Monday, April 13, 2009

Spaces Between Summers

Harry Kalas died today.

I never met the man, but I spent a good chunk of my childhood listening to him call Phillies games on radio and television. He had one of those deep sturdy voices that announcers have, though he often got excited by what he was watching. That I would take as a sign that I should pay attention, as baseball does have long spells where not much happens and I would get distracted by other things. That's one of the charms of the sport, I suppose.

When I was in college I had a friend who won a city-wide "Harry Kalas Sound-Alike" contest, and I have to say the resemblance was uncanny. Last I heard he went into radio too, which I guess was fitting.

There have been a number of tributes on the various web sites I frequent when avoiding work, and I've read through some of them. One thing that crops up a lot is the question of what your favorite call was. Most people choose either his calling the winning moments of the last World Series that the Phillies won, in 2008 (apparently local broadcasters were not allowed to call World Series in 1980, the other time the Phillies have won the Series since 1871), or his description of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run.

They were good moments.

But I think I rather prefer to remember the odd moments when he was just killing time between pitches. He'd slowly describe the count on the batter, the pitcher's motion, the crowd, or whatever. There would be spaces between the words. In my mind, there is also the low-level audio hiss of old television broadcasts underneath it all. It was surprisingly calm and peaceful, but you always knew that something exciting might be right around the next pitch.

That's what summers sounded like, when I was a kid. They haven't sounded like that in a long time, and I suppose now they won't again. Things change.

I think most of the important moments in life are like that - the odd moments that don't seem all that important until you look back on them. I find as I get older, having crested the midpoint of my three-score and ten some time ago and begun to coast down the other side, that more and more the moments I remember are not the big ones that were such a fuss at the time but rather the little ones, the ones with the faint hiss in the background that defined the day. Quiet moments spent not doing much, spent distracted from larger tasks, spent in the spaces between.

There is room for that, in the big busy world.

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