Harry Kalas dies at 73; voice of Phillies and NFL Films

Harry Kalas dies at 73; voice of Phillies and NFL Films
Harry Kalas joined the Phillies in 1971 and was known for his trademark line for home runs: “Outta here!’ In 2002, he received the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. (George Widman / Associated Press)
Harry Kalas, the longtime voice of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies who also had a familiar role as an announcer on NFL radio broadcasts and as the narrator of the league's action for NFL Films, died Monday. He was 73.

Kalas, who punctuated innumerable home runs with his "Outta here!" call, died at a Washington hospital after being found passed out in the broadcast booth just hours before a game between the Phillies and the Washington Nationals.

"We lost our voice today," team President David Montgomery said. "He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization."

Kalas joined the Phillies in 1971. Before that, he was a member of the Houston Astros broadcast team from 1965 to 1970. In 2002, he received the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game and was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

"Players come and go, but 'Outta here!' -- that's forever," said Scott Franzke, a Phillies radio broadcaster, of Kalas' trademark line.

Over the years, Kalas said he owed the line to Larry Bowa, the former great Phillies shortstop who is now a coach with the Dodgers.

In 1971, Kalas and Bowa stood at the batting cage during spring training watching batting practice. Greg Luzinski hit a long home run, and Bowa said: "That ball is outta here!"

According to Bowa, Kalas turned to him and said:

"That sounds pretty good."

"Until the day he died," Bowa told The Times, "He said, 'I want to thank you for that saying.' I said, 'Harry, you're the one that made it, with that voice of yours.' "

Vin Scully, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame announcer, interrupted his coverage of the team's home opener Monday against the San Francisco Giants to pay tribute to Kalas, whom he called "a great guy" and a "wonderful broadcaster."

Scully offered his sympathies not only to Kalas' family and the Phillies organization, but also "to the city of Philadelphia. They loved him and well they should have," Scully said.

Kalas lent his sonorous voice to everything from puppies to soup.

He broadcast NFL games for CBS Radio and Westwood One and was the narrator of the league's weekly highlights for NFL Films that for years have been a staple on the "Inside the NFL" program, which is now on Showtime after many years at HBO. At NFL Films, Kalas was the successor to another legendary voice, John Facenda.

"There was no act to Harry, no shtick, no clever-voiced cliches. He always gave us a steady blend of humor and honesty," Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films, told The Times on Monday. "We always knew he would make the film better."

Kalas also was the voice for Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials and Animal Planet's annual tongue-in-cheek Super Bowl competitor, the Puppy Bowl.

Kalas joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team in 1971, replacing fan favorite Bill Campbell.

He wasn't immediately embraced by Phillies fans, despite being paired with Richie Ashburn, a player who was elected to the Hall of Fame and a longtime announcer. But Kalas evolved into a beloved sports figure in Philadelphia.

He and Ashburn grew into a popular team and shared the booth until Ashburn's death in 1997.

"Major League Baseball has lost one of the great voices of our generation," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Baseball announcers have a special bond with their audience, and Harry represented the best of baseball not only to the fans of the Phillies, but to fans everywhere."

Kalas was born March 26, 1936, in Naperville, Ill.

He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959 with a degree in speech, radio and TV. He was drafted into the Army soon after he graduated.

In 1961, he became sports director at Hawaii radio station KGU and also broadcast games for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and for the University of Hawaii.

His home run call while working in the islands was: "Tell that ball, aloha!"

Kalas had surgery earlier this year for an undisclosed ailment that the team characterized as minor.

He looked somewhat drawn last week as the Phillies opened the season at home.

Survivors include his wife, Eileen, and three sons. His son Todd is a broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Times staff writers Jim Peltz and Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.