April 2009

Remembering Harry the K

It is the top of the third inning tonight and dozens of Phillies fans are gathered around the Mike Schmidt statue at the Third Base Gate.  No, Schmidt wasn’t there.  Michael Jack Schmidt’s statue has become a memorial for Harry, which is cool.

Schmidt was at Citizens Bank Park for the pre-game ceremonies. Todd Zolecki covered those ceremonies in his Zo Zone blog.

Remembering Harry is a blog on phillies.com in which fans can offer their memories of the Hall of Fame broadcaster and Hall of Fame human being.

Tomorrow, a Memorial Tribute will take place at Citizens Bank Park.  It promises to be an emotional day.  Starting at 8 in the morning, fans will be allowed inside the ballpark and on to the field to pay their respects to Harry.  His coffin will be situated on the grass behind home plate.

The tribute’s program will begin at 1 in the afternoon.  Around 12:45 p.m., the line will be halted.  There’s a game tomorrow night and we need to be out of the park by 3 so that the cleaners and ARAMARK can prepare for the game.

Fans who come early, can leave and return for the tribute program in the afternoon.  For those of you who can’t be here, it will be streamed on phillies.com starting at 9:30 a.m.  At noon, Comcast SportsNet will begin a two-hour live show.  Phillies.com will pick up the multi-camera CSN production.

In addition to thousands of fans, Kalas’ relatives and friends, current and former Phillies broadcasters, the Phillies front office family, Alumni and current team will pay their respects to a person loved by all.

Dry eyes will be the exception.


Sorry, I was unable to blog the last couple of days because a bunch of us were busy planning tributes to Harry Kalas on Friday night and Saturday.

Deadlines for print projects for both days starred us in the eyes yesterday.  A lot of people worked overtime.  As Christine Negley, manager of publications, said, “Anything for Harry.”

Yes, anything for Harry is very fitting.  He was loved by so many people, including those of us in the front office.

In addition to the Friday and Saturday plans, the May issue of Phillies Magazine is being changed.  Harry will be the cover story.  It will be a collector’s dream, same as the current issue.

Paying Their Respects
Fans continue to place momentos at the Mike Schmidt statue.  Heaven shed tears the last two days but the rain didn’t deter fans from leaving their items.  Todd Kalas visited the statue on Tuesday afternoon and was brought to tears.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You
On behalf of the Kalas family and the Phillies family, thanks to all the fans for the momentos, cards, letters, phone calls and the ton of e-mails.  We truly appreciate the the affection.

Please understand It has become impossible to respond.  We hope everyone understands.


I’ll never forget the 4:30 a.m. phone call from GM Lee Thomas nearly 12 years ago letting me know Richie Ashburn had died in a NY hotel.  Today comes close.

Shortly after lunch, those of us in the offices at Citizens Bank Park learned that Harry Kalas was taken to a DC hospital after collapsing in the broadcast booth at the ballpark.  Within the hour, the news turned worse, Harry didn’t make it.

Emotions were far ranging after we heard the news.  Fellow employees were stunned, shocked.  Disbelief took over. Some cried and hugged each other. Others were just quiet. What could be said?

Harry was so friendly with everyone who worked for the Phillies.  He always seemed to say “yes” to the many requests.  Need a unique recording on your voice mail message?  Ask Harry and he would record one. 

He shared the same affection for the fans.  I don’t know how many times I heard Harry call Phillies fans, “The greatest fans in the world.”  He meant it.

Baseball broadcasters bond with fans and their families more than any other sport.  For six-seven months, broadcasters are part of the fans’ daily lives…..in the living room or den, on the porch, riding in a car, getting sunburn on the beach.  Shut-ins depend on broadcasters to fill three hours a day. 

For 38 years, he was the constant, our security blanket.  Elsewhere in the Phillies world, players changed, managers changed, ballparks changed, broadcasters changed.  Harry was always there.

Soon after his death became known, the phone began ringing, e-mails poured in.  Fans, Alumni, friends, colleagues, baseball executives, media.  Jean Ashburn left a voice mail message.  Between sobs, she was able to say, “Devastating…….We loved him so much.”

Love is a constant when talking about Harry.  Fans loved him.  Players loved him.  Both loved his calls on the air.  He shared his love with so many people, a lesson we should all follow. 

There will never be another broadcasting duo to match Harry and Whitey.  Never.  I can hear Whitey in heaven: “Hard to believe Harry that you and I are together again.”

When Whitey died, the Phillies beat the Mets, 1-0.  Whitey wore #1 for the Phillies.  Today, we beat the Nationals by one, 9-8.  Spooky.

Last Wednesday, Harry threw out the first ball during the World Series ring ceremonies.  Little did we know it would be his last time on the Citizens Bank Park field.

Sunday, the last hit he called was Matt Stairs’ game-winning home run.  No one could call a home run like Harry.

We will never forget his call when Brad Lidge ended the World Series last fall.  Classic Harry.

Remember, we have shared life with Harry.  That truly is a blessing.




Week in Review
Considering the start, the week turned out OK.  Starting pitching hasn’t been sharp yet.  Bullpen has been lights out, especially yesterday.

Offense began slowly and picked up.  J-Roll isn’t hitting but think of all the fun he will have when he gets hot.  We all know what he means when he is hitting, getting on base, stealing bases, smiling.  While he hasn’t produced at the plate, he still has the Gold Glove in the field.

Please don’t tell Stairs pinch-hitting is easy.  He’s amazing.

Manuel on HBO
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Manuel is the HBO Real Sports/Sports Illustrated profile that will be televised tomorrow (10 EDT).

The show, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, includes interviews with Charlie by SI’s Frank Deford.  It was taped in Charlie’s hometown, winter residence and Clearwater.
White House Visit
As everyone knows, the team will be guests of President Obama and VP Biden and their wives tomorrow afternoon at the White House.  In addition to the normal traveling party, ownership and VPs are invited.
Never been there and looking forward to seeing the home of the President.  Since income tax forms are due Wednesday, wonder if I can give my check (yep, I owe) to the President tomorrow.  It will save postage. 
Daily Minors Updates
If you haven’t noticed, daily updates of the Phillies four minor league teams are posted on phillies.com.  Great way to keep up with the young prospects n the minor leagues.


Amazing Comeback

One-by-one the players walked on the field and received their World Series rings.  Later in the seventh inning, they walked around the bases in an amazing comeback win today.

We drew 10 walks from the Braves, the most since we had 10 in a game on September 4, 2007, also at Citizens Bank Park and also against the Atlanta staff.

In a real oddity, the Phillies had eight consecutive batters record an RBI in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Ryan Howard’s RBI in the big seventh was the 500th of his career.  His double in the second inning was the 100th of his career.  The big guy has piled up some big numbers very quickly while in the big leagues.

For the first time, the rings were unveiled during the pre-game ring ceremony.  Pat Gillick was the first one to receive his from David Montgomery.  Gillick began to tear up and he remained very emotional throughout the parade of 36 others who got their rings. 

Players who were on the roster all of last season or the postseason roster were invited.  Exceptions were Mike Zagurski and Francisco Rosario who were on the DL all season.

Pat Burrell got the loudest ovation, which was cool.  Adam Eaton was booed, which wasn’t cool.  He deserved to be respected as a person this time.  Booing is fine but it should have its place. 

Thursday evening, the team leaves on the first road trip, a 6-gamer.  They fly to Denver and take Amtrak home from DC a week later.

While in DC, they get to meet President Obama at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.  That’s really cool.  

Will be off a few days.  Have a great Easter weekend. 

“Oh, brother.”

That was one of the favorite on-the-air expressions of the late Richie Ashburn.

Can we borrow that right now?

Hey, someone call Delta airlines.  Ask them to check the luggage department of the 737 aircraft that brought the Phillies north last Thursday night.  Perhaps the bats are still there.

A struggling start isn’t new to the Phillies.  We’ve dropped the opening series five straight years.  

On a bigger scale, the defending World Champions have lost the first series in three of the last five seasons.

In checking the musty, dusty archives, I couldn’t find a Phillies start in which they scored just ne run while losing the first two games.  The files date back to the 1911 season.  In 1991, we started by losing, 2-1, 2-1.

Where is the fan that used to yell, “Woo, hoo!  Everybody hits?”


Ring Time

Rings can be a lot of things.  Here’s a definition of a ring: “A small, circular band of metal, etc., especially of precious metal, often set with gems, to be worn on the finger as an ornament of a symbol of betrothal, marriage, or significant honor, etc.”

Well, the significant honor will take place before tomorrow’s 3:05 afternoon game with the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.  Fans are urged to arrive early for the ceremonies.

Part of the ceremonies will include Harry Kalas’ call of the final World Series out last fall. After that, the players will receive their rings, one by one.

Opening night’s pre-game festivities Sunday included the raising of the 2008 World Series pennant that will fly above Citizens Bank Park.  Charlie Manuel had that honor.

After tomorrow, we turn the page to the 2009 season and the task to trying to repeat.


Lowe the Silencer

Well, the opener is out of the way.  Only 161 more to go.  For some reason, going 162-0 wasn’t going to happen.  By the same token, we won’t finish 0-162.

What a perfect weather evening.  Parking lots east of Citizens Bank Park were filled starting in the early afternoon with tail-gate parties.  Seemed as if everyone was wearing Phillies red. 

The pre-game show as great.  Love opening day player introductions.  Fans really get into unleashing their emotions that were bundled up during the cold, winter months.

As usual, loudest cheers were for Ryan, Chase and Jimmy.  Brad, Jamie, Cole also got great receptions.  Matt Stairs, off his dramatic, game-winning pinch homer in the World Series, is a cult hero.  Amazing what one at-bat can do.

Unfortunately, the high volume of enthusiasm was turned down low by Derrick Lowe.  He silenced both the crowd and Phillies bats.  His sinker was a stinker.   

Losing on opening day seems to be our norm.  We’re 1-5 in the last five years, all at Citizens Bank Park and 3-7 this decade.  Perhaps we need to open the season on the road. 

As Todd Zolecki says in his Zo Zone blog, “Relax.”  How you finish a marathon is the bottom line.

Pre-game focus now shifts to Wednesday’s World Series ring ceremony.  Once again, we urge fans to arrive early.  The festivities will start at 2:15 for the 3:05 game.  If you can’t be there, phillies.com will carry the ceremonies live.  Just close your office door and tell your boss you have a 30-minute headache.

Minors League Notes
Current issue of Baseball America lists the top 10 minor league ballparks.  We have two of them, FirstEnegy Stadium in Reading is ranked #3; Bright House Field in Clearwater, #10.  Reading’s ballpark was built in 1951.  The other nine top-ranked ballparks have all been built this decade. 

In league-by-league rankings, Reading is first in the Eastern League and Clearwater, first in the Florida State League.  Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park is #3 in the South Atlantic League.

Rosters are set for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Reading Phllies, Clearwater Threshers and Lakewood BlueClaws.  Season openers (all teams are home) are Thursday night: IronPigs face Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees; Phillies, Harrisburg Senators; Threshers, Dunedin Blue Jays, and BlueClaws, Delmarva Shorebirds.  Do BlueClaws dine on Shorebirds?

Once the minor league season is underway, I’ll again provide a Weekly Minor League Review in Phillies Insider, complete with a player and pitcher of the week.  Will aim to post every Tuesday or Wednesday.  The first post will appear April 21 and will include games from April 9 through
April 19.





Favorite Memory?

For the fifth consecutive season, we’re opening at home.  Weather seems to be fine for Sunday night’s Modell’s Sporting Goods Opening Night, an 8:05 national telecast on ESPN2.

There’s nothing like the season opener in baseball.  Other sports can’t come close.  Footballers will beg for the NFL, but what’s so exciting about seeing the first penalty flag dropped. Besides, football shouldn’t begin until late September.

Sunday night’s pre-game show has a lot in it.  Come out early.  For those who don’t have a ticket, the ceremonies will be on W. B. Mason Behind the Pinstripes Show on myphl17 in the Philadelphia TV market.  For those scattered around the country and the glove, the ceremonies will be live on this website.  Coverage for each will begin at 7:30.

Dating back to 1883, the Phillies are 56-68-2 in opening day.  The 2? Tie games (1923 and 1924).  Don’t know the circumstances.  Perhaps someone out there can inform us.

From 1985 through 1992, we lost eight straight openers.  Thank goodness there weren’t bloggers in those years.  Longest winning streak, 6, 1914-18.  Only coverage was newspapers back then.

Following World Series appearances: we’re 4-1, losing in 1981.

Favorite Memory?
My favorite opening day? 

It would be 1963, the year before I joined the Phillies.  I was a sports reporter at the Wilmington (DE) News-Journal and was assigned to cover the first game at Connie Mack Stadium.  I had never been to an opener and I was pumped.  Heck, here I am, standing on the field before batting practice.  Was I dreaming?

Pete Rose was a rookie with the Reds.  Being a huge baseball fan, I knew all about Pete.  I introduced myself at the batting cage and said something like, “I hope we are both around the game a long time.”  Not the most brilliant comment.  As I recall, he nodded affirmatively.  Guess he was being polite.

What is your favorite opening day memory?  Sunday night doesn’t count.

Flight Home
Delta charter carried 90 persons (players, staff, wives, kids, one grandchild) home Wednesday night.  We touched down at 8:20 p.m.  20 minutes later, we were still taxing, which promoted Shane Victorino to text the man in charge, Frank Coppenbarger, “What are we doing?  Driving to the park?”

Once at Citizens Bank Park, three buses unloaded, starting an early Easter Egg-style hunt for cars.  Cars were parked on two levels of the Plaza Parking garage.  Those armed with alarms cheated.  Will alarms work for a real Easter Egg hunt?

Within 30 minutes, the equipment truck arrived with the luggage.  “Rollins….Manuel….Franzke….Ciccotti….Giles,” barked the handlers.  It then became a zig-zag scramble to get to your luggage.  While lugging it to your car, dodge ball took over as you had to avoid collisions with people, kids and cars.  Having to visit the men’s room badly, made it even more adventurous.

Happy to report no injuries and no lost luggage.  Oh, I made it to the men’s room.  What an informative ending to a blog!



Good-bye Clearwater

Time to play ball for real.  Spring training is in the books. 

Time to reflect on another Clearwater spring:

Best Sign: “The King and His Court” was a hand-made sign on a third-level office door at Bright House Field.  Three desks with one computer and one phone served as the working area for Pat Gillick, Dallas Green and Charley Kerfeld.  Fortunately, there were no fights over the use of the computer.

Best Rookie: The Zo Zone.blog on phillies.com by Todd Zolecki.

Best Uniformed Rookie: Actually, two stood out, OF John Mayberry Jr. and INF Jason Donald.  Both have bright futures.

Most Impressive Newcomer: Raul Ibanez, hands down.  The man can play.  He’s also a huge asset in the clubhouse. All the reports we heard are true.

Toughest Jobs:  Staff in the minor league camp that had to deliver news to some 40 players that they were no longer part of the Phillies organization.

Best Weather:  Without a doubt, the best weather I’ve seen since I first set foot in this city in 1963.  Sunny, warm (75-83) every day but two. 

Biggest Disappointment: We can’t take the weather with us on the team charter.

Favorite Ballpark: Other than Bright House Field, I don’t know.  Didn’t make any road trips!