People,’” NFL Films president Steve Sabol said in a written statement.

“In many ways, Harry is the narrator of our memories. His voice lives on not only on film, but inside the heads of everyone who has watched and listened to NFL Films.”

Kalas also was the voice for Chunky Soup commercials and Animal Planet’s annual tongue-in-cheek Super Bowl competitor, the Puppy Bowl.

The Phillies taped up a color photo of their broadcaster inside the dugout Monday, with the words “Harry Kalas 1936-2009” written underneath. When Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino homered in the third inning, he paused after touching home plate, crossed himself and pointed with his index finger toward the broadcast booth, where Kalas would have been working at Nationals Park.

In a fitting tribute, Franzke borrowed Kalas’ “Outta here” call to describe the homer, doing it in his own voice.

Shortly after noon Monday, Kalas was in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, jotting down the Phillies’ lineup so he’d be ready to help call the game. About half an hour later, he was discovered in the booth by the Phillies director of broadcasting. Kalas was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Phillies said.

“It sounds like he passed in the place he would want to,” Phillies slugger Ryan Howard said. “He was up in the booth.”

Kalas had surgery earlier this year for an undisclosed ailment that the team characterized as minor. He looked somewhat drawn last week as the Phillies opened the season at home.

Kalas is survived by his wife and three sons, including one _ Todd _ who is a broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays. Funeral arrangements were pending.

His family issued a statement saying they were “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from all of Harry’s fans and friends across America. Especially the Phillies fans whom he loved as much as the game of baseball itself.”

Back when he first arrived in Philadelphia, Kalas wasn’t immediately embraced by the local fans. But he evolved into an iconic sports figure in Philadelphia, sharing the booth with Hall of Fame player Richie Ashburn until Ashburn’s death in 1997. Ashburn’s death hit Kalas hard. The two were the closest of friends, and Kalas loved to share stories about the man he called “Whitey.”

The son of a Methodist minister, Kalas graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959 with a degree in speech, radio and television. The Naperville, Ill., native was drafted into the Army soon after he graduated.

In 1961, he became sports director at Hawaii radio station KGU and also broadcast games for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and the University of Hawaii. Kalas was a member of the Houston Astros’ broadcast team from 1965-70 before joining the Phillies.

“He found the good in everybody, especially the players,” Andersen said, tears streaming down his face. “He loved the players. He loved being around them.”


AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington, AP freelance writers Pete Kerzel in Washington and Joe Resnick in Los Angeles, AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker in New York, AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, and Associated Press Writer Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.

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