No city has ever had a love for a broadcaster like Philadelphia has had for Harry Kalas. Detroit loved Ernie Harwell. Los Angeles has their Vin Scully. New York had Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner. They all were – or still are – a huge part of their team's history, but there is no Harry Kalas. Even the beloved Gene Hart didn't have the relationship with Flyers fans that Kalas has developed with Phillies fans.
|Happier Days! The Phillies broadcast team as they looked in 1982. The team of Muser, Wheeler, Kalas, Ashburn and McCarver were a huge hit with fans and well respected around baseball.|
As for the battle with Wheeler. The reasons behind it have developed into one of those urban myths that get bigger and stranger as they're passed on. Bottom line is that they haven't been able to work out their differences over the years and they're likely not going to. Kalas simply doesn't want to work with Wheeler anymore. Truth is that he really doesn't have to. Keep Kalas on radio when Wheeler's on TV and keep him on TV when Wheeler is on radio. They can pass silently in the hallway linking the two booths and life goes on. Schedules have to be juggled and some feelings may be hurt, but life goes on.
Why Kalas went public with the feud isn't clear. It was a mistake. Theories range from Kalas trying to pressure the Phillies to get rid of Wheeler to a bargaining ploy to any other number of reasons. Simply, it was a mistake. Fact is, the two should have probably been split up years ago. The Phillies knew the pairing of Kalas and Wheeler was an issue and they ignored it. Of course, they shouldn't have waited this long to get a deal done with Kalas, either.
As for Wheeler, he may not be the best broadcaster in the game, but he's not the worst. He goes overboard trying to make the Phillies look good and quickly curtails any possible criticism of them, which doesn't add anything to the broadcast. He knows the game though and has paid his dues. He is not now, nor will he ever be the caliber of Harry Kalas and to his credit, Wheeler will be the first to acknowledge that. If Kalas was trying a squeeze play – and it's possible that he was – it shouldn't be allowed to work, with the exception of keeping the two in separate booths. Please note too, that Chris Wheeler has been silent on the subject, except to say that he respects Harry Kalas and regrets any animosity. It's a good, classy move, which doesn't surprise those of us who know Chris Wheeler.
Now, as for Kalas getting a big-time agent. You would like to think that it wasn't necessary. Kalas and the Phillies should have been able to get a deal hammered out by sitting down together and making the numbers fit. Fact is though, that Kalas is a Hall of Fame broadcaster and deserves to be paid well. Not just for Phillies games, but for any other work that he does in the offseason. Kalas does network radio NFL games and many voice-overs and deserves to be well rewarded financially for that work as well.
Here's the deal. The Phillies must, not should, sign Kalas and they must, not should, get it done ASAP. No waiting. No further delays. No chance for someone else to swoop in and sign him. Get it done and get it done now! When Kalas does finally retire, Phillies broadcasts will never again be the same. It will be just like when we lost Whitey, but without the soft landing that Harry Kalas provided us with. There is no Harry Kalas waiting in the wings. Not Chris Wheeler or any other broadcaster in the Phillies booth or in baseball. If Kalas is not back with the Phillies, they might as well get rid of Chris Wheeler as well, since he will be known as the reason that Harry left. That's not a fair assessment, but let's face it, that's how it's going to look. Chris Wheeler will have no future in Philadelphia and that would be unfortunate.
The spat between Kalas and Wheeler doesn't need to be addressed any further by the Phillies or anyone else for that matter, except behind closed doors. Those doors never should have been opened and they should remain closed.
Should Harry Kalas get to dictate who he works with? Yes, but with limitations. His preferences should not cost anybody – especially somebody who has been as loyal as Chris Wheeler – their job. Fact is that Kalas is special. He is not just a Hall of Fame broadcaster, he is what Phillies baseball sounds like. He deserves special consideration, especially when it can be easily accomplished. When it comes to watching the Phillies on television or listening to them on radio, Kalas is the main event. He is the guy we all want to see and hear. Kalas and Larry Andersen seem to have formed a bond and they make a good team. Andersen has been a good addition. He has never tried to be Richie Ashburn, because he knew that he couldn't be "His Whiteness". Instead, he has been a guy doing a job. He has fit well with Kalas and they should be paired on both TV and radio. That provides a level of insulation in the ongoing conflict between Kalas and Wheeler.
The season is drawing closer. It's a new day for Phillies baseball. A good team. What promises to be a great new stadium. Life as a Phillies fan is good. We just need to know that our new day will not dawn without Harry Kalas. No matter how good the team will be or how great Citizens Bank Park may be, Phillies baseball just would not be the same without Harry Kalas.