Harry Kalas, R.I.P.

He died with his mic on, so to speak, and I’m sure it will be said repeatedly that “at least he got to see the Phillies win another series,” but 73 is still too young. This sucks.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

Harry Kalas, the Phillies’ Hall of Fame announcer, died at 1:20 p.m. today, the Phillies announced.

Mr. Kalas collapsed in the press box at Nationals Stadium in Washington at about 12:30 p.m. and was rushed to George Washington University Medial Center.

The cause of the death was not announced. Today’s game against the Nationals will be played, but the team will not visit the White House tomorrow.

Kalas, who was found unconsious, missed most of spring training after undergoing undisclosed surgery in Feburary. That surgery was unrelated to the detached retina that sidelined him for part of last season.

Kalas, who turned 73 on March 26, has broadcast Phillies games since 1971. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. He is entering the final season of a 3-year contract that he signed in December 2006.

Since the the Series, my text message ringtone has been Harry’s final out call. It’s loud and far too long and with the new season upon us, I was just about to dump it. Guess it’s staying for at least a shiva period.

Update And let me also add…. as a sometimes sports-journalist I’ve had occasion to cover the Phillies a few times, and while I’m not so jaded that I didn’t get a thrill out of standing in their dugout during BP in 2007, or huddling around then-manager Larry Bowa at spring training, work is work, and I am no more starstruck around athletes than I would be interviewing John Darnielle. But the last time I was in the Phillies press box, Harry passed me in the hallway, and it was all I could do not to giggle… and then burst into the broadcast booth to beg him for a voice mail message.

And, not to get all “they don’t make things like they used to,” but the days when an announcer was so woven into the fabric of one’s daily life and daily fandom certainly is dwindling. It starts with radio, of course – Harry and others like him weren’t just the voices of the game, but our entire picture of the game. Today’s 12 year-olds not only have TV whenever and wherever (about to watch the game on MLB.TV myself) but between the national broadcasts of one’s own team and the ability to watch so many broadcasts of other teams, the impact of any one broadcaster is diminished.

“Harry would want us to play,” says Gary Matthews just now, which was to be expected. Still gotta be tough for them to do this game though, even more than it might be for the players.