I’ll never forget the 4:30 a.m. phone call from GM Lee Thomas nearly 12 years ago letting me know Richie Ashburn had died in a NY hotel. Today comes close.
Shortly after lunch, those of us in the offices at Citizens Bank Park learned that Harry Kalas was taken to a DC hospital after collapsing in the broadcast booth at the ballpark. Within the hour, the news turned worse, Harry didn’t make it.
Emotions were far ranging after we heard the news. Fellow employees were stunned, shocked. Disbelief took over. Some cried and hugged each other. Others were just quiet. What could be said?
Harry was so friendly with everyone who worked for the Phillies. He always seemed to say “yes” to the many requests. Need a unique recording on your voice mail message? Ask Harry and he would record one.
He shared the same affection for the fans. I don’t know how many times I heard Harry call Phillies fans, “The greatest fans in the world.” He meant it.
Baseball broadcasters bond with fans and their families more than any other sport. For six-seven months, broadcasters are part of the fans’ daily lives…..in the living room or den, on the porch, riding in a car, getting sunburn on the beach. Shut-ins depend on broadcasters to fill three hours a day.
For 38 years, he was the constant, our security blanket. Elsewhere in the Phillies world, players changed, managers changed, ballparks changed, broadcasters changed. Harry was always there.
Soon after his death became known, the phone began ringing, e-mails poured in. Fans, Alumni, friends, colleagues, baseball executives, media. Jean Ashburn left a voice mail message. Between sobs, she was able to say, “Devastating…….We loved him so much.”
Love is a constant when talking about Harry. Fans loved him. Players loved him. Both loved his calls on the air. He shared his love with so many people, a lesson we should all follow.
There will never be another broadcasting duo to match Harry and Whitey. Never. I can hear Whitey in heaven: “Hard to believe Harry that you and I are together again.”
When Whitey died, the Phillies beat the Mets, 1-0. Whitey wore #1 for the Phillies. Today, we beat the Nationals by one, 9-8. Spooky.
Last Wednesday, Harry threw out the first ball during the World Series ring ceremonies. Little did we know it would be his last time on the Citizens Bank Park field.
Sunday, the last hit he called was Matt Stairs’ game-winning home run. No one could call a home run like Harry.
We will never forget his call when Brad Lidge ended the World Series last fall. Classic Harry.
Remember, we have shared life with Harry. That truly is a blessing.