A long drive for Kalas statue

Posted: December 06, 2009

A drive to create a bronze statue memorializing Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas is under way.

What began as a petition on Facebook has grown into a fund-raising project with a two-foot plaster model created by a professional sculptor.

The artist, Lawrence Nowlan, envisions a larger-than-life statue that fans can pose with at Citizens Bank Park. Nowlan is a Merion-raised graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School who has studios in Vermont and New Hampshire.

The Facebook petition, which has more than 21,000 signatures, began right after Kalas died in April. Soon afterward, Nowlan was encouraged to get involved.

"People started contacting me right away - all sorts of friends - and asked me about doing something like this," he said.

Nowlan said his best-known work was probably his bronze rendering of Honeymooners bus driver Ralph Kramden at the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Bus Terminal.

"From a fan's perspective, I feel like Harry was one of us," said Nowlan, 44. His father's company had season tickets, and he attended countless Phillies games, he said.

Norristown lawyer Greg Veith, a friend of Nowlan's since grammar school in Overbrook, set up a nonprofit called Dear Harry Inc. Another friend, Todd Palmer, owner of the Virtual Farm Creative ad agency in Phoenixville, set up a Web site, www.harrykalasstatue.com

Besides explaining the project, the site accepts donations through credit cards or PayPal.

About $80,000 will be needed to complete the project, which will evolve in phases as money arrives, Nowlan said.

The project's logo offers a glimpse of a working design for the statue, which shows Kalas casually leaning on a baseball bat.

"A piece of this magnitude would go for 100 grand," Nowlan said, "so there's a lot of donated time."

"It's sort of like we're building a house, and I'm the guy who's going to be a carpenter," he said, explaining that he expects to "dedicate six months strictly for doing this."

To encourage corporate donations, Nowlan will give high-quality replicas of his two-foot model to contributors of $5,000 or more.

He demurred about sending a photograph of the prototype, saying it would detract from the eventual unveiling.

"I don't want to let the cat out of the bag," he said.

If all goes well, the work - all in bronze except perhaps for a coat of white paint on the shoes - could be finished by year's end, he said.

Once the statue is offered to the Phillies as a gift, the group hopes the team will accept it and unveil it at Citizens Bank Park, perhaps early in the 2011 season.

The ball club honored Kalas in many ways during the season, from a memorial service at the ballpark to "HK" emblems on uniforms. The team also kept Kalas' sports coat and white shoes in the dugout, even during the World Series.

The team has yet to complete plans to honor Kalas next season or beyond, Phillies spokeswoman Bonnie Clark said.

A statue of Hall of Fame centerfielder Richie Ashburn, Kalas' longtime friend and broadcasting partner, is in Ashburn Alley, the food court at the ballpark.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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