Jeff Conner/Icon SMI
Everyone has done it.
At some point, everyone has heard that deep, rich baritone, that sound so unlike any that has come before or since, and immediately tried to imitate it. Not because they could -- no one could ever duplicate it -- but because it just sounded so, so … cool.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but where Harry Kalas' inimitable voice is concerned, it was the sincerest form of futility. Nobody in sports broadcasting before or since possessed such a unique voice, but now that voice is silent. Kalas, the longtime voice of the Philadelphia Phillies (he'd just begun his 39th season) and NFL Films, died suddenly Monday at age 73, taking with him an era in the City of Brotherly Love's sports history.
Kalas' love for the Phillies struck an appropriate, if difficult, balance: Restrained enough to maintain some semblance of professional detachment, but enthusiastic enough to reveal his true emotions as the game unfolded. Witness -- no, listen -- to his call of the last pitch of the 2008 World Series and it's clear his heart was racing, even if his voice wasn't.
The Phillies didn't produce enough moments like that over Kalas' 38 years with the club to lead the masses to think of him primarily as a baseball broadcaster, however. For millions around the country, he was first and foremost the voice of NFL Films, and only with Darth Vader and James Earl Jones has there ever been a more perfect marriage of voice and subject.
Too often football has been reduced to sports-as-war metaphors, and perhaps Kalas' voice, which could seem like cannon fire, had something to do with that. But sports are not life and death, and never have been. They are just games, games that were more important, or at least sounded more important, when Kalas' voice played alongside them as a soundtrack.
Someone once asked Kalas how he got into broadcasting, to which he replied: "My first year of college [in the 1950s] my speech professor was blind and he said, 'With your voice you could get a job in broadcasting.'"
Millions of people are glad that he took that advice, though they're sad today because they won't hear him ever again. It was his voice that brought Harry Kalas to the world, and it is that voice that the world will remember, and cherish, now that he's left it.