Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Farewell, Ernie Harwell

One of the true legends in the history of radio has died.

Ernie Harwell, the longtime voice of the Detroit Tigers and one of the iconic voices in baseball, died Tuesday at 92 after a long battle with cancer.

Harwell worked baseball games for 55 years, starting with Atlanta in 1946. He worked for four teams total before starting with the Tigers in 1960. Outside of a controversial firing after the 1991 season, he worked continuously as the Tigers' voice until his retirement in 2002.

For me, there were four voices I grew up listening to. As you might expect, Bob Uecker was and still is No. 1 when it comes to baseball on the radio. I listened to as many Brewers games as I could, sneaking the radio under my pillow when the games ran late. When the Brewers didn't play or were on too late, I flipped up the dial and listened to Herb Carneal call Twins games. Harwell did a handful of national games, enough for me to understand how great he was (remember, we didn't have MLB.com streaming all the games when I was growing up in the 1980s). The other guy I always listened to when I had the chance was Dodgers legend Vin Scully.

Uecker and Scully are still with us doing games, though Uecker is out until later this summer because of heart surgery, and Scully rarely travels anymore.

Harwell announced last September he had inoperable cancer, and he was honored at a Tigers home game in the middle of that month. Here is video from that game.

Harwell's spring training ritual -- a Bible verse -- will likely be remembered most by many Tigers fans.

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of the singing of birds is come,

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Beautiful words used annually by Harwell to describe a wonderful time of the year for baseball fans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent tribute Bruce. As a native of Detroit, I grew up listening to Ernie...he was the best. Upon moving to Duluth in the early 1980s, I could still tune in Ernie on WJR 760 at night. Heading down to Target Field for the first time to see my Tigers and will do so with some sadness with Ernie's passing....