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When Harry met Whitey, it meant all the difference

For me, it hadn't been the same since Richie Ashburn died 12 years ago.

When Harry Kalas -- the longtime Phillies announcer who passed away today as the Phils prepared to play the Nationals in Washington -- arrived in Philadelphia in 1971 he was actually regarded as a carpetbagger. At the time, Kalas replaced a guy with whom fans were far more comfortable, Bill Campbell.

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When Harry met Whitey, it meant all the difference

Campbell, who has regular-Joe features, had called games for the old NBA Philadelphia Warriors, the Eagles and the Phillies. He gushed when the home teams did well and agonized when they failed, which was often. The new guy, Kalas, was a pretty-boy, sandy-haired Midwesterner who was imported from the Houston Astros airwaves. His perspective was a bit more, well, detached. And it's safe to say, as in some other working-class, old-school cities, that newcomers can find the reception cool in Philadelphia -- and so it was for Kalas initially.

But the broadcast partnership between Kalas (right) and former Phillies center fielder and fan favorite Richie Ashburn (left) made all the difference for Kalas.

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(Below Harry Kalas makes the final call of the 2008 World Series)

The two developed an on-air camaraderie that allowed listeners to feel like they were sitting in on a private conversation between two good friends who were just watching a game. Ashburn, a great base-stealer during his Hall-of-Fame career, would eye a runner leaning off first and remark matter-of-factly, "He looks a little runner-ish to me, Harry." And Harry would simply say, "We'll see," casually deferring to his partner's expertise.

And so it pretty much went like this: If Harry was good enough for "Whitey" Ashburn, then he was OK with the rest of the city. Of course, over the course of more than three decades, Kalas himself became synonymous with Philadelphia baseball and a Philly institution in his own right. His trademark "Outta here" home run call has been echoed millions of times in street-ball games all over Philadelphia and his baritone voice can be heard in the mind's ear of everyone who ever heard him. He even made his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But since Ashburn passed away, a parade of sports announcers of every stripe have trooped through the broadcasting booth to share play-by-play with Kalas and, not surprisingly, no similar magic chemistry ever developed. Ashburn died in New York after broadcasting a Phils-Mets game. Like his old pal, Harry Kalas also died on the road while busy with yet another baseball game.

So I'll chose to think of it this way: Once again, Whitey is musing that the guy leaning off first base looks "runner-ish" and Harry is making the call that a long drive is "Outta here." Just two good friends watching a ballgame.

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