Phillies honor Kalas, then win

Ryan Howard (left) receives congratulations from third-base coach Sam Perlozzo after swatting a three-run homer.
Ryan Howard (left) receives congratulations from third-base coach Sam Perlozzo after swatting a three-run homer.

They lit cigarettes and quickly extinguished them. Then they extinguished the Nationals.

Posted: April 14, 2009

WASHINGTON - Shortly before yesterday's first pitch, Shane Victorino sent out a search party. He needed a pack of cigarettes. Pronto.

Someone produced a pack and Victorino passed out a few "heaters." That's what Harry Kalas used to call them.

In the visiting dugout at Nationals Park, just as the game was about to begin, Victorino and a few Phillies teammates lit the cigarettes. They each took a quick drag and extinguished them - in honor of Kalas.

It was an unusual tribute, but Victorino said it was from the heart. Throughout most of his 39 seasons as a Phillies broadcaster, Kalas loved celebrating a win with a heater and a cold adult beverage, and the players, who considered Kalas a teammate, knew that.

Kalas wasn't around to celebrate the Phillies' latest victory, a 9-8 win over the Washington Nationals. He collapsed in the press box as he prepared to call the game and died at a hospital about 2 1/2 hours before the first pitch.

"He died in the place he loved being - the ballpark," said Ryan Howard, who honored Kalas with a few puffs before the game. "I'll miss his smile and the way he used to call me 'Big fella.'

"Harry was the Phillies. We played this game with heavy hearts. We knew it would be tough, but we felt like we needed to go out and do it for Harry."

Dealing with Kalas' death and getting ready to play a game was a challenge to every person in the Phillies' clubhouse, especially starting pitcher Jamie Moyer. The 46-year-old lefty grew up a Phillies fan in Souderton. As a youngster, Moyer imitated Kalas' legendary voice during backyard games.

"Not very well," Moyer said of those imitations. "I have a lot of great memories of Harry. I heard his voice for the first time when I was 9 years old. I grew up listening to Harry and Richie Ashburn."

Moyer pitched six innings and allowed four runs. He dedicated his 247th career win to Kalas.

"It wasn't easy to go out there and play today, but I'm sure Harry wouldn't have wanted it any other way," Moyer said.

According to Phillies president David Montgomery, there was a brief discussion about whether to play the game, which was the Nationals' home opener.

"At the time, Harry had just gone to the hospital and we weren't sure what was happening," Montgomery said. "I believe if Harry were making the call, he would have wanted to see the game go on."

Kalas would have loved the game. It was a Phillies win and he would have had three opportunities to use his famous home run call - Outta heeeere!

Victorino homered in the third inning and Howard and Raul Ibanez went deep in the seventh. Howard's blast was a three-run shot that broke a 4-4 tie.

"I'm sure Harry was calling it from the booth in the sky," Howard said.

The Nats made things interesting with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, and two more in the bottom of the ninth - on a cannonading two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman off Brad Lidge.

Lidge held on and got the final three outs for his third save.

Somewhere, Harry Kalas lit a victory cigarette.


Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

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