Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ernie Harwell Passes Away at 92

I was on the way home from a 5K race tonight when I turned on my satellite radio to XM 175 and heard a familiar reassuring voice. It was Ernie Harwell doing a broadcast and for a brief moment I thought I was listening to today's game. It was no different from about 2,000 other times I flipped on the radio to hear a Tigers game. It took a few seconds for me to realize that Ernie has not been doing Tigers games for eight years and that this was just a clip from an old broadcast. It finally occurred to me that Mr. Harwell had passed away and that this was part of a news broadcast announcing his death.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts but I became a Tigers fan at the age five in 1968 when they won the World Series. Every other kid in the neighborhood was a Red Sox fan but even at that early age I was a contrarian. I needed my own team. I chose the Tigers and have stayed with them to this day. In a time before the internet, cable TV and all the other modern devices, Harwell was my primary link to the Tigers. All throughout my childhood and college years and beyond, I battled radio static to hear him broadcast the games.

I have had many favorite players over the years - Willie Horton, Ron Leflore, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Curtis Granderson and so many others. None of them had more to do with me becoming the avid fan I am today than Ernie though. I wouldn't be the same fan I am today without him.  I am not alone, of course. Ernie was the connection to baseball for thousands of Tigers fans for 42 years.

Ernie was not only arguably the greatest broadcaster of all time but by all accounts he was a kind, humble gentleman, who was loved by all that came in touch with him.  Even at the end, with death staring him in the face, he spoke positively and humorously. In one interview last summer he talked about his plans now that he had so little time left:
"I'm not saying goodbye, I'm here," Ernie said on Friday with characteristic spunk. "I plan to live life to the fullest until it's over. In fact, I'm heading out to lunch in a few minutes, and I'm going to have some ice cream. Maybe even some macaroni."
The man who taught so many young fans about the Tigers and about baseball and about having a positive outlook was now teaching us how to deal with life's ultimate challenge.

Ernie lived a very fulfilling life of 92 years so there is no need to feel sorry for him.  He wouldn't allow it anyway.  Still, it's a sad day for us as we reflect on all the memories he gave us.  He will be missed a lot by so many.  Rest in Peace Mr. Harwell.


  1. AnonymousMay 07, 2010

    Lee, Like you I have lived in and around Boston since '57. During the 60's on a clear summer night I would have the transistor under the pillow and listen to Ernie and the Tigers. It wasn't all that often, I saw them more at fenway park. But the man's voice was so soothing and his carry of the game without any of the distractions that so many announcers on the radio or tv do for many years. Ernie really made us think of that Grandpa or Uncle and that is why his passing even at an advanced age and long life still makes us sad. Ernie reminded us of family.
    Ron KC

  2. AnonymousMay 07, 2010

    You are an early blossom.

    I have the theory that you pick your team by who wins the championship when you are 10-12

    I agree that most people are making more of him then he would need or want

    I don't see Ernie as a teacher, but as an artist who pained a picture

    game by game


  3. Years ago, when Ernie did a book signing tour to promote his book Tuned To Baseball, I got a chance to meet him. As it turned out, it would be my only chance.

    He signed my copy of the book, personalizing it and adding "Thanks for your Tiger loyalty".

    I think it's cool that you've stayed a Tigers fan all these years, Lee, even through the bad, mediocre and horrible seasons.

    As Ernie would say, thanks for your Tiger loyalty.

  4. Thanks for all the comments guys. Ernie really was a special broadcaster who will never be replaced. Being an out-of-state person, one of the great things about the internet is being able meet Tigers fans who share the same memories as me.




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