AP Photo/Evan Vucci
It is a day remembered by Phillies fans for what happened before the first pitch was even thrown. It was hard to believe the news that passed through local sports networks and websites that afternoon, but it was all true. At 1:20 PM, just less than two hours before the Phillies were to play the Washington Nationals in Washington D.C., Harry Kalas, the 39-year voice of the Phillies, passed away after collapsing in the Phillies broadcast booth just an hour earlier, at age 73. Nobody could understand how a baseball game involving the Phillies could be played without Harry calling it, but we all understood the reason it was played. Yes, just two hours after learning of HK’s death, the Phillies played baseball with the heaviest of hearts. The Phillies said Harry would have wanted the game to be played, and that’s just what they did. The most satisfaction could come from winning one for HK.
The hours leading up to this game were a nightmare. You wanted to wake up, find that HK was roaming the clubhouse before the game, and was preparing for another Phillies game. The harsh reality was that there would be no more calls from Harry, but a game still had to be played. It made complete sense that Jamie Moyer was starting for the Phillies, after growing up with the Phillies and Harry Kalas. Moyer struggled early, giving up an early run to the Nats on a double by Elijah Dukes. The Phillies answered with two runs in the second on a Chris Coste bases-loaded walk, and a Moyer sac-fly. The Nationals tied it up in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Christian Guzman. Shane Victorino homered in the third to give the Phillies the lead, and gestured toward the Phillies broadcast booth after crossing home plate. Jimmy Rollins would double home Pedro Feliz in the fourth to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. The Nationals scored on a Guzman single in the fourth, then tied it on a Dukes homer in the fifth. The Phillies answered in the seventh when Ryan Howard blasted a three-run shot to center, and Raul Ibanez added a solo shot of his own. It was now 8-4 Phillies. Adam Dunn’s two-run homer cut the lead in half. Victorino made it 9-6 with a sac fly in the eighth. Ryan Zimmerman homered off Brad Lidge in the ninth to cut the lead to one, but Lidge worked out of the jam and picked up the save, as the Phillies won one for HK in an emotional 9-8 victory.
The game didn’t seem to matter, even though the drama was there. It was a close one-run ballgame that literally came down to the final out. But, the focus was on Harry Kalas, and a win in his honor. The Phillies had accomplished just that. This moment, and game of the year, is not heavily weighted by this one day, and one game. It is a series of events that happened in the week that followed, all having to do with HK. From the moment of his untimely passing, to the end of the week, when Raul Ibanez cracked a two-run walk-off home run to win the game against the Padres that Sunday, it was all about HK. Look at it this way, there was the emotional win the day he died. Then, the Phillies didn’t play for two days, fittingly due to rain. The Phillies came home that Friday, and once again, it didn’t seem like the game mattered. That night, we heard the sound clip of Harry’s home run call blared over the sound system of Citizens Bank Park. The next afternoon was the touching memorial service at the ballpark. All this was capped off with a dramatic win from the Phillies Sunday, and Ibanez’s walk-off home run, which we known would have a great call to go with it from HK.
This game was the ultimate form of heart. It’s hard to win when you’re hurting, but the Phillies did it, and it made us all feel a little bit better about the day. The next week didn’t seem to be about baseball games, but remembering Harry Kalas, and how much we cared for him, and how much he loved us back. It was a heartfelt goodbye, but whenever the Phillies played, you knew Harry was watching, waiting for the next “long drive” to be “outta here!” Harry Kalas is the reason this game ranks at number seven on our list of Games of the Year: 2009