Kalas' son recalls final meeting

Harry Kalas, the Phillies' late Hall of Fame broadcaster, in the booth at the Vet in July 2000.
Harry Kalas, the Phillies' late Hall of Fame broadcaster, in the booth at the Vet in July 2000.
Posted: April 15, 2009

WASHINGTON - The impulse was not a typical one for Todd Kalas. A broadcasting job with the Tampa Bay Rays and life in Tampa kept Harry Kalas' eldest son busy, and he did not often appear unannounced at the Phillies' spring-training facility in Clearwater, Fla.

So it remains difficult for Todd, 43, to understand why he drove to Clearwater on April 2. It was the final day of the Phillies' 2009 spring training and, it would turn out, the last time Todd saw his father.

"I don't know why, but I felt it was necessary to be at that game and spend a few minutes together afterward," Kalas said yesterday, just more than 24 hours after his father collapsed in the press box Monday in Washington and later died at the age of 73.

Since the elder Kalas' death, baseball fans from across the nation have shared memories of the broadcaster as a warm and generous baseball fanatic. Yesterday, Todd Kalas recalled the same qualities in his father. Though Phillies fans often approached Harry Kalas while the broadcaster was with his family, Todd Kalas said his dad always enjoyed the interaction.

"He was incredibly compassionate to everyone he met," Todd Kalas said. "He didn't just give people a quick handshake or brush-off. He was consistently generous with his time. I try to live up to that, and I can't always do it."

Harry Kalas never pushed his son into a sportscasting career, but was helpful and encouraging when Todd decided to pursue the field as a student at Syracuse University. "He was very proud," Todd said. "He was a leader by example. If I had a question, he would always answer it."

Todd Kalas worked for the New York Mets and the Phillies before taking a job with the Devil Rays, now the Rays, before their inaugural season in 1998. Now that his father is gone, Todd can hardly believe the opportunity the pair shared in October, when the Rays and Phillies played in the World Series.

"I think there was something else at work for that to happen in what turned out to be his last season," Todd Kalas said. "The odds were one in a million of the Rays and Phillies playing each other in the World Series, and for that to be our final season together. . . . We really cherished every moment we had together during that time."

Kalas said that, despite the long and sometimes tedious nature of a baseball season, his father's enthusiasm for the game, like his graceful treatment of others, never waned.

"That was the most invaluable thing for me, to watch this love he had for what he did," Kalas said. "He loved absolutely everything about it."

Autopsy report. Autopsy results showed that Harry Kalas died from heart disease.

A spokeswoman at the Washington chief medical examiner's office said Kalas had high blood pressure and suffered from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The disease, in which plaque buildup restricts blood flow in arteries, is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Players to wear HK patches. Beginning tonight, the Phillies will wear HK uniform patches for the rest of the season to honor Kalas. The black circular patch will be on the front of the jersey in the area of the heart.

McCarthy's role may grow. The Phillies have not announced plans for a replacement for Harry Kalas, but Tom McCarthy is expected to see an expanded role.

McCarthy, 40, is in the second year of his second stint as part of the Phillies' broadcast team. He does several innings of play-by-play on television and also files in-game news and feature reports.

Last season, McCarthy filled in for Kalas on TV when the Hall of Fame broadcaster had to miss several days. On Monday, he filled Kalas' customary spot on TV in Washington.

McCarthy did pregame and postgame reports and some radio play-by-play for the Phils from 2001 to 2005. He spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons calling New York Mets games on WFAN-AM (660) in New York.

It is doubtful the Phils will hire another broadcaster, at least this season. They have one of the largest broadcast teams in major-league baseball. Kalas led a crew that included five others: Chris Wheeler, Gary Matthews, Larry Andersen, Scott Franzke, and McCarthy.

There is plenty of talent to cover nine innings on radio and television.

Andersen, a former Phillies pitcher, and Franzke work solely on radio and have blossomed into a popular tandem. Franzke, 37, joined the broadcast team in 2006 after a stint working before and after games for the Texas Rangers.

Rob Brooks, the Phils' manager of broadcasting, had no comment on the matter.

No White House trip. The Phils canceled a scheduled visit yesterday to the White House, where President Obama planned to congratulate players and coaches for their World Series victory. The White House said no discussions on rescheduling had yet occurred.


Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or amartino@phillynews.com.

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