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Phils fans mourn loss of beloved voice

Phils fans mourn loss of beloved voice

Harry Kalas always seemed to say the perfect thing at the perfect time. He was a master at capturing the moment.

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009

It is why he was a legend behind the microphone.

Kalas, 73, died at 1:20 p.m. ET on Monday in Washington after collapsing inside the Phillies broadcast booth at Nationals Park. His death left an adoring public trying to put into words what exactly the Hall of Fame broadcaster meant to them.

It wasn't easy.

"It's just a terrible shock," said Martin Rosenfelder, a Phillies fan who grew up outside Philadelphia and now lives in Greenbelt, Md. "Just a sad, sad day. The man was the voice of the Phillies, the voice of God, some would say. He had that booming deep voice. I didn't hear about it until I was in here [at Nationals Park].

"It's just a shock. It's really sad. It won't feel the same any more. I used to listen to the games and try to tune in on long-distance radio just to hear Harry's voice. It's something that I grew up with and was synonymous with the Philadelphia Phillies."

Everybody has a similar Kalas memory.

Summers in the backyard and at the Jersey shore.

Nights with the transistor radio next to the bed.

Car rides with his voice booming over the static.

Kalas was a part of people's lives. He felt like family. In many ways, he is.

"It's heartbreaking," said John Schwarz, who drove from Philadelphia to attend Monday's 9-8 victory over the Nationals. "I grew up listening to Harry Kalas on the radio. He was my spring and my summer. I listened to him every day. He really spoke for the team, every day, 162 games a year and became part of your lifestyle. His voice is known nationally as well as in Philadelphia, but I think we'll miss him a lot more in Philly."

But Monday's tragic news wasn't limited to Phillies fans.

"I am shocked and saddened by Harry's untimely and unexpected passing," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said. "He was a Philadelphia institution who made the game for countless fans. The entire professional baseball family is the less with his loss."

"As the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, Harry Kalas was everyone's friend in this region," Sen. Arlen Specter said. "His incisive commentaries will be sorely missed."

Kalas was as friendly and down-to-earth as he was as talented a broadcaster. Fans would hand him their cell phones to record outgoing voice-mail messages. He would be out in public and a fan would tell him that it was his birthday. Kalas on occasion would respond by putting the fan's name into one of his infamous home run calls.

He touched a lot of people that way.

And that is just one reason why Monday was such a tragic day.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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