Born in Naperville, Illinois, Kalas graduated from Naperville High School in 1954. He attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa and later graduated from the University of Iowa in 1958. Kalas began his career in 1961 calling minor league games for the Hawaii Islanders while he was in the United States Army stationed in Hawaii.
Kalas made his major league debut in 1965 with the Houston Astros. He was hired by the Phillies in 1971 to replace Bill Campbell, and was the master of ceremonies at the 1971 opening of Veterans Stadium. After the retirement of By Saam, Kalas was paired with Andy Musser and Hall of Fame player Richie Ashburn. Kalas joined NFL Films in 1975, and remained there until his death.
Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas passed out in a press box at Nationals Park today and was pronounced dead at GW Hospital. He was 73.
“We lost our voice today,” team president David Montgomery said, his voice cracking. “He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization.”
Nats acting GM Mike Rizzo talked to Montgomery after Kalas’ collapse but there was never really a thought of canceling the game; Montgomery told Rizzo that Kalas would have wanted them to play. There will be a moment for silence for both Nick Adenhart of Hagerstown and for Kalas.
“Major League Baseball has lost one of the great voices of our generation,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “Baseball announcers have a special bond with their audience, and Harry represented the best of baseball not only to the fans of the Phillies, but to fans everywhere.”
Montgomery said that Kalas was found unconscious in a broadcast booth, where he was preparing to work Monday’s game against the Nationals. He was found by the Phillies director of broadcasting at about 12:30 p.m.
Montgomery called his condition serious at that time, and the Phillies closed the visitors’ clubhouse to the media.
Kalas missed most of spring training after undergoing surgery in February. The team declined to reveal details of the surgery, saying it was a “minor medical procedure.”
Kalas, who has broadcast Phillies games since 1971, was known for his distinctive “Outta here!” home run call. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award in 2002. He was in the final year of a three-year contract with the Phillies. Kalas also narrated for NFL Films, broadcast Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl and did the voice-overs for the Chunky Soup commercials.
Kalas and Ashburn became beloved figures in Philadelphia, and also became best friends. They worked together for 27 seasons until Ashburn’s sudden passing on September 9, 1997 of a heart attack in his sleep in a New York City hotel room after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game at Shea Stadium. Due to the closeness of Ashburn and Kalas, Kalas openly stated that he still grieved over Ashburn’s death, over eleven years afterwards.
Kalas’ familiar home run call was “Swing…and a long drive, watch this baby, outta here! Home run ” If it was a gigantic home run, he sometimes inserted “deep center field” after “and a long drive” and described it as “that ball’s way outta here!”. As a guest on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on July 15, 2007, Kalas recounted that his famous “outta here” call originated in the mid-1970s. Standing around the batting cage during batting practice Philly slugger Greg Luzinski hit a ball into the upper deck to which Philly shortstop Larry Bowa reacted with the words, “Wow! That’s way outta here.” Kalas claims that it had a nice “unique ring to it and has been using it ever since”.
Harry Kalas died, doing what he did, and he did it good. I remember when 73 was old, not any more, tomorrow I turn 53, and 73 is too young to go. Kalas will be missed, sympathies go out to Harry’s family, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the NFL.