Harry Kalas bronzed back to life 


As the clouds parted for the first time in days, the sun beamed down on Ashburn Alley and its red-clad soldiers. It all seemed very fitting as after a two-day rain-induced delay, Aug. 16 was a time to remember one of the greatest figures in Philadelphia sports history: Former Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas.

More than two years after collapsing in the Washington National’s broadcast booth prior to a game at the age of 73, Kalas now lives in the form of a bronze statue unveiled behind section 141 in Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way, last week.

Hundreds of attendees swarmed a squared-off section next to Harry the K’s restaurant that encased a who’s who of Philadelphia Phillies from past and present including former outfielder Garry Maddox and current shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

“Being able to see [the statue] for the first time with the fans is great,” Kane Kalas, one of Kalas’ three sons, said at the event. “Just seeing this is so touching, to see what he meant to the city.”

The tall, bronze statue is a work of art that brings to life that infectious grin that seemed to be glued to Kalas’ face at all hours of the day. The attire is more than appropriate: A jacket and loafers with one hand tightly grasped around a microphone with a World Series championship ring slipped onto his finger.

All in attendance marveled at the majesty of the larger-than-life statue completed by sculptor Lawrence J. Nowlan, .

“The detail and the precision is amazing,” Kane Kalas said. “Lawrence Nowlan did just a fantastic job.”

But perhaps more important than the intricate detail is the placement. The statue sits in the middle of the concourse near Ashburn Alley — named after his former broadcast partner Richie Ashburn.

And, from the beginning, this statue has been about people honoring the man who made their baseball experience exceptional. While the Phillies organization hosted the event, the real brain trust was a series of inspired and adoring fans.

Shortly after his passing Philadelphian Antonio Jose started a Facebook group petitioning for a statue to honor the announcer. Thousands of fans liked the page and it became clear that idea had a real chance of coming to fruition.

As the page states, “If we have a statue of Rocky, why not Harry Kalas?”

While the Facebook page generated interest and discussion, there was still a lot of work to be done, including lobbying and fundraising for the approximately $80,000 project.

Suzanne Norris and Nowlan, the originators of Dear Harry Inc., teamed up to become the driving force behind making the statue a reality.

“It doesn’t seem like that long ago that someone said, ‘Let’s just throw it out there and see what happens.’ Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Norris said at the unveiling ceremonies.

But Norris and Nowlan needed someone with the promotional and fiscal savvy to raise the necessary funds. Todd Palmer, who would become the nonprofit’s campaign director, fit the bill quite nicely.

“I think between Lawrence and Suzanne it was their original idea,” Palmer said. “He’s a sculptor and she’s a former teacher so they needed someone in the promotional field and that was me. Lawrence ended up coming to me and we put the rest together.”

From that point, they created a website, www.harrykalasstatue.com, where fans and corporations alike could donate toward the cause. The idea began to gain steam and slowly the money started to accrue.

However, large checks from prominent businesses did not make up the majority of donations. Once again, it was the fans who came out in full force.

“It was 80 to 90 percent individual, personal donations. The majority of the donations were $5 to $10. … A vast majority of it all came from fans of Harry Kalas who wanted to honor him.” Palmer said.

Palmer said he was surprised that the statue did not come together sooner, but after two years of hard work the experience was worth the wait.

“It was pretty surreal,” Palmer said. “I’ve never been in the center of 45,000 people before. It was cool to accomplish.

“In the end to strategize all this and have all the Phillies love this and accept the statue, the only way to describe the overall feeling of the day is success and a job well-done.”

After Rollins and Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton pulled back the burgundy cover revealing the statue to the enormous crowd for the first time, Phillies Chairman Bill Giles shared a classic Harry anecdote.

“After those late-night games, those of us who worked for the Phillies were rushing to get out the door and beat traffic. We would be leaving, but there was Harry at the fences signing anything that the people would put out. Harry never said ‘no’ [to the fans].” Giles said.

Now, there is no fence separating Kalas and his fans. SPR


Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.