Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies for nearly four decades, died today just before 1:30 p.m. Thanks to Philly.com, I knew less than 30 minutes later.
By 2:15, not only had I gotten a text, email and voicemail about the news from countless co-workers and friends, online news articles were already being updated with statements from everyone from the Phillies’ President to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to Sen. Arlen Specter, all remembering this icon of Philadelphia baseball. By 4 p.m., there were more than 675 stories on the topic on Google News, including a heartfelt telephone interview with ESPN analyst and long-time Phillies reporter, Jayson Stark.
Everyone would miss Harry — from his one-of-a-kind voice, to his matter-of-fact commentary, to his signature cry. The voice of the Phillies had become as synonymous with the team’s brand as its strange green mascot.
You see, Harry brought one thing that every brand needs to connect with its audience — emotion. Though in later days exclamations that a Phillies’ hit would be “OUTTA HERE!!!” were sometimes a bit premature, the genuine excitement, dismay, optimism or elation he felt with nearly every pitch came through loud and clear in a voice that no fan could help but love.
He represented the old radio days of baseball with a voice just as effective as a camera when it came to painting a picture of the game’s current play. So much so that when Brad Lidge’s final strike finally brought home a Phillies World Series Championship last year, a friend sitting near me at the game exclaimed, “This would’ve been way better if we could hear what Harry was saying right now!!”
We were actually at the game, but thanks to Harry Kalas, millions of other fans listening at home were, too.