Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grease reminder

The Columbia High School Drama Department will present their spring musicial, Grease, Thursday and Friday nights at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.

Harry the K -- The Remarkable Life of Harry Kalas.

I don’t read as much as I should. Read a lot of newspapers and every once in a while a magazine.

Usually when I read a book, its about my favorite sports’ teams, the Phillies or the Eagles and if someone writes a book about Columbia, I might be on it as well.

I’ll never be a War and Peace type reader. Okay, let me get the joke out – probably not enough pictures.

In the last year I’ve read four books – three about the Phillies and one I got from a good friend at Christmas about the greatest plays in Eagles history. The other three books were about the Phillies. One came out last summer, I believe in May or June about the death of Harry Kalas. It was more of a celebration book about Harry the K than anything else. Well written and even though I had heard some of the stories before, it was something I needed to get as a Phillie fans. I got it at the Wawa in East Petersburg, not at a book store.

The second book, which I saw advertised on a Phillies game, written by someone I can’t stand Chris Wheeler. It was a biography about Wheels 40 years with the team. I thought it might be some inside stuff, but it wasn’t. The book was well written, but like Wheeler it was basically a fluff piece.

The third book was another about the Phillies. I saw it on Facebook, written by Todd Zolecki, a Phillies beat writer for and formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was called the Good, the Bad and Ugly,” a history of the Phillies.

A good book, but the only thing I didn’t like about it, there was no mention in the book concerning one of the bright spots in Phillies history – Harry Kalas. Other than that, it was a pretty good read.

About three weeks ago when I was reading the Philadelphia Daily News about another book written about Harry Kalas, by another team beat writer Randy Miller that was coming out this week.

The article I saw said it would be available at book stores and on the internet, but would not be sold at Citizen Bank Park. The article said it would be like a tell all of Harry’s life, including his family problems, spat with Wheels and the list went on and on. I figured there was probably something in there that the Phillies didn’t appreciate.

So I figured since its kind of tough for me to get to a book store right now and needing something to do, I’d search the internet. Found the book on Amazon at half the price it would cost in a book store ($24.95, I paid just over $16), ordered it and couldn’t wait until it came.

That was Tuesday of this week, around 1:45 or 2 in the afternoon, when I was sitting outside enjoying the great weather. I’m the type of person that when I get something good to read, I have trouble putting it down.

About eight hours later, a couple of breaks and a couple of phone calls, I finished the 333 page book. And yes, the pictures were good, many of them I never saw before.

So, here’s a quick review of Harry the K – the Remarkable Life of Harry Kalas, written by Miller, from the Bucks County Courier Times. There’s a forwarded by the greatest player ever to wear Phillie pinstripes, Michel Jack Schmidt and a special introduction by current Phillie Ryan Howard.

The book is 20 chapters long and if you are a fan of the team, loved and worshiped Harry like many, including myself did, it is a must read.

I will tell you that during the course of reading the book there were many times I smiled, laughed and teared up. There were also moments during the course of the night that I went “wow.” There wasn’t one part of the book I didn’t like.

The book starts about talking about Harry’s childhood in Naperville, Illinois, growing up the son of a preacher, the Rev. Harry H. Kalas. Harry was not a junior, rather Harry Norbert Kalas. Norbert, the book said, was a 12th century saint. Details of Harry being something of a wild child growing up, smoking and drinking as a young teen, his days of playing football, basketball and baseball in high school. He knew as a teen he wasn’t going to make the “show” as they call it. He has an older brother named Jim and even as a kid, he started announcing games, including one on his first date when he went to a movie on a date and ended up announcing a game. He was in various plays in high school and even had the golden voice back then.

There were stories with childhood friends and after graduating from high school, it was off to college where Harry thought the good life of drinking and partying was more important study. He got booted from his first school and then enrolled at the University of Iowa, got his start in broadcasting, but still continued the drinking and smoking.

On the day of his graduation, he was drafted in the Army and luckily got stationed in Hawaii, where he met his first wife Jasmine, who worked as a buyer for a jewelry store and got his first job in baseball with the Hawaii Islanders in the old Pacific Coast League.

He eventually got his big break and landed with the Houston Astros, who were moving into the Astrodome. It was with Houston, where he met Bill Giles. The time in Houston was mot a pleasant one as the book details.

He was doing a college game in the south when the Cincinnati Reds and Phillies came calling. Giles knew of Harry from his days in Houston and the Phils were looking to move from Connie Mack Stadium to the Vet. Al Michaels was also being considered. I had know Harry was accepted right away in coming to Philly because he replaced a legend in Bill Campbell.

The book went into more detail about Harry coming to Philly and the beginning of his friendship with the late Richie Ashburn.

The book also detailed how Harry got accepted in Philly and rose to legend status. It also gave a “behind the scenes” look into the life of a player and broadcaster in the big show. The drinking and women in almost every city and as the years went on, it got worse.

It also went into great details of Harry meeting his second wife in San Francisco, while still married and later divorced from his first wife. Seems the players at that time actually helped set Harry up with his second wife, Eileen and how Wheeler, then one of Harry’s best friends, was the go between.

It detailed how Harry sought the help of friends on how to end his first marriage and move on.

Throughout the book, there was a theme that no matter where he was, Harry was a friend of everyone and turned down no one.

It talked in great detail about his relationship with “Whitey” and how the night he died in a New York hotel room, “Whitey” was actually with a woman, which until this time only few new. It also spoke how devastated he was when “Whitey” died.

The theme during that part of the book included the beginning of Harry’s feud with Wheeler, which the Phillies and Wheeler denied. Seems “Whitey” went to Harry’s house concerned he was being replaced by Wheeler, which Harry didn’t like. And there were some other reasons.

It also talked about Harry’s contract problems late in his wife with the Phillies and times he actually may have considered leaving.

The one part was the role his second wife Eileen played in Harry’s life. She stayed in the background, but pulled a lot of strings, right up until Harry’s death last April. How she made Harry get an agent, didn’t thing he was being appreciated enough by the Phillies. She actually played a role in his problems with Wheeler, who I thought was a jerk and this book did nothing to change my view.

It talked about his role with NFL Films, working the NFL and college games for Westwood One and changes made in baseball broadcasting after the 1980 World Series to allow Harry the chance to announce a series.

I don’t want to be labor the point, but smoking and drinking was getting the best of Harry and he finally gave up drinking a few years ago, but continued smoking until his death.

What I did not know until the end of the book was how sick Harry was until the end of the book. He probably shouldn’t have finished the magical 2008 season, let alone start the 2009 season. I was really taken back and that part brought tears to my eyes.

Okay, enough, read the book.

I met Harry a few times over the years. The last time was three years ago at the Phillies’ caravan site in Reading. I did an interview and got my picture taken with him. As nervous as I was, he was so easy to talk to and I could have sat there all night.

You know you never realize how much you miss someone until they are gone. He is one of those people. Listening to a Phillies game without his voice just isn’t the same. But everyone has to move on, no matter how tough it is.

As you can tell, how easy the words flowed, it was a good book and how excited I was to read it.

Employee is charged

West Hempfield Township Police have charged a 19-year-old Lancaster woman with seven counts of theft as the result of a number of incidents at St. Anne's Retirement Community in the 3900 block of Columbia Avenue.
Charged was Jocelyn B. Snader, 19, of Lancaster.
Policed said Snader was working as a nurse's aid at the facility and reportedly stole $10 to $20 from residents in prviate areas.