His signature song was “High Hopes” and he was entitled to it. After all, when you spend 38 years as the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, you need a few high hopes.
This afternoon, Phillies fans needed the highest of high hopes when we learned that beloved broadcaster Harry Kalas had been found unconscious in the press box while preparing for today’s game against the Washington Nationals. He died shortly after being rushed to the hospital and our city is now mourning the loss of a legend in our own time.
To non-Philadelphians, this post will mean little. But to denizens of the City of Brotherly Love, you get it. You know how much Harry Kalas was part of this team, of this city, of our history. For it was Harry’s voice on the radio that welcomed spring and the promise of another new season on that field of dreams. It was Harry who we listened to in the car, on sultry summer nights in the backyard. It was Harry who our hearts broke for when his broadcasting partner Richie “Whitey” Ashburn died suddenly, in a manner all too similar to Harry’s passing. It was Harry who told us that finally, finally, finally our beloved Phils won the World Series and it was Harry who took to the field and sang – you guessed it – “High Hopes.” It was Harry, less than six months ago, riding down Broad Street in our World Series Championship victory parade, the first since 1980 and a day that Philadelphians claimed as a national holiday.
What Harry Kalas gave us was simple. He called the game in his simple but distinguished way. But for 38 years – think about that, for a moment – he gave us the feeling that no matter whatever crap we were dealing with in our lives and whatever the world was throwing at us, there would always be something we could count on. Spring would come, our Phillies would again be contenders (even if just on Opening Day), hope would spring eternal, and Harry would be in the booth.
It’s been said in several of the tributes I’ve read that Harry was like a member of the family, and in a way, that’s what makes this especially sad. We’re thinking tonight about those family members who enjoyed listening to Harry with us or who always had the game on while working in the yard (as my Dad did). Our grandfathers, our uncles, our brothers, our fathers. In mourning Harry, we’re mourning all of them.
Perhaps we’re mourning our own dreams and our own high hopes. For Harry Kalas – the high school senior who is pictured in his yearbook with “Harry Kalas … Future Sports Announcer” as his caption, got to live his dream of being a sports announcer, one who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and today, he died living that dream, doing what he loved most. It is fitting that Harry died in the broadcast booth.
And it’s fitting that he left us in spring, in these early days when our hopes once again have the chance to soar anew on our own personal fields of dreams.