Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Raise of the Glass to The Bird and the Voice of the Phillies

The baseball world lost two icons yesterday: Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Mark Fidrych, the eccentric but beloved former Tigers Rookie of the Year.

Kalas had been calling Phillies games since 1971. Those of us who aren't Phillies fans may know him best for his "outta here!" call or his NFL Films voiceover work. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 2002.

Fidrych burst onto the MLB scene in 1976 when he won 19 games and the American League Rookie of the Year Award for the Detroit Tigers. Although he would never recapture the magic of that first season due to a string of injuries that limited his career to five years and a whole lot of "what ifs," Fidrych remains one of the most beloved sports figures for a generation of Tigers fans who watched "The Bird" and his mound antics in that summer of '76. He was inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals in 2002.

I should say that as much as I (obviously) love debating the statistical merits of players, I'm very glad that the Shrine exists to honor "distinctiveness of play (good or bad); the uniqueness of character and personality; and the imprint that the individual[s have] made on the baseball landscape"; to honor, in other words, those characters who make the game of baseball more than simply a game of numbers, but a game that can captivate its fans enough that they are willing (and eager!) to wade through all of those numbers.

Cheers to you both, gentlemen.

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