Former Phillies broadcaster sees career blossom

Eagles announcer Scott Graham poses at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia on November 19, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Eagles announcer Scott Graham poses at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia on November 19, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Posted: November 25, 2013

A decade ago, Scott Graham appeared destined to become the next voice of the Phillies, the broadcaster who was going to replace the irreplaceable Harry Kalas. As it turned out, Graham did eventually replace HK, albeit not as the voice of the Phillies. He also honored his friend with an Emmy Award-winning documentary. The way it all happened is still hard to believe, Harry.

"Worlds change and situations change and you have to adapt to what you have in front of you," Graham said last week during a break in his seven-day-a-week schedule that has made him the most ubiquitous voice in the NFL. "The entire thing was disappointing, but there was an opportunity there to grow and, fortunately, it has worked out that way."

Graham's career has not grown. It has mushroomed like a nuclear cloud. He works in a variety of roles for Westwood One radio with NFL studio host being the primary one. He is the primary voice for NFL Films and narrates Inside the NFL on Showtime, a job that belonged to Kalas before he died in April 2009.

"It was a marvelous feeling to get that telephone call and to realize I was going to get an opportunity to do [that show]," Graham said. "Literally, it was kind of a little wink at the sky. Here we go, H."

Graham also does play-by-play of college football and basketball for a variety of networks and has become the preseason play-by-play man for the Eagles while also working on two other shows for the local NFL team. Oh, yeah, he also has his own production company.

In early December 2006, Graham was informed by Phillies president David Montgomery that he was no longer going to be part of the broadcast team. By that point, he knew it was coming, although he was never sure exactly why it happened.

People wanted to know about it, however.

"You pull up at a gas station and say, 'Fill it up with the regular,' and the guy says, 'Hey, what happened with the Phillies?' " Graham said. "That wasn't just the week after it happened. That's still today. I think it's tough to have a career change for anybody . . . and it's really tough when it happens publicly."

The most difficult part for Graham was leaving the Phillies - a second-division team for most of his time with the organization - just when they were on the brink of something extraordinary.

"The thing that bothered me the most was the possibility that I wasn't going to be there when the merry-go-round went entirely around the other way," Graham said. "Watching that group of guys . . . I really thought there was going to be a day when there was going to be a payoff."

It happened two years later. The Phillies won the World Series. Graham watched from his couch in Voorhees.

Graham didn't realize it at the time of his dismissal from the Phillies, but a career change was going to work out amazingly well for him, thanks in large part to another local legend. The same day the bad news came from the Phillies, he was at the NFL Films building in Mount Laurel doing some voice-over narration, a part-time gig he had started in 2003. When Graham was finished, he had a conversation with Steve Sabol.

"We were doing the game of the week and Steve was always in the room for that show," Graham said of the late NFL Films cofounder. "When we finished that day, I walked into his office and he said, 'Scott, I'm not sure what happened with your [Phillies] job . . . but there are two things I want you to know: Number one, we love having you here and we're happy you're here.' And then he said to the other producers in the room, 'Scott needs us right now and if you've got something you can put him in, please put him in it.' "

There was his fallback position.

Broadcasting baseball was still in Graham's blood even though he had grown weary of the time-engrossing lifestyle. He flew to San Diego and interviewed for a job on radio broadcasting the Padres. He did not get the job.

"I realized in the year that I was away from baseball that it didn't have to be the only way I made a living," he said.

The idea of starting his own production company had long been in Graham's head. The Drexel men's basketball team was off to a great start in 2006 and Graham asked Mike Tuberosa, the school's sports information director, if the Dragons ever thought about doing a highlight film of their season. Tuberosa said they should have a meeting to talk about it.

"That night, I finished the game and I called my wife and told her I have to start a production company right now because I just told somebody I had started my own production company," Graham said. "They gave me the job and some of the guys at [NFL] Films helped me out. I cut the highlight film together in the office in my house and it worked."

Wipe Out Productions was born. The office for the company is no longer in Graham's house.

"Dawn of the Dragons" was Wipe Out Productions' first film and, among others, a film about Villanova's 2009 trip to the Final Four - "Attitude of a Champion" - followed. Graham still produces the show Inside Villanova Basketball, but his most serendipitous project was Bringing Harry Home, the story about the Harry Kalas statue that sits just inside the left-field entrance at Citizens Bank Park.

The documentary started with a phone call requesting that Graham serve as the MC for a fund-raiser at McFadden's in the ballpark because a group of fans was raising money for a Kalas statue. Graham, after meeting sculptor Larry Nowlan, asked if he'd be willing to let a camera crew record his work up in Vermont. When the incredible likeness of Kalas was sent to Chester to be cast in bronze, Graham's production team took some more video.

Graham said he offered the video footage to Comcast. Instead, the cable company asked him to put a documentary together. He did and it won an Emmy.

Graham and his production team went to Citizens Bank Park and interviewed Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Montgomery, and others. When Graham and his editor went to work on the footage, there was no sound.

"What do you do?" Graham said. "On the spot, we changed up what the documentary was. The statue was put together by donations from the fans. Harry's relationship with the fans was the story. So we went out to the parking lot and interviewed fan after fan after fan about Harry. Long story short, we finished the documentary and won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy.

"I'm a little ashamed I didn't pick up on that in the beginning and I needed some divine intervention to tell me, 'Scott, you're on the wrong path here.' It's a nice film. It's a really, really nice film. I wanted to make a contribution to the making of the statue because Harry was such a good friend, and I can't imagine having made any more of a contribution than telling a story about how much the fans loved him and how much he loved them."

So Scott Graham did not just replace the voice of Harry Kalas. He helped immortalize him. Who cares if it didn't happen the way everyone thought it would a decade ago?

bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

|
|
|
|
|