A Painful Anniversary: One Year Since the Death of Harry Kalas

April 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

There have been a whole lot of positives so far in this young 2010 season for the Phillies, but today is not one of them.  Today the Delaware Valley is reminded of the untimely and tragic death of its adopted son-turned-surrogate-grandfather Harry Kalas.

The voice of Philadelphia if ever there was one, Harry brought together fans across generations and classes, across eras of Phillies baseball, and years of NFL season recaps.  His voice presided over the summer and boomed on Chunky Soup commercials, and the Phillies had a 3011-3145 record over the course of his 38 years with the team from 1971 through April 13, 2009.

His career included 10 playoff berths for the Phils, saw two new stadiums open, and witnessed 12 different managers pass through on a permanent basis.  By the time he won the Ford C. Frick Award and got himself a spot in the baseball Hall of Fame, Harry had become a spectacle bigger than the game and an old dependable friend with which we shared all of the Phillies’ successes and (mostly) failures.

Everyone heard the news that day within a few hours that Harry was gone.  That baseball would never again sound the way it always had and that which we all feared when we heard about his offseason sickness had come true.

I remember being in my room at school and checking out this crazy new thing called Twitter.  The Phils had a game coming up that day against the Nationals, and I thought it would be interesting to see what Todd Zolecki had to say about the game so I clicked over to his account.  (Note: at the time I was still resisting the idea that Twitter would ever catch on, so I just clicked on the Twitter feeds of people I knew were good instead of “following” them.)  Anyway, when I clicked over the first time, Zolecki had tweeted something about Harry’s collapse and that he was on the way to the emergency room.  Next, probably less than an hour later, I saw the message that said he had died and I had no idea what to do or say.

I called my dad and broke the news to him a few minutes later and it was a strange conversation.  I grew up doing Harry Kalas (and Merrill Reese) impressions with my dad and constantly goofing on broadcasters.  I can honestly say that I haven’t heard a Harry impersonation from him since that day.  It wouldn’t feel right to do one.

What did feel right all season long was the way the Phillies paid tribute to their fallen hero.  Between the HK patches, the banner in left field, the retired “number,” the Phillies players chain-smoking a cigarette during pregame introductions the next day, and the blazer and shoes perched constantly in the dugout along with the team, the Phillies did a whole lot to honor his memory.  I think my favorite one is the playing of Harry’s rendition of “High Hopes” after every home win.  I mean seriously, who had ever even heard that song before Harry started singing after big wins?  And now, it’s like the Phillies version of a fight song, with drunken fans slurring their way through it every time the Phillies treat them to a win, a division title, a playoff series win, a National League Championship, or a World F—ing Championship.

And that’s all Harry would have wanted, it would seem.  He loved and understood the fans in Philadelphia more than anyone else in recent memory, and would defend us against any criticism.  And not in that combative “shut up you just don’t get it” Mike Missanelli kind of way.  He just genuinely enjoyed what he did and the people who made it possible.  Namely, the fans.

The team immortalized their voice through the new postgame tradition.  If only they could have immortalized the man himself.  We’re all rooting for the Phillies this year, and getting used to T-Mac I suppose (though our boy Franske’s gotta be due for a call-up of some kind soon), but that doesn’t make it any less weird when there’s a home run hit and we don’t here the classic “Outta here” home run call, or my dad’s favorite “Swing and a miss ‘ee struck ‘eem ouuutt.”

Rest in peace, Harry.  We’ll see you after the next Phils win.

Dave Mulhern writes for “The View from Broad Street,” a Philadelphia sports blog that has slightly extended versions of his articles, along with all kinds of other goodies.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Survive Early Season Distractions

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Phillies organization should be commended for the way it has handled the last six months.  Going from the height of excitement and exhilaration of being World [f***in] Champions, to the depth of sorrow that comes with the passing of an icon like HarryKalas is an emotional swing that has challenged players and fans alike. 

The way the organization handled both—with reserved congratulation for the Champs and reverent, respectful admiration for the legendary broadcaster—has been very impressive and warrants noting before I really get into my article.

After a pretty slow start in which the Phils struggled and scuffled along trying to produce runs while dealing with all these distractions, the bats have finally heated up, and it is not surprising that this turnaround has corresponded to a winning streak and a spot in first place of the NL East.

Though many lineups have been run out this year, we will use the most common one here to go through and evaluate each of the Phillies’ batters so far this season.

1. Jimmy Rollins (.211 avg, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB):

The former league MVP and unquestionable team leader has had his struggles at the plate this year, only recently cracking above the Mendoza line by getting his average above the .200 mark.  His power numbers are not impressive, though Jimmy is not expected to hit for a ton of power. 

His steals are down, but that is because he is never on base (his current OBP of .250 is over 80 points lower than his career OBP of .332).  Maybe the most concerning thing is the 14 strikeouts already notched by the Phils’ lead-off man. 

At the height of Phillies fans’ frustration with Rollins at lead-offthe main criticism was that he struck out too much, averaging 108 strikeouts per year during the 2001, 2002, and 2003 seasons.

 One of the best adjustments in his game has been his cutting down on K’s—only 55 last season—but with 14 at this point in the year, J-Roll is on a disturbing pace reserved usually for power hitters like Ryan Howard. 

At this pace, Rollins could strike out over 100 times this year.  Manager Charlie Manuel has tried moving him down in the order, but Rollins belongs in thelead-off spot.

 Once he starts to see the ball and cut down on those K’s, we should see him back to the swaggering, trash-talking captain of team morale we all know and love, but for now it is official: he is in a funk.

2. Shane Victorino (.304, 4, 19)

Shane is one of the few players who is actually out-hitting expectations right now.  With his .304 average 20 points higher than his career mark, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is using the whole field, and his superior speed, to his advantage by already racking up 13 extra-base hits and scoring 23 times for the Phightins. 

With this slugging percentage about 100 points higher than his career average, you can probably expect to see a few less big hits from Victorino, and more of the slap-happy singles hitter who is pesky on the base paths and scrappy in the field.

 While his production warrants praise (hopefully it can get him onto his first-ever All-Star Game roster), law of averages probably dictates that he will cool off a bit at some point.

3. Chase Utley (.318, 8, 21)

Utley, the Phillies second baseman whose mouth is the only thing dirtier than his uniform, is off to a characteristically hot start this year.  After hitting .330-plus and leading the league in homers in the first two months of the season in 2008, Chase is back at it this year with an OBP of .458. 

With 17 bases on balls already this year, his walks are definitely supplementing that number, along with an increasing level of health and recovery from offseason hip surgery. 

Chase is still on the road to recovery, sitting out a game as recently as this week, but has not been slowed significantly by these setbacks and looks to be within range of the production people expect from him.

4. Ryan Howard (.291, 6, 22, 29 SO)

Rhyno is traditionally a slow starter, with most of his numbers usually being put up late in the season in August and September (when the games really count), but the slugger has had a pretty good first month. 

Considering at times last year Howard was spotted under the .190 mark and set and matched his own single-season strikeout record with 199 in each of the past two years, his output this April has been a reason for optimism. 

After getting killed last year for his huge strikeout numbers in discussions about the MVP race to the point that some wondered if his production had begun a steady decline, his 29 strikeouts put him on pace for only about 160 this year—still an astronomical number, but a definite improvement from last year.

As a cleanup hitter, though, the former MVP’s main role in this lineup is to drive in runs, and his 22 are tied for the team lead with Raul Ibañez and puts him on pace for another 120-plus RBI season. 

And it’s a good thing, considering he costs the Phils a cool $15 mil this season after signing his first big-league contract extension this off-season.

5. Jayson Werth (.284, 5, 19, 20 SO)

First let me say, through the whole World Series run and the early part of this season the most confusing thing to me about this team is the female obsession with JaysonWerth. 

Personally, I cannot get past the landing-strip soul patch underneath his bottom lip, and I do not understand how anyone does.  But I digress. 

Jayson Werth is a huge key to the Phillies’ lineup, and after proving his mettle as an everyday player by taking Geoff Jenkins’ starting job last season, now is the time when the league may be able to catch up with him. 

He is a very strikeout-prone hitter with good pop, but his aggressiveness at the plate could hurt him as the year goes on.  The 20 strikeouts, though considerably less than Ryan Howard’s, displays a trend that should be a little alarming in the eyes of Phillies fans. 

Werth does not have the resume of Howard, and does not provide as much offense for the lineup, so cutting down on his strikeouts should be a priority.

6. Raul Ibañez (.343, 8, 22)

With as many extra-base hits as strikeouts to this point in the season (17), Ibañez has been a nice surprise for the Phillies, and his signing is making new GM Reuben Amaro, Jr. look pretty smart for picking him up and letting Pat “the glove” Burrell walk down to Tampa Bay to join the Phils’ World Series opponent. 

His slugging percentage (.676) is 200 points higher than his career average, so chances are the power output will slow down, but Ibañez has proved to be exactly the professional hitter the Phils were expecting, and has provided a similarly hot start to the departed Burrell’s 2008 season.

7. Pedro Feliz (.311, 2, 17)

Happy Pete is another guy enjoying a hot start, with his 17 RBIs a valuable contribution from the seven-hole in the order.  With little pressure on him to provide offense as was expected in his ‘Frisco days, Feliz is relaxed at the plate and has seen some good improvements. 

Most of all for a guy who usually has strikeout issues, to only have 10 at this point of the year is a definite improvement and a sign of hope for a good season overall out of Pedro.

8. Carlos Ruiz (.185, 0, 0, 9 G)

Chooch is just returning from a sternum injury suffered during his time representing Panama in the World Baseball Classic.  He has played his characteristic good defense and the pitchers seem to have responded well to his return, but Carlos has not yet seen much of anything in the way of offensive achievement. 

He only hit .219 last year on the way to a Division title, so an offensive explosion is not necessarily to be expected, but if he remains the Phillies’ only major offensive hole, that will be something that fans can live with.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies