Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 71

Gene Kelly was the radio voice of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1950- 1959. Born in Brooklyn NY, Kelly pitched in the minor leagues after graduating from Marshall College in 1941. He would soon experience arm trouble, which ended his playing days. Kelly managed to continue a career in sports by turning to radio.

When legendary announcer By Saam, who pulled double duty beginning in 1939 calling both Phillies and Athletics games, moved over to the A's side exclusively, Gene Kelly was the man who would fill the void and took over as the Phillies play-by-play man.

The Phillies began broadcasting their games over the air in 1936, but until the 1950's, the broadcasters only attended home games and did not travel with the team. All road games were recreated, on the air, by the announcers who read a Western Union teletype account of the games from the studio in Philadelphia.

During the decade of the 50's, Kelly was partnered with several different broadcasters, including Claude Haring, Bill Brundige and George Walsh. In addition to the partner switches, the lineup of flagship stations was on regular rotation as well.

Kelly, who varying reports list at either 6-feet-7-inches or 6-feet-8-inches tall, spent his off-seasons calling action for the Philadelphia Warriors NBA team.

In 1959, Kelly was fired by the Phillies and would move to Cincinnati to call Reds games for a few seasons. Kelly would also continue to call basketball as well as college football and later returned to Philadelphia to become the sports director for an upstart TV station, channel 48.

Late in his career, Kelly had suffered a stroke and was left unable to do certain everyday tasks, including driving. A young future Philadelphia broadcasting legend, who wanted to do anything he could to get closer to the business, offered to drive for Kelly at no charge. That young man's name was Merrill Reese.

Kelly passed away in 1979.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good summation of Gene Kelly's career. He was a first rate broadcaster who has never received the recognition due him. He replaced By Saam in 1950 and never missed a beat. Within two weeks of the season Saam was, not forgotten, but not missed either. Later, in '55 when Saam rejoined the Phils, they made shared broadcasting duties.

As you note, health problems cut his career short in Cincy and later ventures. Nonetheless, he was a terrific baseball play by play man and deserves recognition.

Anonymous said...

As I understand, his real name was not Gene Kelly. Am I correct? I remember listening to him and By Saam in the 1950's when I just started getting interested in sports. Used to listen to all the Phillies games from my home town of Wyoming, PA.

Anonymous said...

ANONYMOUS: YOU ARE CORRECT. HIS REAL NAME WAS NOT GENE KELLY. IT WAS EUGENE SLATER THIS I KNOW BECAUSE HE WAS A RELATIVE OF MINE.