Growing up, my grandfather was one of the biggest influences in my life. Among many things, he instilled in me a love for the game of baseball, and our hometown Philadelphia Phillies. Even in the mid to late 90's when the team was losing close to 100 every year, we would still go to 10-20 games per year just out of sheer love of the game.
My grandfather worshipped Harry Kalas. Even when we would go to the games, he would bring his radio, because he always said that a Phillies game without Harry's voice just isn't the same.
My grandfather was crazy about me, as he was all of his grandchildren, and in 1999, he was about to experience his ultimate thrill, seeing his first grandson (me) bar-mitzvahed. Sadly, he passed away three months before my ceremony.
My mother wrote a letter to Harry Kalas, telling him about my grandfathers admiration for him, and thanking him for all the joy that he brought to his face every time he called a home run or a strikeout. She also mentioned in the letter, very briefly and not expecting anything in return, that her father had been hoping to live long enough to see my Bar Mitzvah, and since my theme was Baseball, now that he won't be there in person, we were going to name the table he was to sit at after Harry K.
We received a long, thoughtful response from Harry himself, stating how glad he was that he had such a positive impact on somebody's life. He also asked if he could attend the Bar Mitzvah in my grandfathers honor. Of course, my parents didn't tell me about that until the night of the affair, and I don't think I will ever again have the look on my face as I did when he showed up and my parents introduced me.
Along with giving me a signed ball and leaving a message on my video, Harry hung out with my family all night, along with his wife and a friend, and had drinks and cigars with everyone. It took an already glorious evening and made it unforgettable.
Over the years, we have kept in touch with Harry, albeit very briefly, as he clearly has a very busy schedule. Today, in losing Harry, the world lost not only a world class announcer with one of the most recognizable voices in entertainment history, but also a kind, thoughtful and generous human being.
Harry's last season as the voice of the Phillies was a special one. The team won their first World Championship since 1980, and the first for the entire city in 25 years. Whether you believe in this sort of thing or not, you just have to wonder if maybe someone upstairs was making sure he got to make one more historic call before leaving us.
While the team may or may not win another championship this year or in any of the coming years, one thing is certain; it won't be the same. For anybody who has watched a Phillies game in the past 40 years, watching will never be the same. I am lucky enough to have had a personal encounter with Mr. Kalas, but whether you have met him in person or just seen and heard him on TV, all Phillies fans have lost a lot today. We have lost our heart, we have lost our soul. We have lost our voice.
RIP Harry Kalas