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Friday, July 26, 2002
The game still excites Kalas
PHILADELPHIA -- Harry Kalas was watching Greg Luzinski take batting practice early in his career when he first heard the phrase that has made him famous.
Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1971, has called thousands of home runs in 41 years as a broadcaster. Most of his calls have ended with: "Outta here, home run!" Kalas owes it to Larry Bowa, a former shortstop with the Phillies and the team's current manager.
"It was in the mid-1970s, '75 or '76. Luzinski was hitting bolts all over the field," Kalas said. "He hit one into the upper deck and Bowa is standing around and he says 'Wow! That ball is way outta here!' and I thought that has kind of a neat ring to it and so, that's how I started using it."
The phrase helped earn him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 66-year-old Naperville, Ill., native will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters at the induction ceremony Sunday.
His trademark call has become one of the most recognized and imitated sounds in baseball.
New York Mets All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, who grew up watching the Phillies in nearby Norristown, recalls when Kalas announced one of his homers during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993.
"Swing and long drive, deep right field, outta here, home run Mike Piazza. The rookie Piazza shows some good opposite-field power," Piazza said in his best Kalas voice.
Known for his soothing delivery, Kalas is among the most popular broadcasters in baseball history. He was a member of the Houston Astros broadcast team from 1965-70 before coming to Philadelphia.
When he broke in with the Phillies, Kalas worked with future Hall of Fame announcer By Saam and Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, the late Hall of Fame outfielder. He spent 27 years in the booth with Ashburn, who died in 1997 at age 70.
Kalas still gets emotional when he talks about Ashburn. He said he'll probably wait to mention him toward the end of his speech Sunday or he might get too choked up to finish.
Scott Graham, one of the current Phillies broadcasters, said Kalas never got over his best friend's death.
"When Whitey died, some of Harry's smile went away and it never really came back," Graham said. "But the one thing that he does do is bring him to the ballpark every day. If you were to hang out in the booth, five or six times a day Whitey's name will come up. He'll tell a story on the air or say something off-air and we'll all laugh about it."
Kalas fell in love with baseball at age 10 when his father took him to Comiskey Park to see the Chicago White Sox play the Washington Senators. It was a rainy night, and Kalas sat with his dad behind the Washington dugout.
"Because of the rains, the field was covered," Kalas said. "There was no batting practice, so the players really didn't have anything to do. Mickey Vernon popped out of the dugout, saw this wide-eyed kid -- me -- picked me up, took me in the dugout, gave me a baseball, introduced me to his teammates, and thus began my love of baseball and the Washington Senators."
More than 50 years later, Kalas still has the same youthful exuberance and respect for the game.
"He's a class act, treats everybody the same," Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal said. "I grew up listening to Vin Scully with the Dodgers. Now I've had eight years listening to Harry. He is just great."
Kalas is well-liked by players, admired by his peers and loved by fans. No matter where he goes, someone always stops him, shakes his hand and tells him of a favorite call. Kalas reacts the same way every time, always making the person feel important.
"The great thing about our business, players come and go, but the voices never change and Harry Kalas is that voice in Philadelphia like my (grandfather) was in Chicago," said Cubs announcer Chip Caray, grandson of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray.
Kalas has been honored 17 times as Pennsylvania Sportscaster of the Year. He is also the voice of NFL Films, calls football games for the Westwood One Radio Network and does commercial voiceover work.
Going to the Hall of Fame with Kalas will be former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and Joe Falls of The Detroit News, who will be inducted into the writers' wing.
Past recipients of the Frick award include Harry Caray, Scully, Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, Mel Allen and Jack Buck.
"It's the ultimate honor in this game I love so much," Kalas said. "To receive this award, it's mind-boggling. It's very special."
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