Will three be a crowd for Kalas and company?

Posted: April 02, 2007

Harry Kalas has been the Phillies' play-by-play broadcaster since 1971, and he equates the buzz entering this season to almost any he has been a part of.

"I can't remember - perhaps in the late '70s - such anticipation for a baseball season," Kalas said. "Even that cast of characters in '93 that surprised us, the expectations weren't overwhelming entering the season."

Kalas would be excited whether the Phillies were contenders or not. And this year just as the team attempts to earn its first playoff berth since 1993, Kalas will also be facing a new challenge - working in a three-man booth for television.

In the new setup, Kalas will be situated on television with Chris Wheeler and former Phillie Gary "Sarge" Matthews.

The trio will broadcast the first three and last three innings on television. Wheeler will handle play-by-play in the middle three innings, with Matthews as the analyst.

Kalas will continue to call the fourth inning on radio. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen will work exclusively on radio.

Flyers television announcer Jim Jackson will be the pre- and postgame host on radio.

Now entering his 37th season with the Phillies and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Kalas says the extra man in the booth won't change his approach to broadcasting the games.

"I will keep doing the same thing," he said. "They can play off each other, and I can play off both of them."

While purists may feel three is one too many in a baseball booth, Wheeler and Matthews worked well together in the televised exhibition games.

Wheeler knows the players and their tendencies as well as any analyst in the game. He also has the ability to work well with a partner, integrating him into the broadcast.

Matthews has shown during the exhibition season not only a great knowledge of the game, but also a nice delivery, showing excitement, but not going overboard.

With Wheeler and Matthews, there won't be a lot of joking, but plenty of baseball talk, explaining the strengths and weakness of players while also going over the strategy.

Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be an adjustment period.

"Three men in a booth is kind of a work in progress, and you feel your way along," Wheeler said. "But I think we can both add things to a lot of situations."

Both Kalas and Wheeler have high expectations for Matthews.

"He brings the knowledge of a player, a coach, and he also did broadcast work with Toronto," Kalas said.

Added Wheeler: "I think Gary is going to be really good because not only does he have a lot of knowledge but a lot of enthusiasm."

The other plus is that other than the fourth inning when Kalas is on radio, the television and radio announcers won't be switching, which reduces the chance of repetition.

"All the announcers read the same prep materials and go on TV and tell the same story, not realizing that story has been told," said Rob Brooks, the Phillies' broadcasting manager. "Plus, it's a familiarity thing, and I wanted to streamline things and not have them juggling things."

As with teams, the broadcasters used spring training to work on certain things. For instance, Andersen and Matthews were heard doing play by play on Phillies Internet broadcasts.

"You just want to see how they react in different roles," Brooks said.

And just like the team, there will be high expectations for the broadcasters. For a veteran like Kalas, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Few can rival the 71-year-old Kalas when it comes to making an exciting call. Whether there are three men in the booth or two, or whether the team is a contender or an expected cellar dweller, Kalas has been able to maintain the highest of levels for more than 31/2 decades.

This year, the team is expected to match the performance of its lead announcer, and if that happens, it will be a successful season for the Phillies.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.


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