Commentary

Two sudden losses

Updated: April 16, 2009, 1:45 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I was saddened by the news earlier this week. Sports fans lost two big names in broadcaster Harry Kalas and pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.

I was heartbroken with this news. Kalas was one of the truly great broadcasters, an all-time superstar. You heard his voice and you just knew it was special.

He did an amazing job with NFL Films. His voice came booming through on those highlights. Kalas was an absolute treasure calling Phillies games, producing so many great moments. I can listen to the call of Michael Jack Schmidt and that 500th home run over and over.

It was great to hear Harry hook up with his son Todd, who works on the Tampa Bay Rays broadcasts. It was sweet to hear them share a microphone together in the World Series.

Harry Kalas was a true, genuine Hall of Famer who will be sorely missed.

Then there was "The Bird". He gave me thrill after thrill; I was at the University of Detroit coaching the Titans when Fidrych made his debut back in 1976. He dazzled and it was a dream to go to the ballpark.

I didn't miss many of the outings when he took the mound at Tiger Stadium. It was so much fun to watch his antics, to see his joy when he pitched. He was like a Little Leaguer with so much enthusiasm.

I loved watching him talk to the baseball. He was nicknamed "The Bird" because he was like the Sesame Street character. I will never forget having him attend one of our University of Detroit basketball games, along with Tigers outfielder Ron LeFlore & it was such a treat. He was as fun-loving there as he was on the field.

Fidrych will be missed. He was a special guy who handled his success in a positive way. His career was cut short by all kinds of injuries.

For that one year he was so special, winning 19 games and the Rookie of the Year. He became a legend in the Motor City.

Two giants, a Hall of Famer and a pitcher who was a kid at heart, who put smiles on so many faces when he took the mound, are gone. Rest in peace, Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych & thanks for all of the golden memories.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.