Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych

By Rick Morris

What became a sad spring for baseball last week with the untimely passing of Nick Adenhart just became that much more difficult today with the news about one of the game's greatest broadcasters and one of the men who best exemplified the fun of the game.

Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas warmed the hearts of a tough and often bitter sports market. Everyone in Philly loved Harry Kalas; he was an institution.

His call of the Phillies winning the World Series last year was a great one; we used it in a promo for our FDH LOUNGE Internet TV show where we like to compile various pop culture sound effects just because it sounded special coming out of his mouth:

He also loved to sing High Hopes:

Jayson Stark, a wonderful part of the baseball media in his own right and a Philly native, summed up what Harry Kalas meant to a city:

He was also the voice of NFL Films in the past few decades, including their commercials:

Think about this: Kalas became the lead voice of NFL Films after the great John Facenda passed on -- how would you like to have to follow those two acts?

Phillies president David Montgomery said today, simply, "We've lost our voice." What more can you say?

Just as Harry Kalas stirred a love of baseball, so too in a different way did Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. Every so often in the history of the game, a young phenom comes along and blows a breath of fresh air and reminds the fans just what they love about the game. In last week's tribute to Adenhart, I mentioned that some fans saw him that way. Fidrych's fun-loving ways, punctuated by an urge to talk to the baseball while on the mound, did strike some old-time fans the wrong way as they lumped him in (erroneously) with some of the more disrespectful aspects of youth culture that had been building since the late '60s. But in actuality, Mark Fidrych was a perfect symbol of his time, a refreshing representation of the bicentennial summer of '76. As the nation tried to put the traumas of the last 10+ years behind it and tried to bask in the patriotic glow of 200 years of existence, this fun-loving young hurler was reinforcing a love of the game among fans, building on baseball's momentum after the legendary 1975 World Series. Sadly, Fidrych proved to be too much a man of that brief moment, as he would go on to take his place among the game's pantheon of stars cut short by injury. We can only speculate about how outstanding his career could have been had he remained healthy. Think of the duels in his middle and later years with Clemens ... or Saberhagen ... or Jack Morris.

Here's some footage of "The Bird" speaking about his time in the game:

Both Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych were class acts, gentlemen beloved by many who leave behind grieving families tonight. Both, in their own ways, reminded us of what we love about sports and how noble they can be at their best. Both, I am sure, would be honored to be mentioned in the same breath as the other. RIP to both, two American originals.

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