Phillies Legend Kalas Dead At 73
Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame broadcaster whose voice connected Philadelphia's team and its fans, died today after collapsing in the press box at Nationals Park, leaving behind a void of silence and a mourning organization. Kalas was pronounced dead at 1:20 p.m., almost an hour after he was rushed from the stadium, where he had been scheduled to broadcast the game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.
Kalas was pronounced dead at George Washington University Medical Center. No cause has yet been given. He was 73.
"We lost our voice today," team president David Montgomery said. "He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization."
A member of the Philadelphia broadcast team since 1971, Kalas also became part of the city's identity -- and his signature call, "Outta here!" punctuated great home run moments produced by everyone from Mike Schmidt to Lenny Dykstra to Ryan Howard. Kalas, though, had struggled with his health of late, missing time for a recent undisclosed ailment. Still, last Wednesday, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Phillies hosted the Atlanta Braves.
At 12:30 today, Kalas fell unconscious in a seventh-floor broadcast booth. He was found by a Phillies director of broadcasting.
Kalas's death prompted the Nationals to reorganize their pre-game ceremonies, but there was never serious consideration to canceling the game -- something that probably would have happened were this game scheduled at Citizens Bank Park. Montgomery, speaking to Washington acting general manager Mike Rizzo before the game, said that Kalas would have wanted to play the afternoon's ballgame. Minutes before the first pitch, Nationals Park observed a moment of silence for the broadcaster.
"He was one of the all-time great voices, and to lose him like this is shocking," said current Washington assistant general manager Bob Boone, who played for the Phillies from 1972 to 1981, winning a World Series in 1980. "He has been such a class person, and has so many friends around baseball -- he just lived it."
Kalas's death triggered an outpouring of emotions and memories. At Nationals Park, fans from Philadelphia thought back to their favorite Kalas moments; his voice was a part of playoff losses and World Series championships alike.
"It's so hard to believe," said Rob Connor, a fan from Toms River, N.J.. "I just watched him yesterday on TV from Colorado. Any highlight you can think of, the first thing I hear in my head is Harry Kalas: 'It's outta here! A home run, and the Phillies take the lead!' It's just surreal."
Kalas missed most of spring training after undergoing surgery in February. The team declined to reveal details of the surgery, saying it was a "minor medical procedure." When news came of Kalas's collapse, Philadelphia closed its clubhouse to the media. Philadelphia players who emerged into the dugout before the game kept their heads down, and appeared somber.
"I think all of us know that we'll try to do the best we can," Philadelphia third base coach Sam Perlozzo said. "But I don't think it's gonna get out of our heads. I don't think that is going to happen, at least not for a little while. I think we'll all pull for each other and help each other out and try to get through it."
The Phillies had planned to visit the White House tomorrow, but have cancelled the trip.
For 26 seasons, Kalas shared a booth with another Philadelphia legend, Richie Ashburn. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award in 2002. He was in the final year of a three-year contract with the Phillies. Kalas also did commercial voice-overs and narrated for NFL Films.
"He would call a spade a spade," Boone said. "But it was never offensive. You knew this was his team, the Phillies. He was a Philadelphia guy."
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