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Kalas' call continues to resonate

Kalas' call continues to resonate

The Phillies and Rockies were tied 5-5 on Sunday when pinch-hitter Matt Stairs came to bat with a runner on base in the top of the ninth inning at Denver's Coors Field.

Harry Kalas was up for the moment.

Stairs watched a fastball whiz by for a strike after taking a ball, then sent a Huston Street fastball screaming deep to right field for the game-winner. "Outta here!" Harry Kalas screamed and my television set vibrated.

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The 7-5 victory was as exciting as Harry's trademark home run call, but I had no reason to believe that would be the last time I'd hear those familiar words.

Outta here!

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009

Harry the K, as we called him, died suddenly on Monday and the heart is heavy.

He was a very dear, close friend.

In a sense, we grew up -- make that, aged -- together covering the Phillies.

No one -- player, manager, coach, executive -- was more the face of the Phillies than Kalas, the Hall of Fame broadcaster recruited from Houston in 1971 by Bill Giles, now team chairman.

Harry and I had lunch together Wednesday in the Phillies press dining room at Citizens Bank Park.

It was a big moment for Kalas, because he was to throw the ceremonial first pitch on the day the Phillies were presented their World Series rings for defeating the Rays in October.

I was a little concerned how slowly Harry ate. He didn't really look good, but I didn't say anything.

The Phillies had dropped their first two games to the Braves, causing Harry to remark, "We've got to put 2008 behind. This is a new season."

With only about half the meal eaten, he looked at his watch and said, "Bods, I gotta go."

"What are you going to do, go to the bullpen and throw some warm-up tosses?" I asked.

Harry, with his deep snicker, turned as he walked away and said, "No way. It's going to be a fastball down the middle."

When he went to the mound, the 44,939 gave him a standing ovation. He bounced his pitch in front of home plate and the crowd loved it.

If his call on Stairs' monster home run was a farewell to his famed call, that moment on the mound Wednesday was a farewell to the Phillies fans who loved him.

Little did we know.

There have been very few broadcasters in the history of baseball who go hand-in-hand with the identity of a team.

Only a few come to mind -- Harry Caray (Cubs), Jack Buck (St. Louis), Vin Scully (Dodgers), Ernie Harwell (Tigers).

And Harry Kalas, the Phillies.

The thing about Kalas was he had an unbelievable passion for baseball and its players.

Once during a birthday party we gave him during Spring Training, he was overcome talking about his love of baseball.

"We all love this game so much," he said holding back tears. "And we're so fortunate to be a part of it."

Harry's best friend in life was Richie Ashburn, the late Hall of Famer. They were a dynamic duo in the broadcast booth until Ashburn died in 1997. I never felt Harry was the same when his buddy Whitey left, but that's another story.

I was fortunate enough to spend many moments with both of them -- at the ballpark and away from it.

The stories are priceless.

Once on a Spring Training trip to the Dominican Republic, we rented a car in Santo Domingo for a journey across the country to San Francisco and an exhibition game against the Cardinals. The car was tired and really didn't want to run.

Harry decided it needed oil. I have a picture on my wall at home of Kalas pouring motor oil into the engine of the car, something he'd never done before.

"Do you really think that's going to help?" Ashburn asked.

"Positively," said Kalas. "All this baby needs is some oil. Trust me."

We made it to the game, but en route back we stopped at a roadside stand. As we pulled up, some natives with guns came down from the hills.

"Don't worry about a thing, boys," Ashburn said, reaching into a canvas bag. "I'll take care of them."

He pulled out a knife hardly big enough to peel a potato.

Kalas laughed and pushed on the gas, trailing a cloud of dust behind.

We often rented a car for the trip between Los Angeles and San Diego, and whenever possible stopped at the famed resort La Costa for a round of golf.

I don't remember much about the golf, but many of the non-stop storytelling is etched in my memory.

Harry and I were together at the White House last July, a few days after he had eye surgery.

President George W. Bush held the dinner to celebrate baseball, and no one enjoyed the occasion more than Kalas. I hoped the President would ask Harry to render his trademark call, but it didn't happen.

Now, Harry Kalas is up there looking down on the Phillies, hoping they can make it two championships in a row, calling every pitch.

And if Ryan Howard or any teammate blasts one, just close your eyes and listen.

You just might hear, "It's Outta Here!"

Those words will ring in eternity.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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