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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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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