by Randy Miller
Sure, it would have been way more timely to run this back on the anniversary of Harry’s death. Just like it would have made way more sense to review Chris Coste’s book when he was miraculously newsworthy again a few weeks back for being hired by CSN. But we don’t do things that way here at TBOH; which is to say, “we don’t do things correctly.” I didn’t think of it, okay? So you’re just going to have to open your mind and read about a book that’s a little less pertinent than it was two weeks ago.
You know what? Everybody’s sick of you anyway. Your attitude’s getting pretty toxic.
Mike Schmidt opens this book with an introduction called “The Harry That I Knew.” So I’ll do the same:
I did not know Harry. Well, he didn’t know me. After nine summers of listening to him narrate the raucous win-binge of ’93 to the face down corpse-style Phillies of the early 2000’s, I felt like we were old friends. And I was in 8th grade at this point. I didn’t have any old friends.
At that point, the Phillies were still terrible. Thanks to my grandparents, that spring, my horrendous awkward stage and I were going to Clearwater check out Mike Lieberthal, Alex Arias, and the gang. It was the stuff legends weren’t made of.
So, at the close of one probably lukewarm performance, my grandpa led me to the broadcast booth, which was accessible by standing on the bleachers just below.
“Hey Harry,” he said, as if they were old friends. My grandfather was a good old-fashioned American war vet who quietly knew everything about baseball and died a completely sane, competent man. In a lot of ways, he his endless fascination and warm humor about the game reminded me of Harry and Whitey. When I was six years old, I assumed that they were.
He asked if I could hop up and get an autograph, HK gave him the go-ahead, and holy shit, I was face to face with Harry Kalas.
“Here you go, pal,” Harry said, handing me back my ball and winking.
“…’ks,” I replied, only able to get the last bit of “thanks” out of my throat.
So obviously we weren’t going to be hanging out after the game, but in my one interaction with the man, he was totally accomodating. And I’ve seen pictures of myself at that age. I guarantee his instincts, like anybody’s, were shouting at him to vault out of that booth and kick my ass.
I’m not naive; I knew the vague details of some of Harry’s mistakes, but “Harry the K” shines a great big spotlight on them. I even got mad at one point when he emotionally yanks his wife back and forth after having an affair. Its not like they were picking between shades of white to paint the bathroom (“cirrus” or “marshmallow,” hun?) He was deciding whether or not to leave her because he had met a waitress he liked.
Just because a book is about Philadelphia royalty, I wouldn’t expect Randy Miller to pull any punches. But at the same time, do you really want to know some of this stuff? There’s times when it feels like you’re reading adulterous secrets about your beloved grandfather. Try to read those chapters without shuddering. Its hard.
Some memorable parts:
- A drunk Harry Kalas walking into a hotel bar full of Phillies beat writers and announcing, “Fuck J.D. Drew.”
- Harry being forced out of the back of a Phillies chartered flight by management. The worst part is when he turns to L.A. and says, “I don’t know if I can root for this team anymore.” YOU CANNOT READ THIS PART WITHOUT TEARS.
- Harry’s last sign off before the 1994 work stoppage. THIS IS ALSO GUTWRENCHING.
Harry lived a saga so epic, we brag in great detail of any random brushes we had with it. Randy Miller has compiled all those with insider access to create the HK Bible and drain all the gritty details to put a life behind a man who most of us just knew as a voice.