Batman & Robin, Tom & Jerry, Bert & Ernie, Bob & Ray, Abbott & Costello.
In Philadelphia, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn are the most beloved pair. For 27 straight Phillies seasons they entertained us on radio and TV. After his playing career was over, Richie joined By Saam and Bill Campbell in the Phillies broadcast booth (1963). Bill Giles brought Harry to Philadelphia the year Veterans Stadium opened (1971). He replaced Campbell, an unpopular move.
Each was born in March, Richie, the 19th in Tilden, Nebraska; Harry, the 26th, in Naperville, Illinois.
Each is a Midwesterner who became a treasure in a big east city.
Harry was the ultimate professional play-by-play announcer with a distinctive baritone voice. Can still hear him, “Swing … and a long drive, this ball is … outta here!“
Whitey was the color man with a unique sense of down-home humor. Can still hear him telling the story about his favorite bat. Not wanting to have someone take it, he would carry it to the hotel and keep it in his room. “Matter of fact Harry, I slept with a lot of old bats in my day.”
We’ll always remember Harry’s call of the 2008 World Series, “Fans on their feet; rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0–2 pitch — swing and a miss, struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!”
Somewhere Whitey was listening, smiling and probably saying, “Hard to believe, Harry.”
Harry broadcast the first National League game in the Astrodome for the Astros (1965, against the Phillies). Broadcast the first and last game at Veterans Stadium, first game at Citizens Bank Park. Master of ceremonies when the Vet opened (1971) and for the closing ceremonies (2003). Tossed the ceremonial first ball for season opener at Citizens Bank Park (2009), the last series he would broadcast in Philadelphia as the Phillies went on a road trip to Denver and Washington. Honored in Cooperstown with the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence (2002).
Richie was signed by the Phillies as a catcher out of high school (1945). Played left field in the first major league game he ever saw, opening day (1948). He ended his career at second base with the Mets, final game (1962), getting a single in his last at-bat. An iron-man center fielder for 12 Phillies seasons, he played the most games of any outfielder in franchise history (1,785). Four-time All-Star and two-time batting champion (1955, 1958). No Phillies player has won a batting title since. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the same summer as Mike Schmidt. (1995).
Richie died early Tuesday morning, September 9, 1997, in his New York hotel room. The Phillies won the game that night, 1–0, over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Ironically, Ashburn’s career began with the Phillies and ended with the Mets and he wore #1. RIP.
Harry collapsed in the Phillies broadcast booth in Washington, DC, on April 13, 2009, about an hour before a Phillies-Nationals game. He was rushed to a hospital but died about an hour later. The Phillies won that afternoon, 9–8. Ironically, Kalas and Ashburn last worked together on “9/8”. RIP
Originally published at Phillies Insider on March 28, 2020. Reprinted by permission of the author.