Kalas' passing stuns, saddens Phillies

Kalas' passing stuns, saddens Phillies

WASHINGTON -- There wasn't much talking going on in the Phillies' clubhouse Monday night. People were talking in hushed voices with smiles hard to find. The shock and sadness remained palpable.

More than four hours had elapsed since the Phillies learned of the death of their longtime Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. The Phils had gone out and won a game for him, edging the Nationals, 9-8. But those with the team were seemingly making their peace with what happened by how Kalas died -- at the place he loved most, in the booth at the ballpark.

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009

Kalas apparently collapsed in the booth around 12:30 p.m. ET and was quickly taken to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Team president David Montgomery said the Nationals asked the Phillies if they wanted to play, and they felt Kalas would have wanted it that way.

"I guess if it had to happen, if he had a choice, this is the place where it would have happened, at the ballpark," pitcher Jamie Moyer said. "It wasn't easy [to play], but life goes on. The game goes on. But I'm sure Harry wouldn't have wanted it any other way."

Moyer was clearly saddened, his voice rising not far above a whisper and seemingly wanting to say just a few words at a time. It was just too hard, especially since Moyer first began listening to Kalas as a 9-year old.

There clearly wasn't much, if any joy, that Moyer had won his first game of the season. Harry Kalas was on his mind.

"A lot of great memories of Harry," Moyer said quietly. "Just a great ambassador for the game, a great voice. I grew up listening to Harry, Richie Ashburn. That's what I knew as a kid."

Ryan Howard was clearly saddened also, but like other teammates, found some comfort in the way Kalas passed away.

It was a point that people made repeatedly after the game.

"He was up in the booth, [and] not too many people can pass doing something they love doing," Howard said. "If that was the case, then I'm cool with that. He was in a place where he wanted to be, where he loved to be and for it to happen there, I don't think he probably would have had it any other way."

Howard said he knew how much Kalas was identified with the team. The first baseman said simply that the announcer wasn't just the voice of the Phillies -- but that he was the Phillies to so many people.

That's what made the irony of the way Kalas died easier to accept.

"If that's how you're going to go, that's one hell of a way to go," Howard said.

But everyone also agreed that not playing wouldn't be the answer. They wanted to go out on the field and win this one for Harry.

"I think he would be proud of us today if he knows we won the game or whatever because that's who he was," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think that [the players] care a lot about Harry."

Shane Victorino said what made the day tougher was the fact that some of players -- including himself -- saw Kalas in the clubhouse before they went out for their pregame work. Kalas was walking around talking to people around noon before going back up to the booth.

"He was here today, walking around the clubhouse [and] came over to say hi to the guys," Victorino said.

As Kalas became an institution in Philadelphia, his kindness continued to amaze Montgomery, who couldn't recall seeing Kalas turn down an autograph request. Kalas always made time for people.

Kalas also grew into one of the most famous and well-known voices in radio and TV throughout the country through his work with NFL Films and other endeavors. But those from Philadelphia and people associated with and who follow the Phillies considered him theirs.

That's why, even though so many of the Phillies and their family were at peace with the way Kalas died, there's no way to measure their grief.

The voice will be missed. The man will be missed. The Phillies and their family have lost a treasured member and an icon. There's just no other way to say it.

"We'll miss him," former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said, "and it won't be the same without him."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.