Another Legend Gone
It’s funny. I’ve worked in baseball for seven years and every time Vin Scully is in the Chase Field press box or eating in the dining room, I’ve been too nervous to go say hello.
I thought about that a lot yesterday, when we all found out that baseball had lost one of its legends, Ernie Harwell, the wonderful man with the beautiful voice who called Detroit Tigers games for generations. I felt a similar sadness yesterday that I felt when I heard Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died last year. They weren’t just broadcasters, they were titans.
Like a lot of people, I became a baseball fan because of the broadcasters. For me, it was Joe Castiglione, who did (and still does after 28 years) Red Sox games on WEEI. When I was little, without a TV in my room and past my bed time, it was Joe’s voice on a small radio underneath the blankets that would talk me to sleep. Or it was riding in a car with my dad, lamenting that Tim Naehring was hurt again or that Tom Brunansky struck out too much, but the whole time, never turning the dial away from Castiglione’s broadcast. For a lot of people, the same ritual has been done with Scully or Jon Miller or Joe Nuxhall or Denny Matthews or Kalas or Harwell. Same small kids, same radios, same rituals, different cities.
Kalas, like Harwell, was one of those people about whom you never heard a bad word. Everyone who ever met them liked them. We included Kalas in a story we wrote in D-backs Insider a couple years ago, and he was more than happy to help. We were writing a feature on Randy Johnson and wondering if perhaps he was the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time. We figured we’d struggle to find anyone who watched Lefty Grove, but could track down people who saw Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn and Steve Carlton. Kalas was one of those witnesses for us.
One of the people on our staff, Dave, knew Kalas a bit from his time in media relations, and tracked him down when the Phillies were in town. Kalas sat down with our writer before a game to share memories of Steve Carlton and compare him to Johnson. When I saw Harry later that evening, I thanked him and mentioned how much it meant to us to include someone of his stature in our magazine. He couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious with us.
I never did have a chance to meet Ernie Harwell, though I sure wish I could have. I will always remember Harry Kalas and how courteous he was. It’s a real privilege to have these voices on our radios and TVs, and I guess yesterday was a reminder to take notice of that. I suppose I’ll go say hello to Vin Scully the next time I have a chance, because I’ll regret it if I don’t. We are awfully lucky that he’s still on the air.