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Hughes mourns passing of Kalas

Hughes mourns passing of Kalas

CHICAGO -- WGN Radio's Pat Hughes lost a good friend and baseball lost one of its cherished voices on Monday with the passing of Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas.

Kalas died in the broadcast booth prior to the Phillies' game against Washington. He was 73.

Harry Kalas, 1936-2009
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Hughes, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Cubs, produced a CD titled "Harry Kalas: Voice of the Phillies," part of a series he's done with legendary voices of the game.

"I just loved the guy," Hughes said Monday. "He was somebody I admired as a young man growing up trying to get into the business. I was struck by his voice and how clear and strong it was. Then I realized beyond that, he was really a great announcer. He knew what he was talking about.

"He could build the drama in a game. I loved his call of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. I loved hearing him do the voiceovers on NFL Films. It was a voice I never got tired of hearing. Every time I heard it, it sounded fresh and vibrant and good."

When Hughes came to the National League in 1996, he got to know Kalas and said the Phillies legend was one of those rare people who you admire the more you get to know.

"He was so nice," Hughes said. "He didn't have a mean bone in his body. He was friendly, sincere, still humble, never would brag. He's a Hall of Fame announcer, one of the best ever, and he just acted like a regular guy. He taught me a lot about how to act and treat other people."

Kalas left a mark on the game beyond his voice.

"I'm so happy that he got to do the World Series last fall," Hughes said. "In 1980, when the Phillies played Kansas City, the network broadcast agreement at that time prevented local announcers from doing the World Series. I remember the picture of seeing Harry watching the World Series, as if to say, 'I wish I was broadcasting, but I can't.'

"Philly fans wanted to hear Harry so badly that they bombarded Major League Baseball with complaints, saying 'Where's Harry Kalas? "We've got to hear our guy,'" Hughes said. "Sure enough, because of their complaints, the rules were changed the next year, and now, to this day, the local radio crew is able to go all the way and announce World Series games. Harry Kalas had something to do with that."

Hughes has done CD collections with Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Bob Uecker and Marty Brennaman, and Kalas was one of the first broadcasters he contacted. The subjects listened to the final product, which includes audio from famous games and calls, before they were sent to the printers.

"Harry was so gracious," Hughes said. "I was happy I was able to do it while he was still around. Some of the others I've done -- Harry Caray, Jack Buck -- obviously, I couldn't get their reaction. It's a special thing to hear it from his voice, and his heart to say thank you. I'm going to miss him a lot."

Kalas had reported to the ballpark as usual to broadcast Monday's game. Hughes had to handle the Cubs' home opener against the Colorado Rockies, and did so with a heavy heart.

"He absolutely loved this game," Hughes said of Kalas. "I know he was going to do a great job for today's game between the Phillies and the Nationals. I'm going to miss him, I really am."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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