News of Harry Kalas' death Monday should hit home for any diehard baseball fan. To me, there's nothing in broadcasting that compares to the relationship between a hardball play-by-play guy and a listener.
For Phillies fans (my colleague, Kristen Ross, for one), Kalas was the narrator of their history. For me and Cardinal Nation, our inevitable day of devastation came with the passing of Jack Buck in June 2002. Like Kalas, Buck had a national presence because of his work, but in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest, as far as KMOX radio's strong signal could reach, Jack kept people up until that final pitch when he longed to scream, "That's a winner!"
I lived just outside St. Louis for five years, and was one of those listeners who couldn't sleep until Jack signed off. "Scores and totals in a moment," his verbal cue to go to commercial after the games, was my cue to nod off. The Cards weren't all that good those five years. Jack Buck was our champion, as Harry Kalas was the Phils' champ in those years when the team didn't win it all. Harry got a World Series winner last year. Jack watched on high when his son, Joe, called a Cards title in 2006.
My broadcasting idols are reaching the late innings of their lives. Before I wanted to get into news, I wanted to be a radio play-by-play guy. Jack was my idol, and Harry was one of many legends I took in. Each time a Jack or a Harry passes on, a piece of so many fans goes missing. We're left with the irreplaceable, memorable calls, some of which I've linked below. There's nothing like the old timers, the classic voices.
I may not root for the Phillies, but they lost their voice Monday. Voices...those you can root for and with.
Harry Kalas Tributes
Jack Buck Montage