Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Legend Lost

After Don LaFontaine, there were perhaps no more recognizable voices than those of the men who narrated NFL Films. Harry Kalas, who followed the legendary John Facenda, has passed.
Here is article from his hometown newspaper:
Kalas' wide range recalled at NFL Films
By Bob Brookover
(Philidelphia) Inquirer Staff Writer

The sadness wasn't confined to the offices of Citizens Bank Park or the world of baseball yesterday.
News of Harry Kalas' (left) death also hit home and hit hard across the river at the NFL Films home office in Mount Laurel.

Steve Sabol, the president of the company founded by his father, Ed, in 1962, left work in the early afternoon only to return when he learned that Kalas had collapsed and died a few hours before the start of the Phillies' game against the Washington Nationals.

"I remember when we first hired him, everybody was concerned that he was a baseball guy," Sabol said. "But he was only a baseball voice to everyone in Philadelphia. For us, he was going to be the voice to everyone in the world. I think in years to come he might be associated as much with football as he is with baseball."

Kalas would often be recognized more by his voice than his face when he was on a road trip with the Phillies, and his dulcet tones became an integral part of football highlight films and television commercials during the last 32 years.

If you want to know how revered Kalas was at NFL Films, all you have to do is look at the photo tributes on the wall outside the audio room. You'll find Kalas alongside John Facenda and Jeff Kaye, two other legendary voices that narrated NFL Films highlights. Facenda and Kalas both had Philadelphia ties.

"You don't know how privileged I've been to work with two of the greatest narrators and voices in history," Sabol said. "As I was driving in my car coming back to the office, I was thinking about the two of them. Facenda was the voice of God. Harry Kalas was the voice of the people. Harry wasn't a class act because there was no act with Harry. He could sell anything with that voice, and he did. But the one thing he never sold was himself."

Facenda and Kalas worked at NFL Films together for about six years before Facenda died in 1983.

"Harry was the voice of the games that happened that week, and John was the voice of what happened during the year," Sabol said. "Harry could do whatever you wanted. He could be dramatic, poignant or funny. Whatever we asked him to do, he could do it on the spot."

Kalas had a long list of commercial credits, too. He used to joke about the Campbell's Soup commercials with the baseball beat writers. "Ca-ching, ca-ching," he'd say with a wry smile, comically explaining how each commercial meant more money in the Kalas bank account.

He also did commercials for Coors Light, General Motors, and countless other products over his career. He had done recent work for the Animal Planet Network on something called the Puppy Bowl. He also did narrative voice-overs at the Philadelphia mint and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

In addition to doing NFL games for Westwood One, he was the voice of Notre Dame football and Big Five basketball for a while in the 1970s and '80s.

Former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski said he looked forward to Wednesdays during the NFL season because that meant Kalas would be coming in to do his voice-overs for the weekly highlights.

"I'd see him once a week," Jaworski said. "He'd come in on Wednesday, and we'd see him in the hallways, and we'd immediately start talking about Phillies baseball. There's no question he was the voice of NFL Films. He was just an incredible person. Everybody loved Harry."

Sabol said that in the 1980s, the unofficial NFL Films holiday party was hosted and paid for by Kalas.

"It was the highlight of our social calendar," Sabol said. "Harry was the one that created it, and he'd throw that party at the end of every football season. It was an open bar, and Harry picked up the tab."

Wednesdays at NFL Films won't be quite the same when football season begins again in September.

"I can't even imagine that," Sabol said. "He was so reliable. Every Wednesday he was in there to do the HBO show. He'd start at 10 a.m. with his cup of coffee and his Parliament cigarettes. The one thing that is great about Harry's profession is that he's gone now but in a sense he still lives on. You have this incredible voice, and you put it in the bank at NFL Films and you can withdraw that any time you want to hear it."

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