Results tagged ‘ Harry Kalas ’

“When You Are Ten…”

“…you know more about your team than you ever will know again.” – Dan Shaughnessy

This past week has seen me really take a deep look back to those salad days of my Phillies Phandom. My day of baseball at the Phillies’ home opener was filled with wonderful recollections of those trips to Veterans Stadium to see my favorite team play my favorite sport. Later in the week, the third anniversary of the passing of Harry Kalas came and went, once again making me recall the magic of my youth and my passion for the Phillies.

To drive the point home, a few pieces of personal memorabilia have come in to my possession.

But before I get those items, I must bring your attention to a fellow photographer who sent along to me a blog post he published three years ago on the day Harry Kalas was taken away from us. From his website, Jerseystyle Photography:

“Back in 1989, the Phillies flat-out stunk. Stunk so bad I don’t even want to remember. I was 19, as was my buddy Jim, and we both thought we were going to take the sportswriting nation by storm. We’d listen and agonize over the Nonphightin’ Phils that summer. At some point, we thought ‘Hey, they should let us do an inning or two. Break up the monontany.’ So we drafted a letter to Harry and Ritchie and sent it off, never thinking twice. Little did we expect to receive a personalized response from The Voice himself. Complete with edit marks (this was WAY before email). An actual letter, polite and classy, back to a couple of dumb college freshman. That’s what endures – Harry’s class.”

This is why we will always love HK.

About a month ago, my friend Tom, who I attended the home opener with, sent to me all the newspapers he collected on April 18, 1987, the day Michael Jack Schmidt cemented his place in the Hall of Fame when he parked a Don Robinson pitch over the left field wall in Pittsburgh for his 500th career home run.

The sight of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s special section about Schmidt’s life in baseball created a wave of emotion and nostalgia. As an 11-year old, I poured over that inset, digesting all the pictures, stories, and statistics about my baseball hero. I must have looked at it at least 10,000 times. And then noticing that this year marks the 25th anniversary of that blast, another realization of how the years are flying hit me.

But then Tom took it the next level. At the opener, we talked about our first Phillies games. The sights. The smells.

To this day, this is all I remember: It was a Sunday game. I went with my first Little League team. My dad, unfortunately, was not with me. We sat somewhere between the 500 and 700 level, on the first base side. Larry Christenson pitched. That’s it.

Tom went home and immediately found the game on Baseball Reference.

The very next day, he sent me another email. We discovered that we actually both attended Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, and may have sat very close to each other in the high-altitude reaches of the 700 level in right field. In his search for his stub, he stumbled upon another ticket from 1982.

The same game. My first game. 30 years ago.

He was not in attendance. He had traded with another person to get this random game ticket. He popped it in the mail the very next day.

I will forever be in debt.

All of these artifacts could pique the interest of collectors and Phillies Phans. I don’t know what these yellowing pieces of paper hold in terms of dollars and cents.

It’s impossible to monetize.

That’s the way it should be.

Harry Kalas Makes A Prediction

Today marks the three year anniversary of the passing of the “sound of summer”, Harry Kalas.

We miss you HK.

9/27/10 – Good Evening, Recliner and Beer

Thanks to yet another complete game gem from Roy Halladay, I can now say I’m attending the fantasy camp of the 2010 National League East Champion Phillies. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get to experience such a run by this team. Four division championships in a row and the distinction of being one of THE elite teams in the Majors? My inner 10-year old is not getting tired of this.

To make it even better, I listened to the WPHT broadcast with Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen through my favorite iPhone app, MLB.com At Bat. Other than actually being at the field, there is nothing better than listening to a baseball game on the radio. I have such wonderful memories listening to Phillies games in our ’77 Plymouth Volare or our little Panasonic transistor radio on the beach on our annual Summer vacation to Stone Harbor, NJ. The sound of Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, Andy Musser, and Chris Wheeler coming through a tinny radio was pure AM gold.

“Swing and a long drive!”

Tonight my thoughts turned to my dad as each inning passed. When the game finally ended, a small wave of sadness hit me. I couldn’t call him tonight. After every big game, it would take about thirty seconds before one of our phones would be ringing.  Instead, all I could hear was a hypothetical conversation in my head. I could hear him gushing about Halladay…finally pronouncing his name correctly after almost 10 months of Roy being on the team. My father had a very funny quirk of never getting people’s name right. I’m quite sure I would have heard the name “Holiday” mentioned several hundred times, even after several hundred corrections.

In 2008, my wife and I went down to visit my dad for the weekend, and as luck would have it, got to watch the Phillies win the NL East crown for that season together. A pizza and the familiar sight of my dad in his recliner with a Coors Light in his hand capped off a wonderful night. It was the only time since 2007 that I got to experience one of these big games with my dad. With me being 125 miles away and he usually heading to Florida for the good part of September and October, it was a rarity for the two of us to get to watch a late-season game in these last couple years. It makes it so special that this game was the first big step leading to their 2008 World Series trophy.

My recliner was unoccupied last night. I’d like to think he was there with us last night, relaxing, having several cans (even though I didn’t have the specific beer my dad liked), maybe snoozing off for a bit (or “resting his eyes”) and celebrating another big Phillies victory. Hopefully, like 2008, this will just be the beginning. As Halladay said last night, “it’s only gonna get funner”.

I sure would like to say I’m going to the fantasy camp of the 2010 World Champion Phillies…

3/23/10 – The Call

When I called the Phantasy Camp Headquarters, I got their automated menu system. This was not your run-of-the-mill phone directory prompt. The voice on the other end was “The Voice”. I immediately beamed. I thought to myself, “this is the coolest damn thing I have ever heard in my life”. However, it also saddened me. Harry had passed away that last April before a game against the Nationals in Washington. I had seen the breaking news report on the MLB Network and quickly called my dad. I felt like I was informing him a family member had just passed. He clearly was upset by the news. A voice that was synonymous with generations of Phillies fans was silenced. This was also the voice that first told me about the wonders of this camp. The significance of this did not escape me.

I spoke to a wonderful woman named Joanne LeVeque who was the enrollment coordinator. She was excited at my enthusiasm to want to attend the camp. When I told her I lived in New York City, she immediately asked how I was coping with being surrounded by Yankees and Mets fans. It was a fun conversation and once again, I knew I had made the right decision.

She took all my information and emailed me a couple forms, including the application.  As soon as I started to peruse the application, I immediately became aware what this camp was all about. After asking your name, the second question was, “Nickname you would like to be called at Camp”. This was going to be great.

My nickname? Gary Matthews and I may be duking this out.

Other questions included preferred uniform number and position(s) you would like to play. (Note: the numbers I chose were “31” for Garry Maddox and “47” for the year my father was born. I later realized it was also Larry Andersen‘s number, the crowned ring leader of Phantasy Camp. How fitting). Before the legal agreements and final signature, the application had two mini-essay questions. First they asked you to tell them a little about yourself. The second, “Phulfill Your Phantasy: What is your ultimate phantasy for this experience?”. All of a sudden, I got pangs of anxiety. I didn’t want to botch this question up. I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, writing his essay to Mrs. Shields justifying his desire for a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. I needed to come up with the best answer I could so they would accept my application. I did NOT want to get a C+ on this one. I pondered what to write in those eight blanks lines. I shook my head to give myself a mental wake-up. I was clearly thinking about this way too much. This was not going to make or break their decision on whether or not they should let me attend. I basically gave them a condensed, eight-line version of the introduction to this diary. That should do it.

Introduction

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2010

I don’t know exactly what age I was when I first learned that my favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, held an annual “fantasy camp” at their Spring Training facility in Clearwater, FL. According to the “second most important male voice in life at the time”, Harry Kalas, attendees would spend several days playing baseball with other camp-goers and ex-Phillies players.  I looked to my dad to make sure I heard that correctly.  Harry might as well have said the entire Phillies team will come to my house and play nine innings in our backyard. It was that preposterous. Harry wouldn’t lie to me, right? Dad gave me a reassuring smile and told me it was indeed true.

My hopes were immediately dashed though when I found out that you had to be at least 30 years of age to attend. Once again, the powers that be were denying this kid the basic human right to have fun. Thirty?! That’s an eternity! (So goes the thought process for every boy and girl that age).

Years went by and my desire to fib about my age and attend Phantasy Camp had waned. My love of baseball turned to other interests like music and playing drums. My posters of Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose were being replaced with rock stars and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. In addition to Schmidt, it also did not help that my favorite player, Garry Maddox, had retired. Compound that with the fact that my team went through a pretty long period of less-than-stellar play on the field, save for the statistical outlier that was 1993 (easily one the most fun-filled seasons following the Phillies… although did you have to lose 15-14 at my first ever World Series game? Come on. That was painful).

I moved to New York City in early 2001 and I followed the Phillies with even more fervor.  Baseball was slowly making a comeback in Philadelphia. There were a lot of reasons to get excited about this organization. That season saw them turn around with a winning record, led by new manager and Phillies legend, Larry Bowa. A new ballpark was on the way. Amazing homegrown talent was coming up like Jimmy RollinsRandy Wolf, and Pat Burrell. Catcher Mike Lieberthal was coming in to his own. Outfielder Bobby Abreu became a quiet superstar. Later, free agent Jim Thome graced Philadelphia with his presence. Chase Utley soon followed, along with a first baseman making a lot of noise down in the minor leagues named Ryan Howard.  And as any baseball fan knows, what has become of Philadelphia Phillies baseball in the last half of this decade has been nothing short of pure bliss for their fanbase. Right Harry?

My dad and I outside Citizens Bank Park, July 24, 2004.

In the last several years, my dad and I became even more fanatical about our team. Whenever it was on the phone or face-to-face, our conversations centered round the Phillies.  He and I had always been extremely close. The Phillies made us even closer.

On November 4, 2009, my father passed away.  Apart from the obvious shock, pain and heartache that surrounded me that day, what made it even worse was the fact that it was the same day as Game 6 of the World Series against the Yankees… a game (and Series) the Phillies would lose. I wrote an article for prosportsblogging.com detailing that day.

Once I was able to start focusing again on the things I loved to do, the idea of attending the Phillies Phantasy Camp went off like a light bulb. Why not? I had the time and resources now (I also finally met the age requirement. I would turn 35 during the camp in January 2011… same day as Carlos Ruiz… let’s add in “birthday present to myself” shall we?) I ran the thought by my wife. She didn’t even let me finish my sentence before she gave me a hundred emphatic “yeses”.  Not only would this be a wonderful, exciting, and therapeutic experience for me, but it would be the ultimate tribute to my father: A man, no matter how tired he was after a long day at work, would rush home to have a catch with his son in the backyard before the sun went down and to talk about baseball. A man who used sports as a way to comfort ourselves after my mother passed away when I was 14. A man who made his only child his number one priority.

I called the very next morning. After a 20-minute phone conversation with the enrollment coordinator, I knew I made the right decision.

And I knew I had to document this entire process…

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