As a west coast guy, I didn't get to hear much of Kalas doing baseball, but I loved his work for NFL Films. His voice was one of the most recognizable in sport and was one I admired through the years. RIP, Harry...
The Governor says he hopes you're a twitcher! OH YES!!!
Sorry I’m so late with this – it took a while to put together. :-)
The Phillies held a memorial for Harry Kalas on Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. I took the trip down to Philadelphia on Friday night so that I could go. Unfortunately, I went solo, as my girlfriend had class on Saturday morning. I stayed at the Holiday Inn two blocks away from CBP for an extremely low price (this is the only time of the baseball season that you could stay there without paying an arm and leg).
I can’t tell you enough (but I’ll try) how flawless a job the Phillies organization pulled off here. HK’s closed casket (or I should say A closed casket) was placed right behind home plate. From about 8AM until about 12:30PM, fans were welcome to enter the stadium and walk by the casket to pay their last respects (though I read that fans were being let in before 8). A memorial ceremony was scheduled to start at about 1:30PM. During the casket viewing, people entered through the third base gate, walked down to the field, then by the casket and finally up to the concourse on the first base side. All were welcome to stay for the ceremony.
The weather was perfect, if only a bit windy. The temperature hit 75 degrees and the sky was just about cloudless. I joined the line at about 9AM. At the time there was only a few hundred people in line. The line moved smoothly and quickly. After about 20-30 minutes, I walked through the third base gate. As I picked up a commemorative program and complimentary coffee, I looked ahead and was floored. I saw two older gentlemen in suits standing about 10 feet ahead shaking everyone’s hand. It took a minute for it to register that these men were Phillies president David “Monty” Montgomery and Phillies co-owner Bill Giles. I couldn’t believe these guys were standing there greeting everyone and thanking them for coming. I had some trouble fumbling with my program and coffee to free my right hand so that I could shake theirs. I did and thanked *them* and kept moving in line.
The first thing you noticed as you took the first steps down to the third base side of the field was a hearse parked on the dirt in right field foul territory. The next thing you noticed is that the hearse sat in front six or seven sections of empty seats. Finally, you noticed an electronic marquee reading “HARRY KALAS 1936-2009” directly above the hearse on the pavilion section of the park. This kind of ghostly scene made for one of my favorite photos I took that day.
I passed by the casket, touched it, then made my way to the concourse on the first base side. I had about four hours to kill before the ceremony. Even though the hotel was two blocks away, I didn’t want to leave and take the chance of being caught in an enormous line upon returning. So I stayed. I enjoyed some complimentary water, juice, donuts and soft pretzels. I made some phone calls. I talked to some staff members. I took pictures. I watched tribute videos that aired on Phanavision every 45 minutes or so.
People who stayed for the ceremony and wanted to grab a seat were being ushered to the two or three sections immediately behind the Phillies dugout on the first base side. As more people wanted seats, the staff opened up adjacent sections. At about 12:30PM, I noticed that they opened up section 120, which is behind and just to the right of home plate. I grabbed an excellent seat there and waited for the ceremony to begin.
Shortly after sitting, they cut off the line of people coming to the field. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 5,000 people stayed for the ceremony. They placed a lectern on the dirt immediately behind home plate, in preparation for the ceremony. Before the ceremony began, Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker came and welcomed us. He then welcomed members of the Kalas family, then the family of Richie Ashburn, then Phillies personnel (all of whom were sitting in the Park’s Diamond Club sections) to come and view the casket. Then the current Phillies came from their dugout, in uniform and with no announcement, to view the casket. They then took seats in the Diamond Club.
The ceremony began just about on time. Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy served as emcee. Flag bearers for the U.S. Armed Forces came out. Tom introduced speakers to come and share stories and memories and tributes. Speakers included: Joe O’Loughlin (friend of Kalas family who served as representative of the fans), Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Philly mayor Michael Nutter, Phillies president David Montgomery, Richard Ashburn (son of Richie), Jamie Moyer, Mike Schmidt, Steve Sabol of NFL Films, and Harry’s son Kane.
By the way, go to about 2:30 of this video (youtube.com) and hear Kane Kalas’ amazing rendition of the National Anthem from the night before. Are you kidding me?
During Schmidt’s speech I got up and started to roam. By the time the last speaker finished, I was further down the right field line. It was then that the current Phillies and others formed a path from the casket along the dirt down the first base and right field side to the parked hearse. While a HK music video with the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” played, the guys along the path passed the casket down to the hearse to polite applause and cap-waving. This is when I lost it. They placed the casket in the back of the hearse, and the hearse drove down to the right field corner. The song and video ended. Some guy whose name I can’t remember led everyone in a singing of “High Hopes.” They played one last tribute video and the ceremony ended to more applause and a “Harry!” chant.
Everyone in the Phillies organization from the very top to the ushers and concessionaires who came to work the ceremony deserve all the thanks in the world for putting this together and pulling it off without a hitch.
Here are some of the photos I took from the ceremony and the night before: