By ROGER MOONEY
Fans left flowers and candles and hats in front of the Mike Schmidt statue outside Citizens Bank Park this week, turning the monument to the Phillies’ greatest player into a shrine to Harry Kalas.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know your father had that much of an impact on that many people,” Todd Kalas told reporters in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
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Todd has been a member of the Rays’ TV crew since the team’s first season.
His dad, of course, was the Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster, who died Monday afternoon at Nationals Park before the Phillies’ game with the Nationals. This was to be Harry’s 39th year with the Phillies.
“He was a baseball guy,” Kalas said. “He would have probably scripted it pretty much the way it happened.”
“Michael Jack Schmidt,” is how Harry referred to Schmidt on the occasion of Schmidt’s 500th career home run.
It’s a famous call made by a famous voice.
“Outta here!” was how Harry called home runs.
You can’t be a Phillies fan unless you can imitate Harry making either call.
“Outta here” might as well be officially retired from all radio booths around the major leagues.
It belonged to Harry Kalas. It belongs to Philly fans.
The great radio announcers have that bond with their audience.
They are the eyes and ears of the fans as they paint the scene and describe the action. They make winning more exciting and losing more tolerable.
They are the constant. Players come and go. Managers are hired and fired.
The voice remains year after year, linking generations.
They become more than voices. They become family.
Listening to them call a game is like listening to your favorite uncle tell a story during Thanksgiving dinner.
At least it’s that way with the great ones.
Look around the major leagues and their numbers are getting smaller.
You have Vin Scully with the Dodgers, and Marty Brennaman with the Reds.
Gone are the Carays, Harry and Skip. And Jack Buck. And Bob Murphy.
Jack Brickhouse and Bob Prince.
Ernie Harwell retired from the Tigers a few years ago.
Before them there were Mel Allen and Red Barber.
The told us to “Kiss it good-bye.”
Took us to “the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.”
Taught us to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
How about that.
Baseball will continue in Philly, just as it has in Chicago and Detroit. But for a while it will seem as if the Phillies changed colors or even names.
Gone is the familiar voice who led Phillies fans still inside Citizens Bank Park long after the Brad Lidge sent the Rays home for good in Game 5 of the World Series through a chorus of “High Hopes.”
Gone is the man who taught a legion of baseball fans to call a Hall of Fame third baseman “Michael Jack Schmidt.”
It’s sort of amazing the hold a good announcer has on his audience. A home run in a Phillies’ game wasn’t a home run until Harry Kalas said the ball was “outta here.”