Posted at 9:41 PM on April 13, 2009
by Chris Dall
Major League Baseball lost a little bit of color, and a lot of character today.
Philadelphia Phillies play-by-play man Harry Kalas died early this afternoon, shortly before the team was to take the field against the Washington Nationals. He was 73 years old, and this was his 38th season with the Phillies. He was known for, among other things, his trademark home run call, "Outta here," delivered in a voice that was like a soft and well-worn baseball mitt.
I'll admit that, for me, Harry Kalas was more the voice of "Inside the NFL" than the voice of the Phillies. In fact, I found it a little odd the first time I heard him calling a game. But I didn't get a chance to hear the six no-hitters he called, or his call of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. As Bob Collins noted earlier today, Kalas was one of the few left of a group of broadcasters who were inextricably linked to a team. For many Phillies fans, he was the voice of baseball in Philadelphia.
Then, late this afternoon, word crossed that former Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych had died at the age of 54. Fidrych shot to stardom in 1976, going 19-9 for the Tigers and winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. But he was best known for his antics, which included stomping around the mound and talking to the baseball. Though injuries cut short Fidrych's career and he only won 10 more games after that season, his name and his behavior remain part of the lore of the game.
While Kalas and Fidrych were very different, they're both reminders of what baseball has lost over the last few decades. Before the days of Baseball Tonight and increasingly elaborate home run calls, "this ball's outta here" was pretty much all you needed to know about a home run. And in a game that's become increasingly corporate and calculating, when was the last time we saw a player as naturally colorful as Mark Fidrych? He might have been one of the last.