Todd Kalas, the eldest of the three Kalas boys, visited Citizens Bank Park yesterday, a necessary part of his mourning, he said. He flew in from Florida, where he is part of the Tampa Bay Rays' broadcast team.
Inside the Bank, where the Phillies flag flew at half-staff, Todd Kalas was embraced by a devastated Phillies family. He taped a video segment in the booth where his father called the final out of the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship. With equal grace, Todd accepted the condolences of the Phillies brass and their underlings; that, after all, is what his father was about.
The remembrances, not condolences, moved Kalas most.
It was at a makeshift shrine outside the Bank at the statue of Mike Schmidt where Todd Kalas trembled at his father's uncanny connection with the demanding and passionate Phillies fans.
Miller Lite cans held daisies in their openings or votive candles in their cut-out sides, a nod to the affection for Kalas and his almost four decades of unparalleled service. There were hats, old and new, now sodden by a chilling rain, scrawled with messages; a teddy bear in Phillies gear; newspapers announcing Kalas' death.
"We knew it was an incredible relationship that Dad always had with the fans," Kalas said. "When I first walked up, and I see the fan tribute on the corner there . . . that was tough. I kind of lost it. I couldn't look at it."
Kalas' passing was sudden, if not totally unexpected. He suffered from fragile health for years. Famously, doctors had taken away permission to imbibe long ago, depriving him of a habit that the shrine contributors knew he missed.
"It was nice that they had a beer there for him," Todd said. "He's able to have his cocktails again now, where he is."
There is plenty to celebrate in the life of Harry Kalas - especially his life's culmination. Part of the club since 1971, Kalas was not allowed to call the 1980 World Series because of network broadcast rules. Those rules changed, and Kalas called Brad Lidge's strikeout that won it all last year.
It could not have been sweeter, really. Todd was part of the other broadcast team, so the pair met daily for lunch or dinner. Kalas threw out the first pitch last Wednesday, when the team received their World Series rings.
That wildly popular club set an attendance record in 2008. Kalas helped baseball fans in the region reconnect with a franchise whose struggles for a decade nearly caused a generation to miss baseball's relevance.
The Kalas family thanks all the fans who contributed to the shrine, sent e-mails and called radio shows.
"It's helped," Todd said. "The whole thing of knowing how much love there is out there for somebody. It's an amazing feeling, to know your father had that much of an impact on that many people."
It's all Harry Kalas was. When rumblings of his expected retirement, or semiretirement, surfaced a few years ago, Harry Kalas insisted he didn't want to leave the booth. Todd understood, even though the strenuous travel schedule took a toll on his father.
"It wasn't like he was all of a sudden going to start traveling to Europe and seeing the Louvre," Todd said. "He was a baseball guy. He would have probably scripted [his death] pretty much the way it happened."
The symmetry of it all made Todd Kalas shake his head in wonder, even the shrine, assembled at the statue of Schmidt, the greatest Phillie, whom Harry Kalas nicknamed "Michael Jack," whose 500th home run might be Harry Kalas' most famous call.
Harry Kalas wasn't working when Todd last saw him. It was April 2, 5 days after they went to the track, after the Phillies' last game at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. Todd didn't make it in time for the game, but he knew he needed to go.
"Something drove me to go to the last spring training game [in Florida]," Todd said. "I just wanted to see him before he left. I was so grateful I did that."
He probably is not alone. *