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.