Thanks For the Memories

13 Feb

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Rogers Hornsby

 

Well the wait is over.  Pitchers and catchers report today.  And as early as tomorrow we’ll start to see those iconic images of players, sporting their Phillies red, going through their stretches on the field, taking their first swings in the batting cages, fielding ground balls, all while enjoying the Florida sunshine.  But that will be for tomorrow.

Today there’s something else on my mind.  Every year at this time I can’t help but think about the duo who personified baseball for me and so many of us.  They weren’t Cy Young winners or an incredible double-play combo.  In fact, one of them never even played the game.

But for me, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn were the true harbingers of baseball.  Their voices provided the soundtrack to the summers of my youth and even well into adulthood, hearing Harry’s first spring training broadcast meant all was well with the world.

They called the games like they were just good friends having a chat and you were lucky enough to be listening in.  I especially enjoyed Richie’s self-depracating stories from his playing days,  like his oft-repeated comment about winning the MVP for the famously inept 1962 New York Mets:     

 “MVP on the worst team in baseball?  I wonder what exactly they meant by that?”

And when the Phils’ opponent had the bases loaded with nobody out in the 9th and they had to bring the outfield in, I can still hear Richie say:                                                                    “That’s a tough way to play baseball.”

And Harry would always reply:  “Yes it is, Your Whiteness.”

Whatever happened on that next pitch, a ground ball double-play or a grand slam home run, I knew it would be OK.  There would be another game tomorrow and Harry and Richie’s familiar banter would get me through.  It always did.

I still quote Richie to this day when a tough situation arises in a game.  And my husband never fails to say that the runner on first “looks runnerish” when he thinks a steal is coming.  Or when something really crazy happens one of us is sure to say,

 “That’s hard to believe, Harry.”

As for Harry?  Who among us hasn’t said, “Chase Utley, you ARE the man,” when Chase makes one of his vintage hustle plays.  And of course home runs forever more will echo with Harry’s voice and the call he made famous:

              “That ball’s outta here.”

Now don’t get me wrong,  I do enjoy the Phils’ current broadcasters, especially the team of Scott Franzke and Larry Anderson whose friendly banter has developed a familiar ring. But as we sit on the cusp of another baseball season, looking forward impatiently to that first pitch, I thought it also appropriate to look back and remember  two men who defined baseball for me and many like me.

When Harry died it was said that, “We lost our voice.”

I think it’s comforting to know that it’s not really lost.  The voices of both Harry and Richie will live forever.  We hear them in every home run, with every great play, every time the Phils win a big game.  And we always will.

Thanks for the memories, guys.

Now let’s Play Ball.

 





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