Over the past year, I heard countless times how bad the Phillie’s announcing has been since Harry died. I’m not sure if people even realize how spoiled Philadelphia fans actually have been with regards to the announcers we have had. Even though national broadcasts limit Eagles announcer Merrill Reece to the radio, he does an excellent job of describing the action and interacting with color commentator Mike Quick. A few years back, before they became the number one team for various media outlets, Mike Emerick and Bill Clement were the Flyers broadcast team. And of course, the crème of the crop is the Phillie’s team of HK and Whitey. I was always much more of a Whitey guy. Maybe it was my lack of life experience, but I didn’t realize how good Harry was until after Whitey died. I did however have the opportunity to meet him and it totally changed my perception of him.
When I was a teenager, I was quite the autograph hound. Going to high school in center city, it would only take a few minutes to walk to the hotels were the visiting teams were staying. I was in awe some of the greats I got to meet. Don Drysdale. Tony Gwynn. Don Sutton. I rarely waited for the Phillies, as it required a subway ride down to South Philly. My buddy who I will refer to as Joe Smith and I were going to a Phillies game and decided to head down to the Vet early so we could pick up few Phillies signatures, and as my friend said “something I REALLY have to do.” He wouldn’t elaborate, but whatever I was going to see the Phils and hopefully get a couple of my baseball cards signed.
One by one they strolled into the Stadium. Von Hayes. Darren Daulton. Rodger McDowell. I was admiring how nice McDowell’s signature looked on his 1989 Topps card when my friend started going nuts. “ Where’s my bag? Where’s my bag?” he frantically mumbled as he scurried to find his backpack. This sort of behavior was usually reserved for superstars and particularly ones you weren’t expecting to see that day. I quick grabbed my trusty Sharpie and surveyed the parking lot for autograph royalty. No Schmidt or Carlton, but I did spot Harry Kalas. I figured I ask him while my buddy and the others mobbed the guy I failed to spot. “ Mr. Kalas, can you sign my book?” I asked. “Certainly,” he said with a genuine smile. “Are you going to the game tonight?” Mr. Kalas asked as he signed the book for me. “ Yes. We are going to buy general admission tickets,” I responded. “Wonderful. We’re glad you could make it,” he said as my friend came rushing over rifling through his book bag. “Mr. Kalas. Mr. Kalas, can you do me a favor? Can you do a home run call with my name?” he said as he pulled a mini tape recorder from his backpack. He had his name written down on a piece of paper. “I’d love to,” said Mr. Kalas. “Hit and a long fly ball. Could it be? Yes! That ball is outta here. Home run, Joe Smith. The first of what I’m sure will be a brilliant Major League Career.” My friend was so excited he dropped the recorder; Harry seemed to enjoy his youthful exuberance. “ Thank you so much,” Joe said as he picked up the recorded. “You’re quite welcome and enjoy the game,” Harry said as continued on his way.
To this day, it still amazes me how genuinely nice he was to a couple of high school kids. He went above and beyond. I still regret not ever stealing Joe’s idea. I hope he still has that tape somewhere. I still have that autograph.
Thanks for listening,