I don't think I've ever waxed sentimental here in all the years I've been blogging for mentalfloss.com, but with the sudden death of Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas this week, I've been feeling kind of blue. I used to listen to Harry in bed, after my bedtime, on a small AM transistor radio shaped like a boat. To tune in a station, you had to move the rudder. To up the volume, you had to adjust the position of the lifesaver. For years, from the age of seven or eight, I kept a journal, mostly filled with Phillies' highlights ("Schmidt homered and Harry K. screamed "˜THAT BALL IS OUTTA HEEEEEERE!' again and it was really really exciting!"). Yes, it was slugger Mike Schmidt that motivated me to pen a journal entry, but it was Harry Kalas who etched that homerun in my soul forever and his death on Monday shook me in a way I didn't expect.
In recent years, with MLB.com allowing me to hear my hometown station over the Internet, I always tried to tune into the fourth inning because that was the only inning Harry called on the radio (most other innings he called on TV).
Hearing that voice always brought me back to a simpler time, when baseball felt somehow holy—when stars like Mike Schmidt stayed with one team for their entire career and earned a fair-sized paycheck, enabling most anyone to afford a game. I'm talking before free agents became the norm, before 24-hour sports coverage became the norm, before you could buy nachos and garlic fries at a game, before asterisks.
His voice also brought me back to a simpler time in my own life, which is probably the number one reason I bought the MLB.com yearly radio pass in the first place. He was the thread that connected the present, old, jaded version of me, with my youth, with the happy-go-lucky, innocent version.
And Harry wasn't just the Hall of Fame voice of the Phillies since the early '70s, he was the voice of NFL Films, touching millions outside the Philadelphia area, narrating so many of their great highlight films over the last three decades.
Here are two short clips for those who never heard the man, or don't remember what his voice sounded like. It's remarkable that, over the course of more than 100 years, the Phillies only won two World Series rings, in 1980 and in 2008. Harry was part of the team for both, and I can't help but wonder if they'll ever be able to win another without him.
Shot of Harry in the booth, calling the final pitch of the 2008 World Series
Harry at work, narrating an NFL film