Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Voice of My Youth

After doing just one season of play-by-play announcing for high school football on the radio, I know how ridiculous it is to try and sound interesting or compelling or unique.

I was terrible most of time and I think I progressed somewhere near halfway decent by the end of the end of the season; but the biggest lesson I learned that season is that you shouldn't try to create a special moment, just let it come to you.

I remembered that after hearing a Harry Kalas broadcast of a late season Phillies game that year.

Kalas is the only voice of the Phillies that I've ever known. My earliest memory of the Phillies and baseball and broadcasting is Kalas punching every syllable in "Mich-ael-Jack-Schmidt" with his smoky treble.

He got the Philly fans. He knew we were insecure and neurotic but he never played into the angst while remaining constantly aware that it existed. He served as a source of comfort even while the Phillies always seemed to fall short and as a beacon of hope as they made their magical run last season.

It just makes that World Series win last year a little more special today, if that's even remotely possible (see the link to the great piece about Harry in the "Mahler's Must List" to the right).

I get nervous when a good announcer passes on because they always get replaced by a crappy one - or even worse, a generic one. I guess no one smokes any more or no one drinks hard liquor any more because there are fewer and fewer distinct voices these days.

Joe Buck puts to much of his own opinions into the game and even Al Michaels has been trying a little too hard lately to create magic moments (and dwell on them for the next half hour) but guys like Jack Buck and Harry Kalas just let the game come to them (I can only wish network execs liked Gus Johnson more. I would let him call EVERYTHING if I owned a sports channel).

Finally, I can't believe I was at the last game Harry Kalas ever called.

I almost didn't go.

It was raining (literally it was the only rain I've seen since moving to Denver), I had to leave work early, and I had just seen the Phillies win the night before and didn't want to leave my perfect record up to Chan Ho Park (more on that later).

But part of the reason I had moved to a big city was to watch big league sports and getting to see the Phillies right around the corner two to three times a year as opposed to driving five hours to see them once a year seemed like an even trade for my record.

I'm glad I did now because I was there for Harry Kalas' last "outta here" call courtesy of resident Philadelphia folk-lore legend Matt Stairs (watch the video below and YES it is depressing that one Harry's last statements on the air was in reference to "Two and a Half Men").

My record is still intact but Philadelphia sports - and the sports broadcasting universe itself - has lost its voice.

1 comment:

Paul said...

File this one under 'you don't know what you got 'til its gone'

Having lived through the transition of Jack to Joe Buck, it is sad to go from classic to cliche'.

We hate Joe around my house, but Jack will always be loved. On behalf of Cardinal Nation (the orginal 'nation' fyi...see because we were the team of the lower mid-west so Indiana, Arkansas, OK, TN, Kentucky, etc all adopted the Cards so the name actually makes sense unlike....ugh I'll just stop)...where was I? Oh yeah, on behalf of Cardinal Nation, I offer my condolences. You have lost a legend. Skully may be the last true baseball voice left.

Glad I was able to see Harry get his ring last Wednesday. A true legend.