Friday, January 30, 2004

Hard to Believe, Harry | A brief story by Paul Hagen in today's Daily News reports that Harry Kalas and the Phillies seem to be close to a deal that would enable Kalas to inaugurate Citizens Bank Park from his rightful place in the broadcast booth. It sounds as if Harry the K might lose his battle to avoid calling games alongside Chris Wheeler, which is too bad, because to hear them together is to know the difference between professionalism and ass-kissing, between calling 'em like you see 'em and sucking up to the guy who signs the checks.

Writing about the dispute, Bill Conlin seems to want desperately to unload on Wheels, but his own professionalism gets the better of him:

It is not for me to enumerate personal issues that might or might not have undermined the Kalas-Wheeler relationship over 27 seasons they have worked together. That would be telling tales out of school. It would violate the confidentiality that is a cornerstone of any working relationship between a sports reporter and sources he collects over time -- particularly on a 24/7 beat like a major league baseball team. Suffice it to say, there are buried bodies, but you will have to go elsewhere for a time line or the gory details.

Conlin praises Wheeler for his preparation, which seems to me like praising a journalist for knowing how to type. I mean, why shouldn't a broadcaster, especially a full-time employee of the team, be as prepared as possible? Unfortunately, Conlin only hints at the whiny, undeniably biased attitude which makes Wheels so grating to listen to.

Why David Montgomery doesn't give Kalas anything for which he asks that is reasonable -- and wanting to work only with Larry Andersen and John Kruk is reasonable -- is completely beyond me. For so many years when they were scraping along the bottom of National League East, Kalas was the Phils, as much as Harry Caray was the Cubs and Ernie Harwell the Tigers. Every Phillies fan within earshot of a radio on a humid summer's evening has a fond Harry Kalas memory. No one has a similar Chris Wheeler memory.


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