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Remembering Harry Kalas

I don't think I've ever waxed sentimental here in all the years I've been blogging for mentalfloss.com, but with the sudden death of Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas this week, I've been feeling kind of blue. I used to listen to Harry in bed, after my bedtime, on a small AM transistor radio shaped like a boat. To tune in a station, you had to move the rudder. To up the volume, you had to adjust the position of the lifesaver. For years, from the age of seven or eight, I kept a journal, mostly filled with Phillies' highlights ("Schmidt homered and Harry K. screamed "˜THAT BALL IS OUTTA HEEEEEERE!' again and it was really really exciting!"). Yes, it was slugger Mike Schmidt that motivated me to pen a journal entry, but it was Harry Kalas who etched that homerun in my soul forever and his death on Monday shook me in a way I didn't expect.

In recent years, with MLB.com allowing me to hear my hometown station over the Internet, I always tried to tune into the fourth inning because that was the only inning Harry called on the radio (most other innings he called on TV).

Hearing that voice always brought me back to a simpler time, when baseball felt somehow holy—when stars like Mike Schmidt stayed with one team for their entire career and earned a fair-sized paycheck, enabling most anyone to afford a game. I'm talking before free agents became the norm, before 24-hour sports coverage became the norm, before you could buy nachos and garlic fries at a game, before asterisks.

His voice also brought me back to a simpler time in my own life, which is probably the number one reason I bought the MLB.com yearly radio pass in the first place. He was the thread that connected the present, old, jaded version of me, with my youth, with the happy-go-lucky, innocent version.

And Harry wasn't just the Hall of Fame voice of the Phillies since the early '70s, he was the voice of NFL Films, touching millions outside the Philadelphia area, narrating so many of their great highlight films over the last three decades.

Here are two short clips for those who never heard the man, or don't remember what his voice sounded like. It's remarkable that, over the course of more than 100 years, the Phillies only won two World Series rings, in 1980 and in 2008. Harry was part of the team for both, and I can't help but wonder if they'll ever be able to win another without him.


Shot of Harry in the booth, calling the final pitch of the 2008 World Series


Harry at work, narrating an NFL film

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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