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Sunday, July 28, 2002
Kalas was one of the great voices of summer
By Jayson Stark
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The boys of summer come and go. The voices of summer stay with you for a lifetime.
That's why men like Harry Kalas belong in the baseball Hall of Fame. They don't just broadcast baseball. To the people who have spent a lifetime listening to them, they ARE baseball.
Harry Kalas has broadcast more than 5,000 Phillies games. On Sunday, the day he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, there was clearly one Philadelphian in attendance for every one of those games.
The entire Phillies broadcast team skipped an entire series with the Braves to be there. More than 200 Phillies employees made a 300-mile drive each way to be there. Players from out of Kalas' past -- Darren Daulton, Glenn Wilson, Larry Christenson -- found a way to rearrange their schedules to be there.
"I told Harry once I'd never been to Cooperstown," Daulton said. "And I told him I wasn't going until HE got in."
Several times Sunday, someone or other called Kalas a "legend." He has called Phillies games for 32 seasons. He's an easily recognizable voice of NFL films. He's described Notre Dame football and college basketball and NFL games on the radio.
He has a voice so perfect, he could read the phone book and you'd listen for hours. He has a smile so ever-present, people who have barely met him think of him as a friend.
But it's his gift for rising to meet every baseball moment that's ever appeared before his eyes that elevated Harry Kalas into the Hall of Fame. So there he was Sunday, with Tom Seaver waiting to present him with his plaque, when a video clip of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run began to air on the big-screen TV next to the stage.
"Swing and a long drive. There it is. Number 500. . . . "
As applause erupted from the Philadelphians on the hillside, Kalas turned to catch the eye of Schmidt, sitting on that stage with the Hall of Fame players behind him.
"I looked back where Mike was sitting," Kalas said later, "and he looked back at me. He was just a special player, and it was a privilege to call his whole career. And I'm thrilled that we've been able to keep our friendship all these years."
On the day Schmidt hit that home run 15 years ago, his teammates sat around the locker room afterward and actually chanted, "We want Harry." So someone whipped out a tape recorder, and they all sat and listened to the now-classic call of a classic moment. Once. Twice. Three times. Four times. Almost as if they wouldn't believe it had really happened until they'd heard Harry Kalas describe it.
That sums up the power of the voices of summer.
Kalas arrived in Philadelphia in 1971. All three men who shared the Phillies' broadcast booth back then are now official Hall of Famers -- Kalas and the late By Saam in the broadcasters' wing, and the beloved Richie Ashburn in the players' wing.
Kalas and Ashburn had such a special connection, Kalas pays homage to his pal every single night of the baseball season -- touching Ashburn's plaque outside the booth as he makes the short journey from the TV booth to the radio booth.
"It wasn't just today that I thought about him," Kalas said later. "It's every day."
And he paid homage to his partner one more time during his speech, with a hilarious story about how Ashburn, on nights the games dragged a little long, used to wonder aloud on air "if the people from Celebre's Pizza are listening."
"And sure enough," Kalas said. "Fifteen minutes later, we'd have pizzas being delivered up to the booth."
But after this had gone on awhile, Kalas reported, Ashburn was called into the office and reminded that Celebre's Pizza wasn't a sponsor, so he couldn't keep plugging them for free. It was OK to do birthdays and anniversaries, but no more free plugs.
A few days later, though, another Phillies game refused to end. So Ashburn abruptly delivered an unexpected birthday greeting.
"I'd like to send out very special birthday wishes tonight," he said, "to the Celebre's twins -- Plain and Pepperoni."
The voices of summer know their biggest fans by name, you see, just as all their fans know them by name.
And by the voice that has kept them company all their lives.
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