Wednesday, May 27, 2009

everybody hits

Last month I had the pleasure of hearing Chris Wagenseller read his tribute to the late Harry Kalas at Wine-O Bar at 5th & Poplar. Wagenseller memorialized Kalas with personal anecdote, a shrewd and humorous analysis of Kalas's commentating style-- including a discussion of both kinds of Kalas home run calls (the line drive and the fly ball)--and a few impressive imitations of Kalas. He pointed out that Kalas's sounds reflected Kalas's deep knowledge of and respect for the actual sounds of the game. Here's Chris explaining what set Kalas apart from the rest:

Sports announcers, particularly radio guys, are often fondly remembered for their ability to "paint a picture with words," which is a cliche as trite as it is inaccurate. Harry could paint a picture, sure, but his greatest gifts were in timing, tonality, and information, and his goal was not that you see the game, but that you understand it, that you experience its rhythms and its culture. The generations of broadcasters who have followed have filled every conceivable moment with ludicrous blather and not learned elemental lessons about baseball's great unspoken moments, when pitchers circle mounds and take long looks in at the catcher's signs and batters adjust gloves and caps and take a step back for a few practice swings. Harry was content to let these moments rest without comment, because he was as much a part of the fury of pitcher‐hitter-catcher‐umpire as the ball itself, and his focus and intensity must be saved for the moments that most demanded them.

Wagenseller also recited a poem for us that Kalas wrote for Philly fans when he was inducted into the hall of fame. You can read the whole thing here. Or you can listen to it here. If you listen to it, you can hear the type of banter and back-and-forth that often takes place at the informal, high-energy Tuesday Night Wine-O Reading Series hosted by Abbi Dion.