Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No good titles come to mind, but this is about Harry Kalas

Yesterday afternoon, I was eating a Wawa turkey hoagie and watching some HGTV while playing around online, and I saw a Facebook status update from Eric: "Harry Kalas is found passed out in the press box in DC and taken to the hospital. Not good."

I immediately hit the "Sports" link on cnn.com, which was the other tab I had open in Firefox, and when that didn't give me any news, I went over to Philly.com. And there, the headline told me that Kalas was not just unconscious, but had been taken to GW Hospital and pronounced dead.

This news has hit many people very hard, including Eric. He's a diehard baseball fan, and one who has enjoyed sharing his knowledge and love of baseball with me (although it's been extremely frustrating for him at times, I'm sure!). Harry Kalas has been announcing Phillies games for what seems like forever, and his instantly recognizable voice is known to many baseball fans, regardless of their team affiliation. His death is the talk of the town today in Philadelphia, still.

But the headline hit me like a punch in the gut for another reason. And then I felt instantly guilty, but still couldn't shake my initial reaction and emotion: "Sh*t. I wonder if he did the recording yet?"

Yeah, I hate to be THAT bride, that wedding-centric bride, but Kalas's untimely death had a personal connection, a wedding connection, and that's where my mind flew first.


You see, sometime last year I read about two weddings in which Harry recorded the introduction of the wedding party into the reception. One was via Weddingbee; one of the Bees attended a wedding in Philly where this happened, and blogged about it. The other was via a Philly DJ who blogs, and I happened upon his website completely randomly, looking for information on paper lanterns or something like that, and read about a wedding he had done where Harry made the wedding party introductions. I instantly knew it was an awesome idea, and, if I could pull it off, the best surprise for Eric ever.

After idly wandering around the internet looking for Harry's contact info (I'm not sure if I expected him to have a public Phillies email address or not), I finally called the Phillies one day, and was told that Harry didn't make recordings like that. When I explained that I knew of two weddings where it had occurred, the Phillies girl replied, "Well, it must have been a personal favor for someone he knew." I somehow doubted that, and pressed again for a mailing address (at that point, I figured a real letter would be better than an email). She gave it to me, and in early February, I sent off a letter to Harry, asking if he would pretty please record our wedding party introduction. I believe I promised to be future season ticket holders someday, and to raise our children in the glorious Phillies tradition.

The last weekend in February, I went skiing in Snowshoe, WV, where there is no cell phone reception. On the drive back to Louisville, once we regained contact with the outside world, my friend Noah (who I was traveling with) and I both logged into our voicemail accounts. And all of a sudden, as I was listening to my messages, I exclaimed, "Holy #$!%!" causing Noah to wonder if he was about to drive off a West Virginia cliff.

Because there was HIS voice. On my voicemail. "Holly, this is Harry Kalas with the Phillies. I got your letter, and I would be happy to introduce your wedding party when you get married in May. The way you go about that would be to contact Mr. Rob Brooks. His number at the Phillies is ... and he'll tell you how to go about it. You can send a script, or fax or email a script to him, and then we can get it done before the nuptuals. I'd be happy to do it, my very best wishes to you and yours! Thanks."

Harry Kalas! On MY voicemail! It's a classic Harry cadence, with funny emphasis here and there, but all his own. Noah, who wasn't familiar with Harry, remarked, "He has the most announcer-y voice I've ever heard!"

Over the next couple of weeks, I got in touch with Rob Brooks, broadcasting manager for the Phillies, and found out what I had to do. Brooks urged me to get my script in soon, because the team would only be in Philadelphia for four days during their first at-home stretch, and if I could get it in then, Harry could record it.

I enlisted the help of Eric's sister, Paige, and friend-and-groomsman Shea, who is the other biggest baseball nut I know. We put together a pretty good script, and I saved it until last Sunday evening, Phillies Opening Day, hoping I could hear some other Harry-isms to insert. I was really pissed when I realized the TV broadcast was being called by the ESPN guys (I probably just revealed my own baseball stupidity there, but oh well). So off the script went to Brooks, with a question about how to make my requested contribution to the Phillies Charities in return for Harry's services.

Two nights ago, I realized I hadn't yet heard back from Brooks regarding how to make my payment, and made a mental note to contact him the next day. But before I could, Harry died.


So there I was, sitting on the living room floor, stunned. "Sh*t. I wonder if he did the recording yet?"

Crap. I can't believe THAT was my first thought! What kind of horrible person AM I?

But seriously, I wonder if he recorded it yet?!?!

A text message sent to Paige and Shea conveyed the news: "Um, Harry Kalas just died." I knew they would understand the hidden message: What do I do now?

Yeah, I'm THAT bride. Let's just all accept it and move on.

What if the recording hadn't been made?
What if it HAD been made? Could I still use it at the reception?

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that no matter what, Eric deserved to be told that night. The surprise would come 41 days early, but it would still be a surprise. So yesterday evening when we both got home, I told him I had some news. He looked worried, and said, "Is it good or bad?" and I responded, "It's mixed." I didn't even know what to say to him, so I just put my cell phone on speaker, dialed into my voicemail, and gave him the phone.

He had a surprisingly blank look on his face -- that's the reporter in him, I guess, having learned not to show too much emotion, as well as the poker player in him, too -- and I didn't know what he was thinking. But then he responded in the way I knew he would -- he was really surprised, and also touched. The "surprise" was ruined, but he still knew that I had planned it.

So now we're in a weird situation. I clearly can't contact Rob Brooks anytime soon, but I can't stop wondering if Harry had recorded our announcement yet or not. And even if he had, would they still send it to me? And if they did, could we still use it? And what do I do with Harry's voice saved on my phone? I'd like to download the message and save it on my computer instead of my phone; I guess that's something I'll be looking into soon.

Other people have written great things in memory of the great Harry Kalas, and I'm not going to attempt to add anything to that, because I just wouldn't feel qualified. But this is my own personal connection to him, a weird, spooky story that I had to share.


PCJ said...

I was so darn excited about your thing, I had the same first thought as you. I've never been privy to such a cool surprise.

BookBabe said...

It's okay. I keep wondering myself whether it will come through. But I sure hope you can save that message.