50 in 50: The Best Phillies TV and Radio Calls of the Last Half Century (1-10)

via YouTube

This is it.

This is the end of the list of the top 50 Phillies TV and radio calls of the last half century. It’s a list I compiled after the great calls on both TV and radio two Sundays ago during the Phillies dramatic comeback to sweep the Los Angeles Angels.

We have been running 10 moments since last week, as we count down to No. 1, which we finally get to today.

My criteria for ranking these calls was outlined in the initial post. In case you missed it (it also includes Nos. 41-50) you can read it here.

To access Nos. 31-40, go here. 

The link to Nos. 21-30 is here.

Nos. 11-20, which had some great calls that could arguably been in the top 10, can be accessed here. 

As great as those previous 40 calls have been – and they’ve all been memorable to me, and by how this countdown has been received so far, it seems like they were all memorable to you too, these last 10 are on another level. These 10 are the best we’ve seen in the last 50 years. And interestingly, they came from SIX different play-by-play men.

Let’s start here, because this one was more important, I think, than any of us realized at the time.

 

10. Harry Kalas welcomes us back to baseball one week after the terrorist attacks of 9/11

This is what made Harry, Harry. He was so able to deftly maneuver between a rehearsed speech, likely being scrolled for him on a Teleprompter, and improvising to the reactions of the crowd. He was also an emotional man, who befriended so many first responders in his hometown of Media, PA, that you can tell that talking about those who lost their lives trying to save others on 9/11 deeply affected him as he got choked up a couple times.

But, always the professional, Harry pulled through. And he brilliantly and eloquently was able to explain why the return of baseball – the first bit of entertainment to come back following a week of mourning and non stop watching the news – was so important, especially because it was so uniquely American.

We probably didn’t realize it at the time, but that night, switching from non-stop news coverage to Phillies baseball and listening to Harry, was the true beginning of our healing process, as our summer game was back, and for a fleeting couple hours, so was the briefest reminder of normalcy.

 

9. Bryce Harper’s walk off grand slam vs. Chicago

With apologies to Jimmy, Chase, Ryan, Chooch, Cole, Shane, Pat, Jayson Werth, and anyone else who won a championship with the Phillies in 2008, or any other player who came through the organization between 2007-11 when the Phillies won five straight division titles, and also with nods to both Doc and Thome, who are Hall of Famers who graced us with a few brilliant seasons in Philly but made their bones elsewhere, Bryce Harper is the best player, in his prime, who will be known and remembered as a Phillie when all is said and done, since Mike Schmidt.

So, it’s important that he get opportunities to shine as the superstar player that he is. A generational talent that those of us who watch the Phillies play on a nightly basis are fortunate to see step to the plate four times a night.

And when he does something incredible. Amazing. MVP-worthy. Well, it should be memorialized, especially by those who are tasked with broadcasting his career to those of us at home.

The first big chance for Bryce as a Phillie came in August, 2019. The Phillies were hanging around the Wild Card race. They, and a couple other teams, were chasing the Chicago Cubs, when Joe Maddon’s squad made a trip into Philadelphia. The Phillies trailed the Cubs by four games, so they absolutely needed to win the series, but even more so, a sweep of the series would announce the Phillies as ready to take the next step.

The Phillies won the first two games, but on August 15, the Cubs looked to be in control with a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.

Cubs starter Yu Darvish had stymied the Phillies through seven shutout innings, and had only thrown 92 pitches. But, Maddon, being Maddon, decided that was enough and inexplicably turned the game over to his bullpen.

The Phillies were able to finally break through in the eighth on an RBI single by Corey Dickerson, but it was still 5-1 going into the bottom of the ninth.

Jean Segura flew out to start the inning, but then the flood gates were opened by Cubs shortstop David Bote’s error, that allowed Cesar Hernandez to reach base.

From there Scott Kingery singled (believe it or not), Brad Miller singled in one run, Roman Quinn singled in another and Rhys Hoskins was hit by a pitch.

This meant it was bases loaded, one out, and the Phillies still trailing 5-3 when Harper stepped to the dish.

The Cubs had burned through both Rowan Wick and Pedro Strop in the ninth, and were now turning to lefty Derek Holland to face Harper. You know what happened next.

John Kruk: “Oh My God.”

Tom McCarthy :”…. WAAAAAAAY up there and WAAAAAAAAY OUTTA HERE!!”

McCarthy’s “Wow” is awesome.

He adds “It’s a stunned Cubs team that has been swept out of Philadelphia.”

Then after Harper’s interview (which is pretty cool too), McCarthy adds another great line:

“If you’re not fired up by that interview and what has transpired here in the ninth inning, I’m not sure anything will fire you up.”

This was McCarthy’s best call of his tenure with the Phillies. There’s a reason it still runs on repeat in Phillies commercials and on the intro to the broadcast and it has been watched millions of times on YouTube. Kudos Tom.

 

8. Mitchy-Poo

We’ve reached the point of this list where the calls can be recognized in conversation by a couple of words or a phrase uttered by the play-by-play guy. That’s what makes them iconic.

You say the words “Mitchy-Poo” to someone who remembers 1993 and they’ll likely have a story for you about that night.

I know people who went down to the Vet in the middle of the night, after bars let out, to catch this classic moment that will likely never be repeated.

For me, “Mitchy-Poo” saved me from getting in trouble with my folks.

It was July 2, 1993. I was 19 years old and I was home from college for the summer. I was over a friend’s house, and had driven my dad’s car there.

My dad never really paid much attention to where I was going when I went out with friends, except if I was driving his car. Then, he always wanted to know where I was and what time I would be home. On this night, I just happened to be at a friend’s house. Our plans were washed away because of rain that night, so we ended up hanging there, ordering pizza and watching the Phillies.

I called my dad around 11:30 and told him I’d be home after the game. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell they were playing the second game of the scheduled doubleheader against San Diego that night, not with as much time lost to rain delays already.

So, imagine my surprise when they announced the second game was starting after 1AM!

It was crazy. But now, we had a renewed excitement. Go up to the kitchen, grab some more junk food and soda, and get ready for another game.

And we settled in. The game had a weird buzz about it all night. Like I said, more fans started showing up and the night wore on. At one point, I can remember Whitey Ashburn saying, “I can’t remember ever having this much fun at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

And wouldn’t you know, the game would go to extra innings.

The Padres had a young reliever on the mound named Trevor Hoffman. In the bottom of the 10th, working his second inning, the rookie Hoffman walked Pete Incaviglia to lead off the inning, then gave up a single to Jim Eisenreich.

Hoffman struck out Darren Daulton and then the Phillies found themselves in a quandary – they had already used up all six bench players, so the pitcher’s spot was up and closer Mitch Williams was already in the game.

I’m not certain if Mitch would have come back out to pitch the 11th inning, after having thrown a ton of pitches in the two previous innings, but Jim Fregosi let him hit rather than turning to one of the starting pitchers and what came next was a call we all know:

Ashburn’s trademark “OOOOHHH (two times, two times) was perfect, as was his little chuckle. But we had never heard anyone call “The Wild Thing” Mitchy-Poo. It was an instant classic.

As you saw, the game ended at 4:41am.

As for me, by the time we finished celebrating the victory, cleaned up my friends basement, and I got in the car and drove home, it was 5:30am.

And there was my father, with an expression that I had never seen on his face before.

“Where the hell were you,” he asked?

“I told you, at John’s watching the game,” I said.

“You said you’d be home as soon as the game ended. That was six hours ago,” he yelled.

I said, “Wait, wait… you didn’t see what happened? The game JUST ended!”

He didn’t believe me. In an era before cell phones and the internet, I had to wait almost an entire day to be vindicated.

When he saw the game ended at 4:41a.m. He came over to me and said, “I’m sorry, you were right.” Then as he walked away, he turned back and said, “Mitch Williams? That’s awesome.”

Sadly, the MLB has since put a rule in that will suspend games from going that late into the night and be continued at a later time. So, this is, was, and always will be, the latest baseball game ever played. And we’ll always have Mitchy-poo to thank for it not being even longer.

 

7. He Buried it

Andy Musser was always “the other guy” on the Phillies broadcast. There was Harry and Whitey, and of course there was Wheels. But then, for a few innings each night, you had Musser.

Andy was a decent-enough broadcaster, but he had a more pinched tone compared to Harry’s velvety baritone.

Musser hardly ever had to call big moments either, as Harry always seemed to have the later innings. But there was one game, where Musser found himself in the catbird seat and didn’t let us down.

It was October 4, 1980. The Phillies and Expos were in a battle for the N.L. East Division crown and they were playing the final three games of the season in Montreal. They entered the final series tied for the division lead, so who ever won two games first on that final weekend would win the East and play Houston in the NLCS.

The Phillies won the first game the night before, 2-1, as Mike Schmidt drove in both Phillies runs on a sacrifice fly and a solo home run, his 47th of the season.

So, if the Phillies could win Saturday night, they would lock up the division.

However, they found themselves in a back-and-forth contest, and it looked like it was going to go against them late as the Expos took a 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth.

Pete Rose lead off with a walk, but was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Bake McBride. Schmidt also grounded out, but McBride moved up to second.

With two out, it came down to Bob Boone, who laced a single to centerfield, scoring McBride.  It was a huge hit by Boone, just one of so many cardiac moments the 1980 Phillies experienced.

In came McGraw and he was going to pitch until his arm fell off. He shut down the Expos in the ninth, and then struck out Andre Dawson with the winning run on third in the tenth.

Rose led off the top of the 11th with a single, and after McBride fouled out, Schmidt stepped to the plate and it was Musser’s turn for his signature call.

Side note: In all these 1980 videos, there were these stupid Star Wars-themed messages that kept popping up on screen. I get it, the movie was popular and all, but it just seemed weird and out of nowhere. 

“He buried it, he buried it!” It was such a perfect line. Because, in so many ways, he buried things. He buried the Expos. He buried the ball into the seats. He buried that monkey that had been on his back that he couldn’t come up with the big hit at a crucial time.

The “Woo” is great too, but the end of the call is perfection. “Mike clasps his hands. He shakes hands with all his teammates. What a wild scene in Montreal.” And the way he said “Montreal” it just seemed to trail off into the ether in almost a sing-songy style.

What a call by Musser.

 

6. You are the man!

This one was another that was a Harry improvisation in the moment that has stuck with us since. Hell, it was so good, the Maestro made decent money off t-shirt sales on this very website that were related to the call.

It was August 9, 2006. The Phillies were four games under .500 but were still within striking distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final Wild card spot, sitting 3.5 games out.

The Phillies were in Atlanta taking on a not very good Braves team, but were trailing 3-2 in the top of the seventh. However, Utley came up with the bases loaded and one out and ripped as bases clearing double to left center to put the Phillies up 5-3.

But, Utley wasn’t done. To show his headiness, on the very next pitch, this one to Ryan Howard, Utley did something you don’t see every day – score from second on a ground ball back to the pitcher.

Both Harry and Wheels are great on this call. Wheeler just uttering, “he’s unbelievable,” is a great addition, but it’s Harry with the impromptu, “Chase Utley you are the man,” that will live on forever in the ears and minds of Phillies fans.

 

5. Touch ’em all, Joe

This is the part of the list where I know Phillies fans are going to hate me. But, I hope you all hear me out.

Joe Carter’s walk off home run to win the 1993 World Series, while crushing for us, was, is, and likely always will be one of the greatest moments in baseball history. Only two men have ever walked off a World Series with a home run. BIll Mazeroski in 1960 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Joe Carter in 1993 for the Toronto Blue Jays.

But, for a moment, let’s make pretend this wasn’t the Blue Jays and the Phillies, but rather just some random team X vs. Team Y playing for the a title. Team X is at home in front of a roaring crowd with a championship on the line. Joe Schmo steps up to the plate and hits the walk-off homer.

Now imagine legendary Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek making this call… and tell me it’s not one of the best you ever heard:

The best part about this video is on the replay, it includes the national call from Sean McDonough on CBS, which wasn’t nearly as dramatic. And it shows why the unexpected lines are the ones that are always remembered most.

We didn’t hear Tom Cheek’s call in Philadelphia, yet almost any fan who watched that World Series would tell you the call was “Touch ’em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

And the call was 100 percent accurate to boot.

I suffered right along with you after this home run. For weeks I was inconsolable. And yet, I recognize the call as one of the best ever.

 

4. Swing and a miss, struck him out – The Phillies are the 2008 World Champions of Baseball

How many people had this as a ring tone for months afterward? It’s O.K. Raise your hand. You’re in the majority.

Now, I know I’m going to take shots from both sides here.

One side is going to say, “How can you sing the praises of Tom Cheek’s call for it’s improvisational brilliance and then rank it behind this call, which, while memorable, was pretty standard?”

Fair question. But the answer is simple. Chris Wheeler.

We all knew Harry didn’t get a chance to call the 1980 World championship. Oh, you may have heard a call from that season, but it was re-created after the fact for an album that was put out.

So, this was going to be it. The crowning achievement for a lifetime in broadcasting for the great Harry Kalas.

And while it was euphoric for all of us who were rooting for the Phillies, it was, in fact, pretty generic wording for the call. But the brilliance of it wasn’t known until we saw the video of the booth itself and not the play on the field.

Wheeler was just like you and me. He knew what this meant to Harry. And even though the two didn’t always have the greatest relationship, Wheels knew he had to let this be Harry’s moment. He had to just sit there and not say a word.

And that’s what he did.

Oh, sure, he celebrated, as you will see in the video. He celebrated hard – but did so physically. There was no “OOOOOHHHHHH” like Whitey. There was no cackling laughter, like Tim McCarver. There was no “YEAH!” Like Larry Andersen.

There was just silence. And it was beautiful.

It allowed for the ultimate moment in a sport to be shared by one man and the millions of people who loved to hear his voice every night. That’s perfection.

But the other side, the side who love this call more than any other. Who still get teary-eyed when they hear it. Who still take time to go back and be one of the millions on You Tube to watch it, they have to wonder if I’m nuts putting this at No. 4.

No. I’m not. Because, as iconic as it is – and in Philadelphia, it is an all-timer, there are three that are better.

This was our moment with Harry. We should always celebrate it. But we should also recognize that there were better ones, including one of his very own calls.

 

3. Stairs rips one into the night

Ever since I started doing this list publicly, the question I’ve gotten most has been, “Stairs rips one into the night has to be in the top 10, right?”

Well, yes, it does. Because, that’s how everyone remembers it.

In fact, that’s how it’s labeled on You Tube.

And not “Matt” Stairs. Just “Stairs.”

It was such a simple phrase by Joe Buck, but it was brilliant. It invokes an image of the ball being hit so hard that it tears through the darkness to find light on the other side.

It’s also so very memorable since it took place on the road, meaning almost the entirety of the Philadelphia fan base was watching it on TV when it happened and we all remember what was said when such a clutch home run was hit.

And was it ever. Matt Stairs, a trade deadline pickup for this very reason, to provide pop off the bench, emerged from the dugout on a nice evening on October 13, 2008, and provided the biggest home run of the season for the Phillies off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton.

Great call, yes. But No. 3, Anthony?

Yes. And you know why? Yes, Stairs’ homer gives the Phillies the lead for good and puts them up 3-1 in the series, but often forgotten is earlier in the inning, Shane Victorino hits a two-run homer off Corey Wade to tie the score at 5-5, which, until Stairs two batters later, is the biggest home run of the Phillies season. Without it, Stairs doesn’t happen, and the Dodgers probably tie the series. It was huge.

But nobody remembers it. Or if they do, they don’t talk about it.

If you look up that homer on YouTube, which frankly had a boring call by Buck, you’ll see that the Stairs homer has more than 10 times as many views on the same MLB channel.

Why?

Because “Stairs rips one into the night,” that’s why.

 

2. And they have done it to Broxton again…

Without Stairs ripping one into the night, the Phillies couldn’t have done it to Broxton again, but the sequel, a year later, is an even more amazing call by Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen.

It was Game 4, again. But this time it was the ninth inning and the Phillies were down to their final out.

Once again Jonathan Broxton was on the hill. This time, he was facing Jimmy Rollins with two men on trying to preserve a one run lead and even the series at 2-2.

But Jimmy Rollins, who always loved to be in the spotlight, came through with the biggest hit of his career and the Phillies did, in fact, do it to Broxton again, winning the game 5-4 on this walk off hit and taking a 3-1 series lead. They would beat the Dodgers in LA in Game 5 and go back to the World Series against the Yankees.. which wasn’t nearly as fun.

But this call, was special.

Here’s the thing… Search on YouTube, and you can’t find the COMPLETE call anywhere. It always cuts off at the same spot. What makes the call so great though is what Franzke says NEXT, which is “The Phillies have beaten the Dodgers with two outs in the ninth and they have done it to Broxton again in Game 4! Wow, what a finish! Jimmy Rollins has made his mark in this series!”

The only place I could find it, and maybe this is apropos since we just lost Ray Liotta (RIP), is this creative video that splices together Liotta’s character Henry Hill in Goodfellas and Franzke’s call.

It’s the best call of the 21st Century so far. But there is one better in the last 50 years.

 

1. There it is! Number 500! The Career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt

This is the best call for one simple reason. It was the best player in Phillies history reaching his ultimate milestone as he neared the end of his career and it was called by the best broadcaster in Phillies history.

Ask anyone to do an impersonation of Harry, and you’ll get a lot of “outta heeeeerrrre,” and some “Can you believe it,” and maybe an occasional “Mick-ey Mor-an-di-ni.” But for those of us of a certain age (and older), who remember Harry and Whitey in their prime, remember how he frequently called Schmidty “Michael Jack.”

It was so harmonious, to hear that full name, so rhythmically, so many times, come out of Harry’s mouth.

But by 1987, we knew Mike wasn’t going to last forever, and we knew that by the time the Phillies rebuilt themselves into a contender again, Schmidt would no longer be a part of the team.

So, a quick glance at his career entering the 1987 season was one that consisted of three MVP Awards, 10 All-Star appearances (he’d finish with 12) and 10 gold glove awards. Oh, and he had that World Series ring from 1980 too.

There was only one thing left for the greatest third baseman in the history of the sport to do – and that was hit 500 home runs.

Only 13 men in the first 86 years of major league baseball had amassed 500 homers. Schmidt would become No. 14. And although homers are a common occurrence these days, getting to 500 was a major milestone reserved for only the greatest of the great power hitters in the sport.

When Schmidt retired with 548 home runs in May, 1989, he was seventh on the All-time list. He is now 16th, although six of the guys who passed him were shrouded in performance enhancing drug controversies, so, many would still think of him in the top ten.

So, heading into that 1987 season, Schmidt needed just five home runs to reach 500. But, the Phillies began that season with their worst start in franchise history, going 1-8 in the first nine games. Schmidt did hit three homers in those games, but he didn’t want to talk about the pursuit of No. 500 until the team could right the ship.

It never really did, but at least the Phillies won the 10th game of the season in Pittsburgh, a game in which Schmidt hit No. 499. The next day, April 18th, also against the Pirates, Schmidt stepped to the plate to face Don Robinson, with two out and two runners on and the Phillies down by a run in the top of the ninth.

The Phillies were winning this game 5-1 but gave up five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to fall behind 6-5. It looked like another loss in this miserable start to the season, until the greatest player to ever wear a Phillies jersey stepped to the plate and the greatest broadcaster told the story:

Also underrated in this call is Ashburn adding some great color – talking about how Schmidt isn’t normally emotional when he’s rounding the bases, but that he let the emotions flow a bit on this one. He also called it “storybook,” which it was.

The best of the best at what they do, together for the athlete’s last, truly meaningful moment of his career. It’s the only way to tie a bow on this list.

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