How does one describe what someone they've never met means to them? It's more an amalgamation of memories for me. Countless spring, summer and fall evenings (and an occasional afternoon) spent watching channel 48, 29 or 17 to catch the Phillies.
In the pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-cell phone (can you believe there is such a thing?) days of following baseball, there was the daily newspaper, the evening news, This Week In Baseball (...with Mel Allen...), baseball cards and the clock radio that my parents had in the kitchen.
I listened to many a game on that radio, blissfully content that this is how baseball games are supposed to be enjoyed. The rich, vibrant descriptions, the sound of the crowd, the crack of the bat and Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas.
There are no specific calls that I remember, but I know that any and all significant Phillies moments are peppered with Mr. Kalas' classic voice. I remember watching every game of the 1980 NLCS between the Astros and Phillies and hanging on every pitch, every swing, and finally - the sweet final out that sent the Phillies to the World Series.
I remember watching the 1980 World Series: Pete Rose's save of Bob Boone's drop (is it any wonder I am such a Pete Rose fan?), Tug McGraw's strikeout of Willie Wilson to end the series (with the cops on horesback lining up behind the plate, anticipating this great moment) and the parade. Awesome. "We Win" in giant font on the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News (I have a copy somewhere in my basement) and Mike Schmidt's words to the crowd "Take this World Series and savor it. 'Cause you all earned it!" (I think that was it...I apologize if I've misquoted - I'm just writing from memory here).
Then there are smatterings of other Phillies memories - coming home from school just in time to watch the Phils and Expos square off in day games in the 1981 playoffs. Watching the 26-7 game in 1985 (I think) in which Von Hayes hit two homers in the first inning.
The lean years - 1985-1992. The 1993 playoffs in which Curt Schilling could not have been more spectacular. Pretty much willing the Phillies to defeat the Braves. On to the World Series, where Joe Carter's homer still haunts Phillies fans like myself. I don't know about other Phils fans, but the win in 2008 doesn't ease the disappointment of Carter's bomb. But we move on, and see what the future brings.
The Francona/Bowa years where the Phillies finally started to show some promise. The hiring of Charlie Manuel, which left me (and I'm certain plenty of other Phils fans) scratching my head. But the rewards came quickly - the NL East crown in 2007, and, of course, the World Series in 2008.
And through it all, the voice of Harry Kalas. I didn't realize until the last couple of years just how much a part of my childhood Harry Kalas was. I think it started when Richie Ashburn died. I realized then that I'd never hear Whitey's witticisms and his down-home, practical approach to calling a game. He knew when to remain silent.
Harry Kalas joked, laughed, entertained and brought the game to life. When something great was going on in the game, you, as the listener had no doubt that it was great. His excited screaming about Mike Schmidt's 500th homer, the final pitch of the 1980 World Series, the pitch that propelled the Phillies into the 1993 World Series, the call for the last out of the 2008 World Series.
Even the more mundane calls became "Hammer of the Gods"-like when Harry intoned. He could call a strike out or a ground out as well as a homer or a game winning single. ESPN's Mike Greenberg said this morning that listening to a Harry Kalas montage is listening to a baseball game as it's supposed to sound. As it's supposed to be called.
Seriously, I don't think I would have the same great memories of these events if not for Kalas climbing out of my radio, sitting down next to me and sharing his enthusiasm for these great moments he was witnessing. He was a storyteller of my favorite kind of stories. Baseball stories.
It's hard not to sound corny here...I will miss Harry Kalas. This great friend that I've never met. The baseball moments we shared. Rest easy, Harry - and thanks for fostering my love and enthusiasm for this great great game.