Venerable members of this group:

mauler@+, BrooksMarlin, Davidian, briglass, borgo$, lovejoyman, hashbrownie, PTBee, baritalia, LiarXAgerate, RMSzero, gpb
This group of 12 members is led by mauler@+

Harold Norbert Kalas

March 26, 1936 - April 13, 2009


The Voice of the Phillies


Harry Kalas was not the most famous sportscaster around, at least in a national sense. He didn't have the name recognition of Harry Caray or Howard Cosell. However, Kalas, a native of Naperville, Illinois, was every bit a Philadelphia institution as Ben Franklin, the Liberty Bell, or Tastykakes. For thirty-eight years, Kalas was the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, and since the mid-1970's was one of the main voices of NFL Films. And, yes, his was the voice you heard during the Puppy Bowl.


The son of a Methodist minister of Greek descent, Harry Kalas graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959, then served two years in the U.S. Army stationed in Hawai'i. In 1962, Kalas began to announce for the Hawaii Islanders, a AAA-affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics, moving to the big leagues when the Houston Astros hired him before the 1965 season. Spending his first six years broadcasting from the brand-new Houston Astrodome, Kalas would announce such moments as Eddie Mathews' 500th home run in 1967, as well as Cesar Cedeno's first homer in 1970.


In 1971, Kalas became the announcer of the Philadelphia Phillies, and was the master of ceremonies when Veterans Stadium opened that April. Over the years, he would be joined in the booth by many people, but Kalas is most remembered for his 26-year partnership with color commentator and Hall of Fame centerfielder Richie Ashburn, who he used to call "His Whiteness". The Phillies improved over the years, winning four National League East titles in five years under the leadership of Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox, and Larry Bowa. However, the Phils could not succeed in the NLCS until after acquiring Pete Rose in 1979. Ashburn and Kalas (along with Andy Musser) would finally announce a pennant winner in 1980, after the Phils beat the Houston Astros in what is widely regarded to be the greatest League Championship Series of all time. However, Major League Baseball did not allow a club's broadcasters to announce the World Series, and Kalas would have to settle for re-enacting Tug McGraw's World Championship-clinching strikeout. In 2003, during the closing ceremonies of Veterans Stadium, Kalas would repeat his re-enactment, when McGraw (who would succumb to a brain tumor three months later) mimicked his last pitch.


Over the years, Kalas came to be known for his catchphrase, "This ball is outta heeeerrreee..." While in a 2007 interview, he claimed to start saying this during the mid 1970's, influenced by the slugging power of Greg Luzinski, there is evidence that he used at least a variation of it during his years with Houston. The most memorable use of this was when "Michael Jack Schmidt" hit his five-hundreth home run in 1987. Other memorable calls included many associated with the Phillies' pennant-winning season in 1993. That July, a twi-night doubleheader at The Vet against San Diego was delayed by rain, and did not end until well past four in the morning, with closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams driving in the winning run in the tenth inning. Kalas' use of Williams' clubhouse nickname, "Mitchie-Poo" turned a great game into a legendary one. When the Phillies clinched the National League East in 1993, Kalas led the team in a drunken rendition of "High Hopes", which he would repeat on at least two different occasions.


The Phillies would lose the 1993 World Series in a heartbreaker to the Toronto Blue Jays, and would not make another run for the playoffs for nearly a decade. In September of 1997, Richie Ashburn died in a New York City hotel room after broadcasting a game against the New York Mets, leaving Harry Kalas to broadcast with Chris "Wheels" Wheeler, with whom he had a contentious professional relationship with, and former Phillie Larry Andersen, among others. For a while in the mid-1990's, Harry's son Todd joined the Phillies broadcast team.


In 2002, Harry Kalas was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and would join the Phils in opening Citizens Bank Park in 2004. By this time, the Phillies had built the nucleus of a championship team, and Kalas was there, ushering in the catchphrase "Chase Utley, YOU ARE THE MAN!!!" when the young second baseman started to become a star. In 2007, the Phillies came from behind to win the NL East title, led by 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard. While they were swept by the Colorado Rockies, they would be back the next year, and how!


While Harry was able to announce the 1983 and 1993 World Series, he finally was able to call a World Series win for the Phils in his final full season, 2008. Ironically, the Phillies would face the Tampa Bay Rays, who had hired Todd Kalas as an in-game analyst when they began playing in 1998. For part of one game, they worked the booth together, joined by Harry's younger son Kane. On October 29, 2008, after twenty-eight years and a two-day rain delay, Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to clinch the World Series, and Harry Kalas would make the call of his life:


"The 0-2 pitch, SWING AND A MISS!!! STRUCK HIM OUT!!! THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES ARE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL!!! Brad Lidge does it again...and watch the city celebrate! Don't let the forty-eight hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment and this celebration!..."

Kalas was among those cheered as the Phillies marched through Broad Street two days later. While his decline in health had been noticable, there was no doubt he would be there when the Phils tried to repeat as World Champions. During the offseason, Kalas underwent surgery; its nature was never disclosed and was considered "minor", but had missed much of Spring Training. He had returned in time for Opening Day, and threw the first pitch the final game of the opening series. In what turned out to be his final game, on April 12, 2009, Kalas made the call on Matt Stairs' game winning home run against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.


On Monday, April 13, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies were preparing to play in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals. Sometime around 12:30 pm, Harry Kalas was found unconscious in the broadcasting booth, and was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at around 1:20pm of heart disease. The Phillies went on to win the game against the lowly Nats, with players smoking cigarettes in tribute to Harry the K during the moment of silence. Shane Victorino pointed to the broadcast booth at Nationals Park in honor of Kalas after hitting a home run in the third inning. While plans for a private funeral and burial were being made, the Phillies scheduled a public viewing at Citizens Bank Park for April 18.


Kalas' death was just one in a week filled with tragedy in the baseball world, with the car accident death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart on April 9, and the farm accident death of 1976 AL Rookie of the Year Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, also on April 13. In addition to Scott and Kane, Harry Kalas is survived by his wife and another son, as well as millions of people who grew up with his rich, baritone voice.

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Sources (other than decades of being a dedicated Phillie Phanatic):

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Kalas
  • http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090413&content_id=4249036&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb
  • http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4064793
  • http://astrosdaily.com/audio/70cedenohr.mp3 (A sample of Harry Kalas from his Houston days).
  • http://onthedlpodcast.com/clips/phils_champs_harry.mp3 (Kalas' call from Game 5 of the 2008 World Series).

Major League Baseball franchise, currently a part of the Central Division of the American League.

The Royals were founded in 1969 as part of Major League Baseball's explosive growth period, when from 1962 to 1972 eight new teams were founded and four others changed locations (including two of the expansion teams). The Royals joined the newly created AL West for the 1969 season under the ownership of pharmaceutical magnate Ewing Kauffman.

The newly created expansion team started off as most expansion teams do, finishing below .500 for three of its first four seasons and never really rising from the middle of the pack. The early team featured young standout Lou Piniella, taken during the 1969 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots, but traded to the Royals before the season began. "Sweet Lou" won the Rookie of the Year award in that first season, and, after playing four years with the Royals, was traded to the Yankees after 1973. By that time, however, a new franchise face had shown up in rookie George Brett.

1973: A New Face, A New Park, A New Contender

In 1973, the Royals moved to the brand new Royals Stadium (renamed Kauffman Stadium in 1993), which replaced the fifty year old Kansas City Municipal Stadium. The new facility featured a state-of-the-art (for the time) Astroturf playing surface and symmetrical outfield dimensions, ranging from 330 feet down the lines to 410 feet to straightaway center. In an era of multipurpose "cookie cutter" stadiums, Royals Stadium was the only baseball specific park built between 1962 and 1991.

The team that called this modernist masterpiece home was helmed by first time manager Jack McKeon and featured such players as Lou Piniella (in his last season as a Royal) and, inaugurating the newly-created designated hitter role, 27 year old Hal McRae. A young kid named George Brett also saw limited action at the end of the '73 season. The club that season finished 88-74 that year, good for second in the AL West. That offseason saw a trade that would set a pattern for the Royals franchise throughout the ages: Lou Piniella, who had had a down year in 1973, was traded along with a fringe throw-in for 38 year old journeyman reliever Lindy McDaniel. Piniella would go on to play for the next decade for the Yankees, while McDaniel gave the Royals 200 innings over the next two seasons before retiring.

However, this questionable deal didn't cripple the Royals. Despite their fifth place finish in 1974, the team began a dramatic upswing starting with the hiring of Whitey Herzog during the 1975 season and the emergence of George Brett as a talent for the ages. A 41-25 push down the stretch under Herzog's tutelage wasn't enough to catch the Oakland Athletics (nee Kansas City Athletics), but starting in 1976, Herzog led the team to three straight division titles and the franchise would finish first or second every year until 1986, winning six divisional titles. During this time period, "The White Rat" emphasized speed and defense with his new club, using the Astroturf playing surface to his advantage to have speedy slap hitters beat out grounders and take advantage of gappers that split outfield defenses. Brett also posted superstar numbers as a perennial All-Star third baseman and won the 1980 MVP on the strength of his incredible .390 batting average.

Herzog's departure after the 1979 season (for the cross-state Cardinals) didn't slow the franchise at all. Under new manager Jim Frey, the club would win the pennant in 1980 before a disastrous first half in the strike altered 1981 season led to his replacement by Dick Howser. Howser led the club to its second pennant win in 1985, and in the "I-70 World Series" against former manager Herzog, gave the team its first World Championship.

After the 1985 season, it was the beginning of the end for this small-market powerhouse. The team managed to stay respectable for the rest of the 80s with the help of young two-sport superstar Bo Jackson, but a combination of factors heightened the decline of this once-contending franchise. The disastrous trade of David Cone for Ed Hearn, and the later trade of Bret Saberhagen for Kevin McReynolds, Gregg Jeffries, and Keith Miller added to the downward momentum. Jackson's decline from hip injuries sustained while playing football and the death of owner Ewing Kauffman in 1993 marked a low point in franchise history. Brett also retired following the 1993 season, finishing his career with 3,154 hits, 317 home runs, and 201 stolen bases.

1993: The Glass is Half Empty

Following the death of owner Ewing Kauffman in 1993, former Wal-Mart executive David Glass was appointed interim chairman and CEO of the franchise. Glass, who as of this writing is one of the the richest owners in Major League Baseball, is frequently derided as a cheapskate who meddled with baseball operations at the expense of the on-field product. During the 1994 strike, Glass was one of the agitators for the use of replacement players and doing whatever is necessary to break the strength of the player's union. While under Glass' control, the Royals have averaged 96 losses per season and have traded away such talent as Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Carlos Beltran. They're also perennial contenders for the "Worst Franchise in Sports" tag, as, despite Glass' insistence on a small-market payroll, the club routinely ranks as one of the most profitable in baseball due to revenue sharing. In 2006, Glass' bid to buy the team for $96M was approved by a board stacked with Glass supporters, despite a competing bid for $120M. Kauffman Stadium is now undergoing a $250M taxpayer-funded renovation orchestrated by the (mis)management of the club.

2008 and beyond

As Glass continues to bring his Wal-Mart philosophy of low wages for marginal product to baseball, it is unlikely that the franchise will ever fully pull out of its decline. Much like Bill Wirtz's ownership of the Blackhawks of the NHL, the stranglehold of a powerful owner intent on squeezing every dime out of a poor team will last for the foreseeable future.


Sources:

The unbelievably awesome Baseball-Reference.com

kansascityroyals.com

Clem's Baseball: MLB Franchise History
http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/MLB_Franchises.html Baseball Almanac

David Martin, the Kansas City Pitch, March 30, 2006: "Is David Glass Smoking Grass?"
http://pitch.com/2006-03-30/news/is-david-glass-smoking-grass/

Jason Whitlock, ESPN.com Page 2: "This Glass is Empty"
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=whitlock/060615&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab2pos1

ESPN.com Page 2: "The Greediest Owners in Sports"
http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/owners/greediest.html

Dave Gholokov, FoxSports.com: "Worst Franchises in Pro Sports"
http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/8098378/Top-10:-Worst-franchises-in-pro-sports

Nearly twenty-five years into his stint as Boston's most notorious pariah, Bill Buckner made a slow walk from the Green Monster, Fenway Park's famed left field wall to the pitcher's mound to throw the ceremonial first pitch for the Boston Red Sox home opener. Watching him make that walk, seemingly unsure of the way, wiping his eyes as he walked and choking back tears as he stood on the mound in front of forty-thousand standing, cheering fans, I thought to myself, "This is the very definition of catharsis. The prodigal son returned, welcomed with open arms, past transgressions forgiven." But even as Buckner threw a big looping strike to Dwight Evans, I was struck by the hypocrisy of it all.

After that fateful night in Shea Stadium, we in New England were conditioned to treat Bill Buckner as a villain. He had somehow derailed the manifest destiny that was a World Series championship. He had dashed the hopes and dreams of an entire city. He had single-handedly prolonged the agony of baseball fans in New England. And so we hated him. Children chanted "BUCKNAAAAAH!" at each other during Little League games. Grown men with too much beer in them awarded Buckner the middle name of "Fucking", cursing his name as they spilled watered-down Bud Light on their Roger Clemens jerseys. And the media, never one to pass up an opportunity to tear a man down, badgered the first baseman until he wanted nothing to do with the city. The last we had heard, he had moved to Idaho where he could safely hide away from the press, and his children could attend school without being heckled. Because he made a mistake. Because he was human.

As the years went by, and reason began to win the day, people began to suggest that maybe Buckner wasn't quite the villain we had made him out to be. Perhaps, some argued, failing to field a ground ball wasn't the worst sin that a man could commit. Some suggested that in a team sport, perhaps the entire team is at fault for losing. Or perhaps they aren't at fault at all; perhaps the other team was simply better on that day. Slowly, gradually, these ideas became widely accepted as truths, and when the Red Sox brought a World Series trophy back to Boston in 2004, it was time to forgive and forget. We could now, as Bill Simmons wrote, die in peace, and it was time to find Bill Buckner and tell him it was all right to come out of hiding.

But not one of us, at least not one of us with a voice loud enough and a conviction strong enough to be listened to and believed, took responsibility for our own sins. What Bill Buckner had done, making a simple fielding error, was considered by us an unforgivable transgression, and yet our own treatment of the man, to the point where he no longer felt comfortable setting foot in New England, wasn't anything to be ashamed of. When we treat a grown man so poorly that he nearly breaks down and cries when asked to recall it all, perhaps we should stop to consider who the real villain was in all of this.

Today Bill Buckner stood on the mound at Fenway, and all of Red Sox Nation applauded as if to say, "Thank you, Bill, for coming back here so that we could formally forgive you." But I think Bill saw it differently. And he saw it right. He didn't come back here to be forgiven for trespassing against us. He came back here to forgive us our trespasses. Because we made a mistake. Because we were human.

Thank you, Bill.

Georges Vézina


Hockey Player
21 January 1887 - 27 March 1926

Georges Vézina was a goaltender, most famous for his tenure with the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League. At only 5 ft 6 in, he would be considered small by modern standards for goaltenders; however he played in an era where goaltenders did not drop to the ice to make saves, so his small size was an advantage.

A Beloved Laconist

Frank Boucher, a hockey player in Vézina's era remembered the goalie as "the coolest man I ever saw, absolutely imperturbable...He stood upright in the net and scarcely ever left his feet; he simply played all his shots in a standing position. Vezina was a pale, narrow-featured fellow, almost frail-looking, yet remarkably good with his stick. He'd pick off more shots with it than he did with his glove." This unflappable character earned him the nickname for which he is famous: "Le Concombre de Chicoutimi" (The Chicoutimi Cucumber). Once his professional career began, he was quickly welcomed and adored by the Montreal fans, earning his other nickname: "Le Habitant Silenceux" ("The Silent Inhabitant"), a reflection of "Les Habs" whom he faithfully served for 328 National Hockey Association and National Hockey League games.

An Amateur Phenom

Born to his father, a baker, and his mother in Chicoutimi, Quebec, the young Vézina began his hockey career playing street hockey. By some accounts, he did not wear a pair of skates until he joined the hometown amateur team at the age of sixteen. Although his career hit a roadblock when Vézina left Le Petit Séminaire de Chicoutimi to assist his family's bakery, the young goaltender quickly improved his game. In those days, larger teams would travel through the provinces, searching for amateur teams to play in exhibitions. One such game pitted the Chicoutimi locals against the Montreal Nationals of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League. After winning the game and impressing the Nationals' retiring goaltender, he was invited to practise with Le Club Athlétique Canadien (the forerunners to the National Hockey League team that would form in 1915) starting in the 1910-1911 season.

A Professional Superstar

As a professional, Vézina was immediately successful, leading all National Hockey Association goaltenders in GAA as a rookie. He would do it again in the 1923-1924 season with an unbelievable 2.00 goals per game. His career stat of 3.49 only seems high by modern standards: for many years, he was the dominant goalie in the league. He was also a constant presence in the nets of Les Glorieux, wearing La Sainte-Flanelle 328 consecutive league games and 39 straight playoff contests across sixteen professional seasons from 1911 to 1925. He was also the first National Hockey League goaltender to record a shutout (a 9-0 win against Toronto in 1918), and the first goaltender to be credited with an assist. But perhaps most importantly, the first three of Montreal's Stanley Cups would be won on Vézina's watch.

A Historical Hero

Perhaps what makes Vézina's string of uninterrupted games most impressive was the first game he failed to finish. During the Canadiens' home opener of the 1925-1926 season against Pittsburgh, Vézina would leave the ice after the first period bleeding from the mouth. He attempted to return after the intermission, but falling to the ice, he had to leave. It turned out that Vézina had tuberculosis, a fact he had been hiding from his family and team so he could continue to play. Forced to retire due to his rapidly degrading health, Vézina died four months later. He left behind 22 children, including one named Marcel-Stanley for the trophy he loved.

After his death, the owners of the Canadiens decided to sponsor an award in his name for the least scored-upon goaltender. The first winner of the Vézina Trophy was Vézina's understudy, George Hainsworth for his play in the 1926-1927 season. Eleven other Canadiens goaltenders have won the award since, although now for the most valuable goaltender in the National Hockey League as voted by broadcasters and writers of the NHL rather than goals-against-average.

Although Vézina was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945, if you travel to Le Centre Bell to watch "the Flying Frenchmen", you won't see Vézina's number amongst the twelve Canadiens' numbers which have been "raised to the rafters". What was the reason his number was never retired? Vezina skated before numbers were sewn to the backs of players' sweaters, another anachronism of the nearly forgotten period of hockey in which Vézina played. Instead, Vézina has been honored with his own set of rafters since 1949; the Chicoutimi Centre Georges Vézina is named for their first son.

John Samuel Vander Meer (1914-1997), nicknamed "The Dutch Master," was a major league baseball pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. A hard thrower with a decent curveball and a very good sinker, Vander Meer compiled a mediocre career record of 119-121 but did manage to be named to four All-Star squads ('38, '39, '42, and '43).

However, he would probably not even have a writeup on this site if not for two games he pitched in 1938, when as a 23-year old in his first full major league season, Vander Meer became the only man in baseball history to throw two consecutive no-hitters.

On June 11, 1938, Vander Meer pitched a no-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds at home against the Boston Bees en route to a 3-0 victory. Four days later on June 15, pitching against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the first ever night game at Ebbets Field, Vander Meer hurled an unheard of second consecutive no-hitter, leading the Reds to a 6-0 victory in a feat that in all likelihood will never be repeated.

The final inning of the second game was intense and the exhausted Vander Meer lost control of his pitches and issued three consecutive walks to load the bases with only one out. Reds manager Bill McKechnie came out to the mound to calm down Vander Meer.

"Take it easy, Johnny," he said. "But get the no-hitter."

Vander Meer then used his sinker to induce Ernie Koy into hitting a potential double play grounder, but infielder Lou Riggs conservatively elected to go for the force out at home, preserving the shutout, but leaving the no-hitter at risk. Dodgers player-manager Leo Durocher came up next as the last man with a chance to prevent the no-hitter. He smashed the first pitch down the rightfield line, but it hooked foul, and on the second pitch he popped up on the infield to end the threat and seal one of the most amazing individual accomplishments in the annals of baseball lore.

Some have suggested it was easier for Vander Meer to get the second no-hitter under the weaker lights of the era, but it is notable that while the Dodgers were held hitless, the Reds stroked 11 hits that night.

Newspapers and magazines across the nation were abuzz about Vander Meer's feat for weeks on end. At the time, only two pitchers in major league history had thrown two no-hitters in their entire careers, and nobody had even thrown two no-hitters in the same season, let alone in back to back games. The accomplishment must have been all the more sweet for Vander Meer as the Dodgers and the Bees were both teams he had tried out for and been rejected by as a young prospect.

Vander Meer went on to have a solid but up-and-down career. He did lead the National League in strikeouts three consecutive years (1941-43), but was also prone to wildness, leading the circuit in walks in '43 and '48. His best season was 1942, when he posted a career high 18 wins in 33 starts (along with 12 loses) and a career low 2.48 ERA. Vander Meer lost two years at the very prime of his career to military service in 1944 and '45, and when he returned he was not the same pitcher, plagued by arm troubles and forced into retirement at age 36 in 1951.

But on the strength of his astounding and utterly improbable performance on those two June days in 1938, Vander Meer will live on in baseball lore forever.