Andy Musser called his last game with the Phillies on Sept. 23, 2001. His final call: a walk-0ff home run by then Phillies’ catcher Johnny Estrada to give the Phillies a 5-4 win over the Florida Marlins.
I’ll be honest; I don’t remember any game called by Andy Musser. The only time I can even remember hearing his voice was during the television broadcast of Veterans Stadium’s closing ceremonies. And yet, the news of Andy Musser’s passing at age 74 yesterday still hurt.
When Harry Kalas passed away, it was a crushing blow to anybody who ever watched any Phillies for any prolonged length of time. If you had any regularity of watching Phillies’ baseball, you came to love Harry.
I hadn’t started this journey of writing about this team I love when Harry passed suddenly in April 2009, but I felt the need to constantly talk about it. When I started this site in August 2009, I wrote many articles, updates and posts – some mediocre at best for the record – that constantly talked about how Harry would have loved that walk-off home run or that shutout or the way the players would honor him that September after winning their third straight division title.
And the reason I did was because it made Harry’s passing easier to handle. If we acted like he was still there to see it, we could smile at the fact that wherever he was, he probably smiled and belted out another chorus of “High Hopes” after each win.
I spend many a summer night watching this game I love from my bedroom - when I can’t be at the ballpark – and do most of my writing from there. Why? It’s hard not to feel inspired to write something about the Phillies with so much of the Phillies surrounding you – my room is loaded with memorabilia, collectable, autographed items and a sea of red. It’s what has made each and every victory all the sweeter and the toughest defeats even harder to take.
Among those possessions is a baseball covered with autographs. To me, this ball has no price, and I will treasure it forever. On the ball features two Hall of Famers, a number of the only World Series winner the city had known until this remarkable era of Phillies’ baseball. Yes, the home run king for the Phillies, Michael Jack Schmidt, and the golden left-handed ace, Steve Carlton, both signed that ball. Among others, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw, Bob Boone and countless more.
Also on that ball are three names of people who never took the field, but are Phillies nonetheless. One is Andy Musser. One is By Saam. And finally, one is Harry Kalas.
When I look at where I am in my life, and what I want to do with it, I can’t help but think of why. My education gives me an opportunity to work toward this dream job by working now, as an employee of sorts to my college sports teams. When I write here or for my school’s newspaper, I think about all the writers I have read since I started to follow the Phillies, Philadelphia sports and even national writers closely.
Additionally, I have the privilege to be on the air every week to talk sports or call some form of sporting event. I’ve called soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and basketball games, but there was nothing quite like the rush of that first basketball game. When I call any sport, I think of one man: Harry Kalas.
I saw just how much the people of Philadelphia loved Harry, and it didn’t take long for me to get it too.
There was no summer like the summer of 2007…until 2008 came along, and included the fall. One of my favorite parts of that World Championship was being able to have Harry be the first person to tell me – and thousands of others - that the Phillies were champions.
Harry was this larger than life person to me. In 2009, as the Phillies’ defense of their championship began, Harry called a classic game between the Phillies and Colorado Rockies on April 12, 2009. Top of the ninth in a tie game, and he called Matt Stairs two-run shot to put the Phillies in front. An inning later, a roller to Chase Utley ended the ballgame.
Harry signed off for the final time that afternoon, little to our knowing. But he too had his finest hour in the waning moments of his broadcasting career, between the World Series win, Stairs’ clutch home run and the final out on a sweep of the Rockies that afternoon before his death.
The day of my first basketball call, I walked into the gym thinking of the one shining moment a basketball game could bring: a buzzer beating shot. The game progressed, and sure enough, came down to the final possession. My dream call was all laid out. Sure enough, the game-winning shot was hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. It didn’t seem to get any better. And for all the times I had imitated Harry while watching the Phillies, I felt like a lifelong dream had been revealed.
In the midst of all the sorrow, I take these deaths and remind myself that they are why I do this. Harry will have been gone for three years this April. I owe a lot of my love for sports, my love for the Phillies, my love for baseball and my determination to do this for year to come to those that came before me.
Andy Musser’s death does not have the same impact Harry’s did. But what it does is remind me that these inspirational voices and writers have shaped my life. It sometimes takes the death of the greats to realize what they mean to me. But I’m glad to have such great inspiration.