A Day when All Philly Mourned; For Philly Pitchers It’s Rarely Sunny

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, April 13.

Before I get to current baseball events, 8 years ago today a city and by extension millions of baseball fans were thrown suddenly into mourning.  Harry Kalas, Philadelphia broadcaster since 1971 collapsed and died while preparing to broadcast a game between the Phillies and the Nationals in Washington. His coworkers with the Phillies-Scott Franzke, Larry Anderson and Jim Jackson on radio and Tom McCarthy on TV had to do the unthinkable-broadcast a game knowing Harry would never return.  All over baseball, announcers like Pat Hughes of the Cubs eulogized the Illinois native.

Even before the Internet, Kalas had more than a sizable following.  His radio broadcasts for most of his Phillies’ career were carried on WCAU, later WOGL, AM 1210-a 50,000-watt flamethrower that advertised itself as the station you could hear “in 38 states and Canada.”  Add the Internet as early as 1998 and even more Phillies fans, flung far and wide by the tides of life could hear Harry again.  Add a few more years and his games could be heard on demand.  At the very end he mostly did TV, only putting in a few innings on radio.  But he was always a presence in the Philadelphia area.  He did countless commercials down the decades for Tasty Cake and other sponsors of the Phillies’ games. Very occasionally he did a national game on CBS radio. Once he and Ross Porter of the Dodgers handled the NLCS-in 1984 when the Padres beat the Cubs in 5 games.  He got to broadcast the 1993 World Series to his Philadelphia following.  In fact, he got more innings on the air during that World Series than he had planned.  Before one of the World Series games, fellow broadcaster Andy Musser suffered a career-threatening detached retina. While Musser was having surgery that eventually saved his eyesight, Harry along with Richie Ashburn and Chris Wheeler called all the action as the Phillies lost to the Blue Jays.  At long last in 2008, just months before his death the Phillies won a World Series.  The players got their World Series rings 4 days before Harry’s passing.

I won’t forget that somber afternoon.  Back then we had just one computer upstairs in our town house in Goose Creek, South Carolina.  My wife hollered down the stairway to me “Harry Kalas has collapsed.”  I lumbered upstairs at all speed hoping against hope that A. it was some kind of mistake or B. that if it were true his life could be spared.  It was no mistake and within minutes the world knew Harry Kalas was dead at 73.  The sadness of the initial moments soon was replaced by endless stories from fans calling in to the Philadelphia radio stations.  Every fan had a tale to tell, all about Harry and all ending with a smile.  A city had lost a jolly old uncle who they would mourn on one hand but remember with a smile on the other.

It’s been a long time since it was sunny for Philadelphia pitchers.  Going all the way back to Baker Bowl when the 20th century was new, every park in Philadelphia has been classified as a hitter’s park.  The present stadium may be the most hitter-friendly venue since tiny Baker Bowl in those days so long ago.  The Mets took advantage of the small dimensions last night with a 5-4 win.  Admittedly it wasn’t as devastating a display as their 14-4 thrashing of the home team on Tuesday night but it was a win for the orange and blue. Michael Conforto hit a solo home run to spark a 3-run third inning that gave the Mets a 5-0 lead. A grand slam by Maikel Franco in the 6th wasn’t enough for the home team.  The Mets have won 15 of 17 series against the Phillies. I can’t even imagine what the last 3 nights have done for the ERA’s of the Phillies’ pitching staff.

Gone are the days when Mondays and Thursdays meant little or no baseball.  There’s nearly a full slate today. In the earliest game at 1 PM in Detroit, the Twins trot out Phil Hughes against the Tigers’ Jordan Zimmerman.  Hughes performed well his first time out of the gate, as the Mets’ Matt harvey did.  Both underwent the same surgery last summer. Zimmerman hadn’t won a game since June but pitched well enough against Boston on Saturday to finally win. The Pirates return to Boston to make up a game that was rained out last week.  That will occur at 2 PM.  Chad Kuhl goes for the visitors while Eduardo Rodriguez carries the mail for the Red Sox. The Dodgers close out their 3-game series at Wrigley with a day game. The Angels host the Rangers at 3:30 Eastern time. The rest of the action is under the lights including a 6 PM start in Cleveland where the White Sox face the Indians. The latest game, for night owls or insomniacs like me begins at 10:15 Eastern in San Francisco where the Rockies vace the Giants. It’s always interesting when MadBum, aka the Angry Hobo Madison Bumgarner takes his turn.

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  • Michael Kramer
    April 13, 2017

    I remember that game–my father-in-law used to summer in the Philly area and bought a small season package and I would drive up from DC and catch a game or two a season, so the Phillies became a4th team for me to follow. HK was an institution. Loved hearing him on the radio. As I recall the Nats won that day. The Phillies players were just devastated.

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