“You get a one game audition,” said the program director of WPHL-TV to the 22-year old kid. “You pass it, you got the job. If you don’t, well…”
A gentleman named Zvi Shoubin spoke those words to me at a dinner for two in September, 1978. The plan was to have me audition on Channel 17 for the position of play-by-play announcer for an indoor soccer team, the Philadelphia Fever. And with my dream of becoming the voice of a pro sports team actually within reach, I was starting to get wigged out.
Maybe that’s why on that Saturday afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut when I left my hotel room to travel to the arena and meet my destiny, I did not meet the guy who was supposed to be my color analyst for that fateful telecast. Instead, as I rendezvoused with the producer for game in the hotel lobby, he introduced me to a guy I grew up aspiring to be just like: Phillies voice Harry Kalas.
Harry Kalas? Well in retrospect, it all makes sense to me now. Green as I was, the folks at Channel 17 weren’t about allow me to take my maiden voyage without an escort. And so, as a favor, Harry agreed to fly to Hartford. It didn’t matter what Harry may or may not have known about indoor soccer. What mattered was that Harry was well-known to Philly. He would not only give the telecast instant credibility, he’d be there to hold young Zumoff’s hand. Channel 17 would have peace of mind knowing if the Zumoff kid screwed it up, Harry would be there to fix it.
Little did they realize that working with Harry would make me even more nervous! Why I remember 1971, being in 10th grade at George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia. One March day, I ran home from school with a friend to switch on the radio and hear the first words of this brand new Phillies announcer doing a Grapefruit League game, this guy named Harry Kalas. Even his first syllables were impressive. My friend and I smiled at each other, knowing this guy was already good.
The audition? I passed it, though I can’t recall much about it. What I do remember is the interaction with Harry after the game, the dinner he took me to, the bottle of wine we shared, his calming influence and his wonderful counsel.
“Marc,” I recall him saying in that god-like Basso Profondo of his, “you did well, a great job.”
Harry, so did you my friend. So did you.
Thanks for being there.
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