Harry Kalas Collapses in Broadcast Booth and Dies; Voice of Phillies and NFL Films

Harry Kalas dies; voice of Phillies and NFL Films

harrykalasThe announcer for Phillies baseball since 1971, Harry Kalas collapses in the broadcast booth before a game. He was known nationwide as an NFL narrator.

From Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES TIMES
1:11 PM PDT, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas, the longtime voice of baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies who also had a familiar role as an announcer on NFL radio broadcasts and as the narrator of the league’s action for NFL films, died Monday. He was 73.

Kalas collapsed in the broadcast booth just hours before a game between the Phillies and the Washington Nationals in Washington.

“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.”

Kalas was found by the Phillies’ director of broadcasting about 12:30 p.m. and taken to a hospital, where he died, Montgomery said.

Kalas had surgery earlier this year for an undisclosed ailment that the team characterized as minor. He looked somewhat drawn last week as the Phillies opened the season at home.

Kalas joined the Phillies in 1971. Before that, he was a member of the Houston Astros broadcast team from 1965 to 1970. In 2002, he received the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game.

“Players come and go, but ‘Outta here!’ — that’s forever,” said Scott Franzke, a Phillies radio broadcaster.

Kalas lent his sonorous voice to everything from puppies to soup. He broadcast NFL games for CBS Radio and Westwood One and was the narrator of the league’s weekly highlights for NFL Films. He was the voice for Chunky Soup commercials and Animal Planet’s annual tongue-in-cheek Super Bowl competitor, the Puppy Bowl.

Kalas joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team in 1971, replacing fan favorite Bill Campbell.

He wasn’t immediately embraced by Phillies fans, despite being paired with Richie Ashburn, a hall of famer as a player, and longtime announcer. But Kalas evolved into a beloved sports figure in Philadelphia. He and Ashburn grew into a popular team and shared the booth until Ashburn’s death in 1997.

“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.”

The son of a Methodist minister, the Naperville, Ill., native graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959 with a degree in speech, radio and television. He was drafted into the Army soon after he graduated.

In 1961, he became sports director at Hawaii radio station KGU and also broadcast games for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and for the University of Hawaii.

He did his first major league broadcast in 1965 for the Astros.

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