Harry Kalas, Longtime Phillies Broadcaster, Dies at 73
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame broadcaster whose voice connected Philadelphia's team and its fans, died yesterday after collapsing in the press box at Nationals Park, leaving behind a void of silence and a mourning organization. Kalas was pronounced dead at 1:20 p.m. at George Washington University Medical Center, almost an hour after he was rushed from the stadium, where he had been scheduled to broadcast the game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.
No cause of death had been announced as of early last night. Kalas was 73.
"We lost our voice today," team president David Montgomery said. "He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization."
A member of the Philadelphia broadcast team since 1971, Kalas also became part of the city's identity -- and his signature call, "Outta here!" punctuated great home run moments produced by everyone from Mike Schmidt to Lenny Dykstra to Ryan Howard. Kalas, though, had struggled with his health of late, missing time for a recent undisclosed ailment. Still, last Wednesday, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Phillies hosted the Atlanta Braves.
At 12:20 yesterday, Kalas was found unconscious in a seventh-floor broadcast booth by a Phillies director of broadcasting. According to Alan Etter, spokesman for the D.C. fire department, paramedics already at the ballpark arrived on the scene at 12:23 p.m. and found Kalas in cardiac arrest. They performed standard CPR but his heart was not beating.
After learning that Kalas had died, Nationals officials approached their Phillies counterparts with a question: What do you want to do? Although it was never explicitly stated, the Nationals were prepared to call off the game -- and send some 40,000 fans home -- if the Phillies felt they could not play.
"We said, 'What do you think is appropriate?' " Nationals President Stan Kasten said. "We never went into: 'What should we do? What shouldn't we do?' There's no manual for what to do in these circumstances, that close to the beginning of the game when 40,000 people are already in their seats.
"Ultimately it was our call, but we wanted to know the wishes of the Phillies before we decided, and I'm sure we would have acceded to their wishes if they felt strongly -- and especially if the [players] felt strongly."
Montgomery said the team was appreciative of the Nationals' sensitivity. "But Harry would have wanted us to play," he said.
Minutes before the first pitch, fans observed a moment of silence for the broadcaster.
"He was one of the all-time great voices, and to lose him like this is shocking," said Bob Boone, the Nationals' assistant general manager, who played for the Phillies from 1972 to 1981 and won a World Series with the team in 1980. "He has been such a class person, and has so many friends around baseball -- he just lived it."
Kalas's death triggered an outpouring of emotions and memories. At Nationals Park, fans from Philadelphia thought back to their favorite Kalas moments; his voice was a part of playoff losses and World Series championships alike.