Ernie Harwell, long time Tigers announcer, and a life-long presence to many of us, has passed away at the age of 92.
For over 4 decades, he was the voice of baseball. Radios on in my bedroom as a kid, listening to the Tigers play and Ernie calling the shots. Riding in the car with my grandfather, to and from the game, Ernie on the radio with the preshow and wrap-up. Listening to him on radio, watching the game on tv with the sound turned down, when I was in my 30’s. His great catch-phrases – homeruns were “looooooong gone!” and batters who took a third strike “stood there like the house by the side of the road”. And he always, whenever a foul ball found its way into the crowd, would pluck the name of a town near wherever they were playing out of the air and work it into the broadcast… “A fan from Dayton caught that one”, or “A fan from Battle Creek will get to take that one home!”
I met Ernie Harwell. A play I was stage managing had Tigers legend Al Kaline as a character, and the actual Al Kaline came to see it – and he brought former Tiger Jim Price, and Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell with him. The whole company was thrilled when they stuck around after the show, and we took pictures onstage with them all – they wanted to meet the actors, and the whole company wanted to meet them. The 3 of them were the absolute epitome of graciousness. In an instant where they could’ve said “Thanks” and bolted, they stayed until every hand was shook, and every autograph was given.
He began every Spring Training season with a reading from Song of Solomon. For years I would make sure to be at a radio for the start of each Spring Training, just to hear him say it:
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.
This is a beautiful article about Ernie Harwell. Whether you were a Tigers fan, a baseball fan, or just a fan of people – I think you’ll enjoy it. I may have gotten something in my eye, just for a little bit, while reading this. I wonder how many folks, tonight, are sitting back and wandering through memories of their lives – youth through adulthood – and being humbled by how much the passing of just one man you may have only met once can affect you so much?
I know at least one is.