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Harry Kalas Tribute

This comes courtesy of Dave Yanovitz, a Post colleague and hardcore Philly kid from back in the day. Enjoy...

There is no line more recognizable to a Phillies fan than the one that starts with , "SWING! and a LONG DRIVE , watch that baby, OUTTA HERE !!!! Home Run ..." It was the sweet music of a long ball that crackled over the airwaves of Philadelphia radio through the '70s, and 80s, and '90s, and 2000s, and all the way up until Sunday afternoon. Mike Schmidt was at the end of those calls, Greg Luzinski, Ryan Howard and a host of other Phillies sluggers over the past 38 years were too. And when Harry Kalas's voice revved up that call, you sprung to life whether the Fightin' Phils were up 6-3, or down 10-1.

Harry Kalas was Phillies baseball. I know. I listened to Kalas make countless Phillies calls as a kid in the '70s, a teenager in the 80s, a college grad in the '90s and a sportswriter in the 2000s. Harry never let you down, even though the Phils sometimes -- well, let's be honest, more often than not -- did. He called them with so much vigor that you could see the player rounding the bases tearing for third, or the batter going down when Steve Carlton dazzled them with a slider and Harry gave them the "SWING and a MISS, struck 'eem ouuuuuuut!" That's right, it wasn't "Struck him out" with Harry. Ask any true Philadelphian, it was "Struck 'eem ouuuut!" as he held the "owwww" sound just to rub it in the batter's face when a Philly pitcher rang up a K.

Harry's most famous -- and best -- call, in my opinion, was Mike Schmidt's 500th home run on April 18, 1987. It was vintage Harry with a little extra gusto because of the moment. I still get goose bumps, even now replaying it in my head. I was inside my college radio station at Temple when it blared over the radio as Schmidt's ninth inning blast gave the Phils the lead over the Pirates.

You want to hear a maestro? Go You Tube that one and you'll hear a conductor at the top of his game. And Kalas had a special connection with Schmidt -- he called nearly every one of Michael Jack's 548 home runs between 1972 and 1987. And the reason I say "Michael Jack" is because, as any true Phillies fan will tell you, Kalas always gave it the, "Swing! and long drive, watch that baby, Outta Here, home run, Michael Jack Schmidt !" He loved to throw in the middle name. I never met Harry, but I'd love to have asked him why he started throwing in Mike's middle name. Whatever the reason, it stuck and he made it part of Phillies lore.

Another favorite memory of mine was when Bob Dernier, an otherwise forgettable Phillie in the 80s, hit an inside-the-park home run to win a game, and Kalas went crazy with the call as Dernier lumbered around the bases and beat the throw by a whisker in the bottom of the ninth. He brought the game to life, plain and simple. And what a voice.

Yes, he would go over to the TV booth in the middle innings and do play-by-play on the tube, but his specialty was radio. Harry and Whitey (that's Richie Ashburn, Phillies Hall of Famer and color guy who teamed with Harry until his death in '97), what a team. Childhood with those two was paradise. We'll miss ya Harry. Irreplaceable doesn't come close to describing you.

By Dave Sheinin  |  April 14, 2009; 11:56 AM ET
 
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Comments

Great tribute Dave.

Oh, and while your man Bobby Dernier might have been forgettable as a Phillie, he went on to form half of "the daily double" with Ryan Sandberg in Chicago during the Cubs' division-winning season in 1984 (I was a teenager then, too). And those games were called by another famous Harry.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 14, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

All of the tributes to Harry Kalas say the same wonderful thing: he was an institution in his town and his town loved him.

I was walking to Nats Park yesterday when the ambulance arrived; I thought it was an unfortunate fan having a medical emergency. Little did I know that only a couple of hours later, there on the massive center field scoreboard, Harry's picture, followed by a moment of silence. I'm guessing that not a lot of folks in the crowd understood the moment, but to true baseballl fans who are used to hearing a familiar voice for nearly 4 decades and find themselves suddenly deafened by the silence, it was definitely a moving experience.

God bless you, Harry. I'm sure there are baseball players and fans in heaven welcoming you to Pearly Gates Park.

Posted by: luv2bikva | April 14, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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