Adam Kandle " Kalas death marks end of baseball’s innocent era
April 16, 2009
Harry Kalas 1936-2009 ” A voice, like a familiar smell or sight, can open a floodgate of memories and emotions. This has never been more evident to me than with Harry Kalas.
Kalas, announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies for close to 40 years, died Monday, March 13, and in small part so did a part of me. Hearing the voice of Harry Kalas will always take me back to my youth, to a time when baseball was for me just a game ” devoid of the steroid allegations and skyrocketing player salaries ” sitting on the porch of my grandparents’ home in Laurel Springs, N.J., the smell of my grandfather’s pipe in the air and the sound of Kalas’ voice coming through an old radio.
In 20 years I will struggle to recall the sound of my grandfather’s voice and the players who populated the Phillies lineup. Fortunately I will always be able to hear the voice of Harry Kalas, and when I do I will be magically transported back to those nights. It is because of those nights so long ago that baseball will always mean something to me.
Baseball more than any other sport will always be a major part of who I am. More than football, basketball or hockey, baseball is still America’s pastime. Because of this the death of Harry Kalas was the greatest loss I’ve felt in the sports world.
I was not alone. Grown men in Philadelphia were calling 610 WIP (the local sports talk radio) and sharing how the news made them break down into tears. It wasn’t just the death of this singular man that made them cry. It was the memory of all the times they had shared with their fathers and grandfathers, on the porch or in their homes.
Kalas was a constant for four generations of Philadelphians. It’s easy to fall into cliches when writing about sports but there is a reason for that. For half the population of the United States and scores of others around the world, sports and in particular baseball is how we define ourselves. The team we root for represents where we are from and the players we cheer for in some way are examples for the passion and ethics we ourselves aspire to as children.
Sometimes the history of the game can even mirror the changes that we as a society are struggling to come to terms with. I was lucky enough to fall in love with baseball before it self-imploded with allegations and a lack of accountability. My generation is probably the last to hold baseball in such vaunted esteem, and that’s a shame.
Although I can never truly go back to that time in my life, when baseball and a youthful innocence were so intermingled, Harry Kalas almost made it possible. It’s for this reason that so many men back home were brought to tears by the news March 13, and I was one of them.
As I said before, it wasn’t just the death of one man. It was the death in small part of that innocence that I still try to hold on to. The innocence of my youth and those nights on my grandparents’ porch back in New Jersey.
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