Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book* Review: HARRY THE K: THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF HARRY KALAS by Randy Miller (Running Press, 2010)

* Of the electronic persuasion, that is. This is the first book that I've purchased and read on my recently acquired Kindle. Nicky has had one for some time, but, occasional technophobe and full-time nickle-nurser that I am, it took some persuading on her part -- along with a fall in the device's price, of course -- before I was willing to take the plunge. By that time, there was an ulterior motive, as well. Some of you know that I've been working on a book -- a history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament -- since some time between the date of the Earth's cooling and the good Dr. Naismith's finalization of the rules. At least, it seems that long sometimes. In any event, after trying to place the book with several publishers but having no success, I've decided to go the e-route and publish it to Amazon in Kindle-ready format (in parts, to be sure -- it's MUCH too long to be published as a single e-entity). In order to do this the right way, I wanted to make sure that I understood Kindle formatting and other issues related to electronic publication. Getting one of the things seemed like a logical way to start.

Oh, the review... This is a warts-and-all biography of the much-loved Phillies' radio and TV broadcaster, presented with honesty but no sense whatsoever of score-settling. We learn of Kalas' generosity to fans, colleagues, and the wider community, but also learn the details of his drinking, his womanizing, and a nasty feud with fellow Phillie broadcaster Chris Wheeler. I had heard about the latter from afar, having moved away from the Philadelphia area by that time, but it appears to have been far more unpleasant than I'd suspected. Author Miller is a newspaper reporter, and it shows sometimes to a rather troubling degree; the start of each chapter reads very much like the start of a brand-new column, with characters being reintroduced to us on a constant basis. This made the narrative flow of the book rather awkward. There are a number of typos and factual errors, as well. Still, there is much to enjoy here, especially for a Phillies' fan.

I distinctly recall watching the TV broadcast of the opening of Veterans Stadium in 1971, which was also the first time that Harry appeared as a Phillies' broadcaster. I subsequently spent more than a little time during my teenage years in the audiovisual company of Harry, Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, Andy Musser, Wheeler, and, later, a just-learning-the-ropes Tim McCarver -- easily, the best baseball broadcast team that I ever heard. Harry's career, of course, was much more diverse than most, as he also did voiceovers for NFL Films, NFL game broadcasts, various national and local commercials, Philadelphia Big Five basketball, and even Notre Dame basketball and (replay) football broadcasts. After missing a chance to broadcast the 1980 World Series due to network restrictions, a much older, clearly-flagging Harry finally cashed in by getting to do the 2008 Fall Classic. He died the following Spring, in the broadcast booth before a game in Washington. He will always be missed.

No comments: