No crying in baseball?
It was a picture perfect day for a ball game. Clear blue sky, a bright yellow sun shining on a beautiful green grass playing field. A breeze put all pennants and flags at Citizens Bank Park on full display.
But, baseball games don’t begin as the sun rises in the east. The most telling sign was an empty field, except for a white coffin stationed on the grass behind home plate.
This was the day nearly 9,000 fans paid their respects during an emotional memorial tribute to Harry Kalas. Ever since 1971, this man was the voice of our pre- and post-game tributes. This time, he was the subject. Hard to believe.
It was only ten days ago that Harry threw out the first ball prior to the World Series ring ceremony. He was on the mound then. Hard to believe.
We announced that the Third Base Gate would open at 8 in the morning. Because of the large crowd that lined Citizens Bank Way, we started 30 minutes earlier. David Montgomery and Bill Giles greeted each fan for nearly four hours.
Fans entered the field from the third base side and exited through the first base side. Some left the park. Most stayed and spent hours waiting for the program to begin at 1 in the afternoon.
Mark Such, 45, from Bucks County, spent the night at the Third Base Gate. He camped out at 9:30 Friday night. Second in line was another 45-year-old fan, Michael Aldridge of Blackwood, NJ. He befriended Mark at midnight.
Both assisted our operations crew set up police barricades for fan control as daylight began to replace darkness. Our Mike DiMuzio thanked each. Mark and Michael each replied, “No, no. Thank you, for honoring Harry.”
Michael carried a sign, “No crying in baseball until now.” Yes, there was crying in baseball today. Tears were the norm rather than the exception. We should have had Kleenex sponsor the day.
At the entrance and exit, fans were welcomed to sign registers. One 6-year-old boy wrote, “We love you Harry, from State Street in Media.” Harry resided in that Delaware County town.
As each fan passed the coffin, he or she touched the casket, including our Alumni. The last group to pay its respect was the 2009 team. One-by-one, they entered the field from their dugout wearing their game uniforms and touched Harry one last time, a very emotional scene that drew one of many standing ovations during the two-hour ceremonies.
Alumni included Dick Allen, Ruben Amaro Jr., Ricky Bottalico, Marty Bystrom, Steve Carlton, Larry Christenson, Darren Daulton, Dallas Green, Tommy Greene, Terry Harmon, John Kruk, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Jerry Martin, Dickie Noles, Robin Roberts, Mike Rogodzinski, Mike Schmidt, Kent Tekulve, David West, Mitch Williams and Bobby Wine. Notice, the list spanned decades, as did Harry.
Eight speakers addressed the crowd, the last being 19-year-old Kane Kalas, Harry’s youngest son who delighted the Friday night crowd with a stirring performance of the National Anthem. He was equally impressive today, speaking without a written or typed note.
Other speakers included Richard Ashburn, Joe O’Loughlin, representing the fans; Montgomery, Governor Rendell, Mayor Nutter, NFL Films President Steve Sabol, Jamie Moyer and Schmidt.
Ironically, one of Harry’s greatest calls was Schmidt’s 500th home. That took place 22 years ago on this date.
Led by Giles, who brought Harry to Philadelphia in 1971, current and past players, current and past broadcasters and those of us who traveled with him through the years, formed two lines. His coffin was passed through the two lines and then placed in a hearse. It was our last chance to touch the man who touched so many.
He left the park for the last time through the exit in the right field corner. All the while, Simon & Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” played on the PA system. Sons Todd and Brad introduced the song in a taped video, “Dad wanted this song to be played as he went to his final reward.” I lost it.
A lot has been said and written about Harry since his death on Monday. Doug Glanville, a guest columnist in the New York Times ended his brilliant article on Wednesday, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a word from Harry Kalas painted a thousand pictures,”
It sure did.