There are plenty of writers and bloggers that are going to write a lot of platitudes about the great Ernie Harwell, and most better than I. But it’s Ernie, so I’m writing anyway. Hope you don’t mind.
Anyone that knows me is aware that I’m a huge fan of Michigan Football coaching legend Bo Schembechler. But there was one event that had me not liking Bo for awhile, and that came during his stint as Detroit Tigers Team President when he fired Ernie Harwell, the longtime voice of the Tigers. WHAT?????? HOW THE HELL COULD HE DO THAT, IT’S ERNIE HARWELL FOR GODSAKES!!!!!!! This is the guy I listened to on the radio when I was growing up, listening to Tigers games when they weren’t on tv. I definitely wasn’t the only one that felt that way. One year later, Ernie was back as the voice until he retired at the end of the 2002 season. Not even the almighty Bo could win this battle.
Luckily, I got to meet him on April 2nd, 2003–the Tigers weren’t expected to be good that year (and hadn’t been for a few years up to that point), so they naturally did what most struggling teams do when they need to bring in an audience, and that’s have a meet-and-greet for the players and fans. Chances are you’ve read countless stories about how Mr. Harwell was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Those stories are true–he’d talk with every person that came to see him for a few moments, pose for pictures and sign autographs. We did talk for a few moments and I wish I could remember what we talked about but I honestly have no idea. I do remember him being very pleasant not just with me but with everyone he came in contact with, always a smile and thanking everyone for coming down to the game. Simply incredible to me–others could take some lessons from that.
Anyone in Detroit knew this day was coming for almost a year now, but when the news came through on May 4 that Ernie Harwell had passed away at the age of 92 it still hit like a punch to the gut. Yet another piece of my childhood has gone away, and it sucks. So Mr. Harwell, thank you for all those years calling games for my Tigers. Your voice and the way you described the game, combined with my father teaching me the game helped make my love for baseball (and the Tigers) what it is now. Thank you so much.