I'm not sure anyone can recall a more somber opening week to the Baseball season. The toughest part about the Baseball fraternity losing Harry Kalas is that Harry was the kind of voice we could count on to lift us up out of our lowest times.
The people here in Philadelphia have set up a memorial outside the entrance gates at Citizens Bank Park, appropriately by (and on) the Mike Schmidt statue. Harry called every single one of Michael Jack Schmidt's 548 career home runs, which is astonishing. Most serious baseball fans in Pennsylvania who are old enough probably remember exactly where they were on Saturday, April 18, 1987 when Schmidt launched number 500 off of a Don Robinson pitch at Three Rivers Stadium. My family was celebrating Easter weekend at the Jersey Shore as we always did, and I remember having the television on and watching the game and the moment Harry called the milestone longball. The next day at our traditional Easter Sunday brunch at Seaview Country Club in Absecon, where the shirts were stuffed more than the lobster tails, Schmidt's homer was the talk of the buffet line. And everyone in their Easter Sunday best was sure enough doing their Harry imitation. Here we are at a stodgy club, on the religious Holiday of the year, and the national pastime was on everybody's mind, and Harry's voice was just as much the reason as Michael Jack's bat.
Everybody in this town seems to have a Harry story. His voice transcended the social and economic strata. He was just as likely, if not more so, to chat with the night watchmen on his way home from the park as he was a mayor or governor or any other VIP visiting the stadium. I worked two wonderful summers in the Phillies ticket office at The Vet as a college student, and encountered Harry quite a few times then and since. He remembers you, asks about you and your family and shows a genuine interest in every person he comes in contact with, and he must have encountered millions of people in his 73 years.
It is cold, grey and rainy today in Philadelphia, and it feels right. At the makeshift memorial described earlier, fans are leaving flowers, pictures, ticket stubs (one was from yesterday's game in D.C. with a note that the fan was too sad to attend) and other memories of their beloved broadcaster. One fan, bless his heart, left his old hand-held radio. I guess he couldn't bear to listen to it again without Harry. That was when it really struck home that this uniquely American treasure is gone. When you grow up playing baseball in this area, every practice, every game---every moment seemed to be punctuated by someone doing their dime-store Harry impersonation. Even to this day in beer-league softball games from Wissinoming to Wildwood, it happens on just about every play. And my guess is that it will be a long time before that stops, because his voice will never die.