Remembering Harry Kalas

This month marks the Anniversary of the death of Phillies announcer Harry Kalas.  In his honor I wanted to repost this piece from that day.

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He was the voice of the Phillies, the voice of NFL Films, the voice of Campbell’s Soup…  He was quite simply THE VOICE.

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia Harry was  summer.   Take a walk around our block of rowhomes on a hot August night and it was Harry’s voice you heard in the background on the radio as parents sat on their front steps watching their kids play, the women talking, the men listening to the Phillies game, maybe drinking a cold Schmidt’s or Ortlieb’s.

As a kid I wanted to be the next Harry Kalas.  We’d play stickball or wiffleball and I’d call the games as we played them, trying my best to do it just like Harry would.  Every hit was “a long drive” and every homerun was “outta here.”

A Stickball game on the old street.

When I was in sixth grade at St. Martha’s in Philadelphia I came across a book about how to be a play by play announcer and I thought this is it, that’s what I’m going to do.  So I wrote to Harry Kalas for advice, he wrote back, I wrote him with more questions, he wrote me with more answers.  Long story short it was a correspondence that would go back and forth for the next  31 years.

One of the many letters from Harry over a 30+ year span, this one when I was in high school and made the decision to go to Temple University.

In a quick search through old boxes I’ve come across a handful of those letters like the one above when I wrote Harry in High School to say that I had chosen to go to Temple University or this one below,  just a quick thank you in response to the congrats I had sent him on his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.

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Some years Harry and I would  write to each other only at Christmas time but I always looked forward to his cards.  When I got his card this year he wrote in there that he couldn’t believe how big my son was getting and how he’s turning into quite the young man.  I thought you know what I’m going to set that aside for my son to have one day.  As I looked at it today I’m glad I did.

Harry Kalas & John Kosich

Harry Kalas & John Kosich

The above picture was taken when I worked in Buffalo and the Phillies were playing in Toronto and we made arrangements to get together before a game, I wish I had done it more.

In 2007 when the Phillies came to Cleveland my bosses were going to let me take a break from hard news one night to do a profile piece with Harry on his Hall of Fame career.  Unfortunately the week the Phillies came there was breaking news, my piece with Harry was the casualty, we never got to do it and today I’m sad about that.

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There have been two professionals in this business who didn’t know me from Adam but took an interest in me and remained there with encouragement and support.  Harry Kalas was one ( Dave Roberts of WPVI was the other) and I never passed on the opportunity to let Harry know how thankful I was to him for that.

A few years back the phone rings at the house and my wife answers.  She hands me the phone and says “it’s for you…  it sounds like the voice of God.”  She was close, it was Harry.   He may have had God’s voice but now God has his.  We’re just thankful for the time he shared it with us.

This is the piece I did on Harry’s passing 4/13/2009 WEWS-TV Cleveland:

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7 Responses to “Remembering Harry Kalas”

  1. shiketyshaq Says:

    This is an excellent tribute and many will appreciate it. The materials are priceless for a Phillies fan, especially the poem and video. I will send it to all my old friends in the neighborhood, though not St. Martha’s (I was Holy Innocents in Juniata Park), we will all garner great pleasure in your sentiment. Thanks again!

  2. jkosich Says:

    Shiketyshaq;
    Thank you for your warm comments and I have no doubt that your block in Juniata Park was no different than my Northeast Philly neighborhood when it came to those summer nights and the role Harry & Whitey played in making them memorable.

  3. Joanne Clothier Says:

    John, Bob shared this blog with me and I was happy to read your wonderfully worded thoughts. We have just spent the day absorbing the Phillies tribute to Harry and all that his passing means–your piece was another terrific tribute. Keep up the good work.
    Joanne

  4. Ron Hood Says:

    John, you don’t know me but I remember you when you worked at WNEP in Scranton, Suzi Turcmanovich, sent me your link I really enjoyed your story about Harry, he was the best, I have the same memories you did listening to the radio, and him and Whitey on the games. Being you have been around the country do other cities have the relationship with their play-by-play announcers or is this one special. Again great tribute. GO PHILLIES!!!!

  5. jkosich Says:

    Thanks for your comments Ron. In modern day baseball the closest relationship between fan, broadcaster and team to rival Harry’s relationship with the Phillies would have to be Vin Scully with the Dodgers (he’s the Godfather of all play by play guys) and Marty Brennaman, the Reds Hall of Fame voice. Living in Cleveland I’m appreciative of the talents of the Indians Tom Hamilton but what Harry had was unique and I, like every fan, considers myself fortunate to have called him our own.

  6. john telich Says:

    john…..that was very nice stuff…
    What a grat relationship you had with Harry…
    Very very good piece on him…
    Its weird how we get letters from kids and dont really know at the time how big it is to get a response…sounds like harry really enjoyed knowing that you were well..

    regards
    j.t.

  7. Kate McShane Says:

    John, this is great. Thanks for sharing. I miss hearing Harry every game. I had a great opportunity to shake his hand at Jack Russell stadium quite a few years ago. He was such a gentleman. I still get goose bumps every time I think about it. He was definitely one of a kind and will be missed for many, many years.

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