50 in 50: The Best Phillies TV and Radio Calls of the Last Half Century (11-20)
This is a continued list of the top 50 Phillies TV and Radio calls of the last half century, 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 will be running 10 moments per day through tomorrow, as we count down to No. 1.
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.
And now for Nos. 11-20, which include not one, not two, but three calls that had nothing to do with what was going on down on the field – including this one:
20. Harry Kalas reads a poem about Richie Ashburn the day he died
Whenever we lose celebrities, whether they be international, national or local, there is always that initial feeling of sadness that we will never see or hear them again.
Sometimes, you may not have heard from a specific celebrity for years, as they quietly enjoyed retirement, and then, when news of their passing becomes public, you still yearn for what it was like when they were alive and entertaining you on the regular.
For example, I still go back and watch old videos of Robin Williams, just because the man was a comic genius and never failed to make me laugh out loud.
But it’s something else when you lose a broadcaster who was a voice in your ear on a daily basis one summer after another, after another, after another.
So, when Richie Ashburn died in his New York hotel room on September 9, 1997, it was crushing news. Richie was only 70 years old. He wasn’t supposed to be gone so soon. I never saw a city mourn like that. Not even when Harry Kalas died 12 years later.
Sure, that was an even more devastating blow, but we were slightly more prepared as we had already gone through this with Whitey.
I can still remember, driving in my car a few days later and hearing the guys on WIP talking about Ashburn’s public memorial service at Memorial Hall. I decided I needed to go, to pay my respects. I’ve never stood in a longer line. Not for an amusement park, not for a concert, a ballgame, a movie or a Broadway show.
It was an awesome turnout. It showed what Whitey meant to the city of Philadelphia.
The night after his death, the Phillies were on WPHL-17. There is no online availability of that game. I wanted to see some of the calls from the game, to how many Whitey references there were.
But, all I could find was news coverage or some pregame stuff on Channel 17.
Still, there was a poignant enough moment, and one worthy of being recognized here at the onset of our top 20 – Harry reading a poem he had written for his partner in honor of his 70th birthday, just with a new ending now that Richie was gone.
It’s a beautiful tribute – and one that I remember watching like it was yesterday. Somehow, this was 25 years ago. As his Whiteness would say, “Hard to believe.”
As a bonus, here are a few minutes from the 1997 Phillies yearbook, which include parts of two eulogies at Ashburn’s funeral – one by then-mayor Ed Rendell and one by Harry Kalas.
19. Shane Victorino hits a walk-off homer, on bobblehead day
This was a pretty innocuous game in early June of 2007 between two teams who were hovering around .500 at the time – the Phillies and the San Francisco Giants (who else?).
It was a see-saw game that saw the Phillies jump out to an early lead, the Giants fight back to take a 7-3 lead, only to have the Phillies rally for five runs in the bottom of the seventh to regain the lead before Antonio Alfonseca blew the save in the ninth yielding an RBI single to former Phillie (and Phillies broadcaster) Kevin Frandsen.
So, it was 8-8 in the bottom of the ninth when Victorino stepped to the plate. The speedy Phillies outfielder wasn’t having a great game to this point (he was 0-for-4), which was disappointing for many of the near 40,000 fans who showed up to get the Victorino bobblehead figurine that Sunday.
That’s when Victorino decided to go opposite way off Kevin Correia, walking the game off and garnering a great, impromptu call from Harry Kalas.
“No ka `oi,” (which means “the best”) is easily a top 5 improvised line in Harry’s career. “You couldn’t have scripted it any better” leading into Gary “Sarge” Matthews going “I’ll say” is another beauty. It was just one of those fun calls that you don’t think about often but when you break it down is certainly one of the better ones.
18. Todd Pratt pulls off a miracle against the Red Sox
On June 21, 2003, the Boston Red Sox came to Veterans Stadium for a brief, two-game series. The Phillies were playing decent baseball, coming into the game at 37-33, but the Red Sox were already one of the best teams in the sport, and boasted a powerful lineup and shutdown pitching staff.
In this matchup, Pedro Martinez and Randy Wolf were embroiled in a classic pitchers’ duel, however Martinez had the slight edge, and the Red Sox led the Phillies 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth.
Mike Timlin came on to close the game out for Martinez and got the first two outs of the eighth inning, before Jim Thome crushed a homer to centerfield to tie the game 2-2.
The game would make it’s way into extra innings where in the top of the 12th, Boston regained the lead on an RBI triple by Kevin Millar off of Jose Mesa, but in the bottom of the 12th, Thome struck again, hitting a two-out, 3-2 fastball from Jason Shiell into the seats in left centerfield at the Vet, making it 3-3.
In the top of the 13th, the Red Sox, felt they finally had put the Phillies away.
Mesa struck out the first two batters he faced, but then Johnny Damon singled, Todd Walker doubled and Nomar Garciaparra, who was 6-for-6 in the game, singled, giving Boston a 5-3 lead.
But the Phillies wouldn’t quit.
Bobby Abreu walked and with one out David Bell laced a double, scoring Abreu and cutting it to 5-4. Boston turned to veteran reliever Rudy Seanez. The only guy left on the bench to bat for the Phillies was backup catcher Todd Pratt, who had to pinch hit for Mesa.
That’s when Scott Graham, who had a very short tenure with the Phillies broadcast team, made what would be easily his seminal call from the Phillies booth:
“It’s Gone! It’s Gone!” is great enough, but then adding in “Let’s go home boys, we got another game tomorrow,” was a brilliant kicker. Of course, it also included his trademark “Put one in the win column for the fightin’ Phils!” Just an all around great call.
17. Cameron Rupp and Tyler Goeddel star in a great call?
Yep. Cameron Rupp was a serviceable catcher for a few years, but nothing more. Tyler Goeddel wasn’t even that. He was a Rule 5 draft pick that the Phillies whiffed on and eventually sent packing. But Goeddel did have one classic moment for the Phillies, and it led to an epic call from Tom McCarthy.
So much to unpack here as far ad the call. First, McCarthy give a great call on the play at the plate with a simple yet excellent “He’s OUT!” But the call of this play lingers on for a couple minutes because of a review, so there are some other gems in here.
“Cameron Rupp hangs on! Oh man, what a play.” – McCarthy knows you can see the collision just like he can. So there’s no reason to tell you Suarez plowed into him. But, what isn’t as clear visually, at least not right away, is if Rupp held on to the ball. Great work by McCarthy to point that out immediately.
“Look at this throw!” – Understated by Mike Schmidt but just recapturing what we just saw.
“I don’t need to throw it in the grass, I’ll just throw it in the air,” Great line here by Ben Davis too to point out Goeddel had enough confidence to fire the throw on a line rather than one hop it to the plate like most outfielders do.
“Ooh, what a collision!” Now, on replay, McCarthy knows the time is right to comment on the collision.
And once the call on the field was confirmed…
“ALL RIGHT!” (followed by a couple of claps). This may have been the most fired up during a call Ben has ever been. All because of a play at the plate and the catcher holding on to the ball, taking him back to his playing days.
16. Scott Franzke does a special open following another mass shooting
Mass shootings touch us all. Especially those that involve children. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas… there’ve been far too many to name them all, but the most recent one that took place in Uvalde, Texas, hopefully will have been America’s tipping point.
That said, it’s easy to get caught up in a political argument when you talk about guns and gun owner rights and mental health, and all that.
But, what its not easy to do is to deliver a common sense, non-political message that gets right to the heart of the matter and is as thought provoking as it is honest and raw.
A Texas native, Franzke put the happenings of what took place into the most eloquent plea one could possibly muster into a couple minutes of brilliantly broadcasted opinion.
No matter our individual beliefs or stances on the issues that are being fervently debated across the nation today, we, as Philadelphians, or those who live just outside of the cradle of liberty where our country was formed, should feel proud to have such a superb orator like Franzke that we can call our own.
15. Garry Maddox makes the catch to clinch the 1980 National League Pennant
The five-game series between the Phillies and Houston Astros in the 1980 NLCS, many believe, was the best playoff series in modern day baseball history.
Every game was close. Four of the five went extra innings. Both teams punched, counter-punched, and counter-punched some more.
There were so many memorable moments in this series – from a whacky triple play that was changed to a double play that should have been neither, to Pete Rose bowling through Houston catcher Alan Ashby to score a crucial run, to epic comebacks against Hall of Fame pitchers – it was a drama gripping enough to deserve a special Emmy Award for true life drama unfolding in front of America.
And while this call wasn’t the best of the series (we have that one still to come). It’s still pretty memorable on several fronts, none better than the overt joy being shared by a veteran broadcaster in Kalas, and a neophyte in Tim McCarver, who actually played for the Phillies in 1980 but was left off the postseason roster, and summoned to the broadcast booth instead.
Kalas still plugging through while McCarver is outright giddy, laughing in celebration and hugging and kissing everyone in the booth is awesome. Just the way Harry says the word “mobbed” you know there are some shenanigans going on in the booth.
But it all starts with McCarver’s line as Ruthven is delivering the final pitch about Enos Cabell definitely not looking to walk on a 3-2 pitch – “If he takes this pitch, I’ll buy you a Mazda.”
McCarver also recovers from his celebrating quickly enough to weigh in on the great series by his fellow catcher, and friend, Bob Boone.
Just a wild scene and a great call.
14. Jimmy Rollins hits his 20th triple of the season on his final at-bat
Everyone remembers September 30, 2007 for the Phillies overcoming a seven game deficit in the final 16 games to pass the New York Mets and win the National League East.
It was one hell of a celebration at Citizens Bank Park.
But what was a great part of it was Jimmy Rollins accomplishing something that only three other players have in the history of the sport of baseball at the major league level.
Rollins became just the fourth player to finish a season with at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
He joined a club with Frank Schulte (Chicago Cubs, 1911), Willie Mays (San Francisco Giants, 1957) and Curtis Granderson (Detroit Tigers, also 2007).
It took until his final at-bat in the final game of the season to make it happen.
This is the only “call” by Chris Wheeler on the list (although he will be featured in a prominent moment tomorrow), as he used to do the middle innings of the TV broadcast to give Harry Kalas a break in 2007. And maybe its the combination of the great camera work with Wheeler’s mounting excitement and the most excited call by Sarge Matthews ever as well that just make this moment a Phillies classic.
When the camera catches Aaron Rowand pointing out to Pat Burrell that Rollins is going for the triple, Wheeler immediately picks up on it. “Jimmy Rollins is going to try for three, here he comes…” (Then Sarge’s explosive “YES” before Wheeler continues…)”HE GOT A TRIPLE! OOOOHHHH JIMMY ROLLINS WITH THAT BIG 20TH TRIPLE OF THE YEAR!”
Then Sarge (more subdued), “Holy Cow.”
And Wheeler with the cherry on top, “WOW!”
Just great work from the booth.
13. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen open the broadcast on the day Harry Kalas died
We all remember where we were and what we were doing. I was sitting with my then 13-year-old son and 11 of his soon-to-be eighth grade buddies helping them run their very first fantasy baseball league. (Yes, the season had already started. They were going to start with May 1 and move on from there). We were having a blast, until the news broke about Harry.
It was like a pall came over the house. I couldn’t concentrate. I had to go elsewhere and call friends and family and talk about it. The draft was put on hold. It was a sad day. And I still remember having to tell 12 boys, 11 of which weren’t mine, but all were ardent Phillies fans, that Harry was gone.
And as tough as that was for me, it paled into comparison to the guys who had to do TV and radio of that game in Washington that day.
Imagine that, if you will. Having those emotions with you from just a couple hours earlier, in the ballpark, in the broadcast booth no less, and you now have to call a game. It’s unfathomable.
But these guys, professionals that they are, did it, and did it so very well.
No part of it was better though than Franzke and LA and their radio opening on that April day in our nation’s capital.
12. Manny Trillo’s triple gives the Phillies the lead in Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS in Houston
I mentioned earlier that there was a better call than the final out from that game. This is it.
The Phillies were down 5-2 going into the top of the eighth inning of this game and Astros ace Nolan Ryan was still on the hill.
The Phillies expected win percentage late on this Sunday afternoon, (October 12, 1980) entering the eighth inning was just 5%.
Larry Bowa led off with a single. Bob Boone followed with one too. Greg Gross, pinch hitting, laid down a beautiful bunt and beat it out to load the bases with no outs.
Pete Rose then worked a walk taking a close pitch on 3-2, cutting the lead to 5-3.
Ryan was pulled, and relieved by Joe Sambito.
Sambito got the next hitter, Keith Moreland, who was pinch hitting for Bake McBride, to ground into a fielders choice. However, another run scored and it was 5-4 with runners at the corners.
Ramon Aviles pinch ran for Moreland, and N.L> MVP Mike Schmidt strode to the plate. Houston countered by going to Ken Forsch, who promptly struck out Schmidt.
With two outs, it was up to pinch hitter extraordinaire Del Unser, and he ripped a single, scoring Gross and tying the game.
But tying the game wasn’t enough. That’s when Manny Trillo came in to deliver the big blow:
Kalas has a great call, but again it’s McCarver, who until late in the season when he wasn’t being used any longer because Moreland had supplanted him as the backup catcher, had never broadcasted a game, was in the background of the booth jumping up and down and screaming his beloved head off that added the soundtrack to Harry’s call.
Still, Harry’s excitement and punctuation before Ashburn takes over makes it a classic: “What a comeback by this fightin’ bunch of Phils.”
And then later Harry adds, “What a comeback against Nolan Ryan, who is brilliant in these situations, but I’ll tell you this club just does not die.”
Amazingly, Houston would come back and tie it themselves and force extra innings. The Phillies went back on top on an RBI single by Garry Maddox and then Dick Ruthven shut them down to win their first National League pennant in 30 years.
11. Kim Batiste atones for his error in a big way
In Philadelphia, I have a hard time determining which teams that didn’t win a championship are more beloved. There’s the 1980 Eagles in football, the 2001 Sixers in basketball, the 1987 Flyers in hockey and then there’s these guys, who might win the poll – the 1993 Phillies.
Predicted for last place in the National League East entering the season, the Phillies stunned the baseball world and won the division and advanced to the NLCS where they were heavy underdogs against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves.
In Game 1 in Philadelphia (October 6, 1993), The Phillies had a 3-2 lead on the Braves going into the ninth inning following a masterful pitching performance by Curt Schilling who pitched eight innings and struck out 10 Braves, including the first five in the game.
Manager Jim Fregosi turned to his closer, Mitch Williams, but also to Kim Batiste to play third base as a defensive replacement for Dave Hollins.
Williams promptly walked leadoff batter Bill Pecota (something he did far too many times in 1993), and then on the next play, Mark Lemke hit a ground ball to Batiste that had a chance to be a double play. Except his throw to second was wide and all runners were safe, because of his error, Rafael Belliard was able to bunt the runners over and Pecota scored on an Otis Nixon groundout, as the Braves tied the score without a hit and on an unearned run by a defensive replacement.
The game would go extra innings, and in the bottom of the 10th, John Kruk would hit a one-out double off of Atlanta closer Greg McMichael, bringing Batiste to the plate:
“BASE HIT! BASE HIT! Kruk scores and the Phillies win it 4-3 on the RBI hit by Kim Batiste.” It’s not an iconic phrase, like some you will see in the top 10 tomorrow, but for those of us who lived it, it’s a call we’ll never forget.
Like I said, it’s likely more so because of how beloved the team was, and they always seemed to find ways to win games, especially against teams that were ,ore talented then they were, so to have a hero in the playoffs be a guy off the bench, and have it be redeeming an error that almost cost them the game earlier, made the call that much more memorable.
All right… we’re down to the top 10 for tomorrow. I’m sure you probably know what many of them will be (although I think there are a couple surprises), the question is, do you agree with my final order? My guess is, you won’t.
Looking forward to it though!