Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Greatest Broadcasters in Team History
5 Greatest Phillies Broadcasters
In the grand scheme of things, having a great broadcaster in the radio or TV booth is not as important for a major league team as, say, a great manager, general manager or 40-man roster.
It probably rates even behind a good farm system, but it is important.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been without a great broadcaster since Harry Kalas passed away in April of 2009. The team hasn’t really been any good since then, either.
When Kalas died, the line of mourners waiting to walk by and touch his casket at Citizens Bank Park was four blocks long. Kalas was that loved in the city of Philadelphia, a town he loved back. The city and its fans had the same reverence for Kalas’ long-time sidekick, Richie Ashburn.
For current broadcasters like Scott Franzke, Larry Andersen, Tom McCarthy and others, Kalas has been a tough act to follow. Kalas was the kind of deep voice with the dulcet tones associated with summers and baseball in Philadelphia for over 37 years. Before him, Byrum “By” Saam was that voice for about as long.
Franzke does not possess those kind of pipes. His voice almost sounds like a high-pitched pre-adolescent kid's voice when a Phillies’ player rounds third and heads home. The wanting to is there for Franzke, but the DNA isn’t. Franzke and color man Andersen have been known as a poor man’s Kalas and Ashburn, but that comparison might be better suited to a homeless man’s Kalas and Ashburn. The difference between Franzke and Andersen and Kalas and Ashburn is that Franzke and Andersen crack only each other up; Kalas and Ashburn cracked us all up.
The Phillies sacked two color guys, Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews, in the off-season, but what they really need badly is a great play-by-play voice, the kind of voice that other cities have now and Philadelphia used to have four years ago.
5. Tim McCarver
Before McCarver reached fame with Fox Sports, he cut his teeth as a broadcaster for the Phillies. He was teamed with Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn and also did the first local cable games of the team on a network called “Prism” with sportswriter Jim Barniak and Phils’ employee, Chris Wheeler. McCarver was actually quite good and funny, and proved to the fans he was more than Steve Carlton’s caddy.
4. Bill White
No one had a better, deeper, voice than White, who later became a broadcaster with the New York Yankees and National League president. White started to do Phils’ games after he retired as a player. He settled in Upper Black Eddy, a town 40 miles north of Philadelphia.
3. By Saam
Saam was a broadcaster who spanned two stadiums, Baker Bowl and Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium). He did both Philadelphia A’s games when they were managed by the legendary Mack and the Phillies games from the 1950s through 1970s. Saam had a classic deep baseball announcer’s voice. One of his best lines came in the fifth inning of games played at Connie Mack Stadium. “It’s a beautiful evening for baseball. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by.”
2. Richie Ashburn
Ashburn became the Phils’ announcer the day he retired from the New York Mets. He already was a fan favorite in Philadelphia and, for over 30 years, endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans. Ashburn had a dry humor and he could drop some of the best lines at any time in the broadcast. Ashburn once read a commercial for the Pennsylvania Lottery and when he got to the line, “Pennsylvania Lottery, supporting older Pennsylvanians” and then ad-libbed, “I’m an older Pennsylvanian and the lottery has done nothing to support me.” Then, during a game, Kalas announced the Phils were down 17-1. There was a long silence and the next voice you heard was Ashburn: “Four grand slams and we tie it up, Harry!”
1. Harry Kalas
The omniscient voice of the Phillies and NFL Films (after John Facenda died), Kalas and Ashburn were a remarkable team. Kalas, with the great voice, and Ashburn with a common sense knowledge of baseball strategy. Both men had an incredibly sharp sense of humor that played off the other. Kalas was a 17-time Pennsylvania Broadcaster of the Year. Philadelphia will never see his equal again.