Harry Kalas, a Broadcast Pioneer

Harry Kalas at the Phillies

Legendary Harry Kalas IS Phillies baseball. A broadcaster for more than four decades, Broadcast Pioneers member Harry Kalas was born on Thursday, March 26, 1936 in Chicago and reared in the western suburb of Naperville. Harry received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1959 from the University of Iowa. He majored in speech, radio and television. He served as Sports Director for the campus radio station WSUI and did play-by-play for all types of sports. Drafted in the United States Army on the date of his graduation, Harry spent the two-year hitch as a public information specialist doing hometown interviews in Hawaii for the United States Army.

At the age of ten, Harry attended his first professional baseball game. Kalas played third base in high school and in American Legion ball.

Following the army, Harry Kalas was Sports Director of KGU radio and was play-by-play announcer for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League from 1961 to 1964. He also did play-by-play for the University of Hawaii teams.

Out of over 200 applicants, Harry was hired to be part of the very first Houston Astros baseball broadcast team. He handled play-by-play announcing for the Astros from 1965 to 1970, as well as for the University of Houston football team and the Southwest Conference Basketball Game of the Week for television. Harry has done NFL and College football on the Westwood One Radio Network.

In 1971, Harry Kalas joined the broadcasters covering the Philadelphia Phillies and broadcast 6,037 Phils games. "He's part of the uniform," said Phillies former manager Larry Bowa. In addition to handling broadcasts for the Phils with his dear friend, the late Rich Ashburn (an inductee into our Hall of Fame), Harry Kalas covered Big Five basketball and University of Notre Dame football. He was the voice of “Inside the NFL,” a syndicated program from NFL Films in New Jersey. Another famous Philadelphia voice was previously the spokesman for that company, Broadcast Pioneers member John Facenda.

The National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters named him Pennsylvania Sportscaster of the Year 18 times (1978, 1980 through 1990, 1992 through 1996 and 2002), and he has earned Mid-Atlantic and national Emmys. On July 28, 2002, Kalas was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award and inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Harry is a member of our own Hall of Fame. He was inducted on November 16, 2000. Four years later, on Friday, November 19, 2004, he was honored by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia as "Person of the Year."

The year before his passing Harry had the opportunity to broadcast the ultimate highlight - calling the game as his beloved Phillies won the World Series and became “the 2008 World Champions of Baseball!” On April 13th, 2009 Harry passed away in the broadcast booth while preparing to do what he loved most – call a Phillies game.

Harry is survived by his wife Eileen, his three sons, Todd, Brad and Kane, and his two step-children , Julie and Travis.

"There's no aspect of what he does for a living that he doesn't enjoy," said son Todd Kalas in 2003. "At times he feels like he's stealing because he's doing exactly what he wants to do in life and getting paid for it. …It's great that the city has embraced my dad as much as he has embraced the city…. He's the type of person that people feel comfortable coming up and saying hi to and he always has the time to give back to them. It's been a great love affair that dad and the Phillies fans have had.”

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Harry Kalas
Text written by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com