Harwell was much more than just a radio broadcaster. He was a legend.
Harwell touched the lives of baseball fans all over the country.
He spent most of his career as the play-by-play announcer for the
Detroit Tigers on 760 WJR-AM. The radio station's signal can be
heard over most of the United States and Canada in the evening,
as far south as Florida. Harwell was born on January 25, 1918 in
Washington, Ga. His heart stopped beating for the last time on May
4, 2010 at his home in Fox Run Village in Novi, Mich. He died of
incurable bile duct cancer, after deciding against surgery or other
treatment of the condition.
always had a way of relaxing me," said Jay Anderson of Detroit.
"At the end of the day, I'd get home and hear the ball game
on the radio. Ernie was just a great storyteller. He made me feel
like things were going to be alright no matter what. He was like
an adult version of Mr. Rogers. If Ernie was talking, everyone was
quiet. You just felt comfortable. He had a much greater depth of
knowledge than broadcasters. Ernie would remember a single A baseball
player from 1922 that he read about one time in a newspaper. He
always seemed to have that information on hand."
grew up in Atlanta and was a newspaper delivery boy for the Atlanta
Georgian. He later became the visiting batboy for the Atlanta
Crackers. By the age of 16, he was a regional correspondent for
The Sporting News. The late broadcaster attended Emory
University, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
He helped to edit The Emory Wheel student newspaper there.
Harwell served as a copy editor and sports writer for the Atlanta
Constitution. In 1943, he began announcing games for the Crackers
on WSB radio after serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
loved the man," said Jill Woodward of Howell, Mich. "When
I think of baseball, I think of Ernie Harwell and his voice on the
radio for many, many years. I really liked how he treated baseball.
He respected it, he respected the people. It was more of a passion
rather than a job."
1948, Harwell was traded for a player when the Brooklyn Dodgers
traded catcher Cliff Dapper to the Crackers in exchange for breaking
Harwell's broadcasting contract. He was sent to Brooklyn to substitute
for Dodger announcer Red Barber, who was hospitalized at the time.
Harwell did play-by-play for the Dodgers through 1949, then went
to do it for the New York Giants from 1950 to 1953 and the Baltimore
Orioles from 1954 to 1959.
was a wonderful man, I remember listening to him on the radio as
a kid," said Tony Keith from Ann Arbor, Mich. "I used
to have my transistor radio and listening to him in bed until hopefully
the Tigers won. He had his very earthy down-home southern drawl.
He had all the great expressions. He was just a quality guy. He
was my favorite over the years. I followed the Tigers since about
'57. The only time I actually met him, I was at Tiger Stadium and
had my father-in-law with us and he wasn't getting around too good
at the time. We took the elevator up and Ernie joined us in the
elevator. That was pretty special. I think this is a wonderful tribute
to a very good man."
1960, he became the voice of the Detroit Tigers. Harwell
worked with Ray Lane from 1967 to 1972 and then Paul Carey from
1973 to 1991. His contract was not renewed after 1991 when WJR wanted
to go in a "new direction." From 1994 to 1998, he announced
Tigers games on television. In 1999, Harwell resumed full-time radio
duties with the Tigers and was teamed up with Jim Price until 2002.
He called one game during a Wednesday Night Baseball telecast on
ESPN in 2003. Harwell was a guest announcer for an inning of Fox's
coverage of the All-Star Game in 2005. He also wrote occasional
columns for the Detroit Free Press.
loved to hear, 'it's looooooooong gooooone,'" said Diane Franciosi
from Brownstown, Mich. "He was the best, he can't be replaced.
I would have loved to have met him in person. I know he's done a
lot of charity. But I never had that opportunity. What a great tribute
to a wonderful person. We couldn't give him a better send-off here
in the city of Detroit. I walked down on my lunch and just wanted
to come by and pay tribute. Ernie's the best, we're going to miss
him and rest in peace."
Harwell's public viewing took place from 7 a.m. to midnight on Thursday,
May 6 at Comerica Park. Fans lined up along two sides of the ballpark
to see the late radio broadcaster. The line went quickly as most
fans only had to wait about 30 minutes to see Harwell. The casket
was open and the late broadcaster was wearing a cap. There were
many historical photos located next to the coffin. A total of 11,176
fans came to see Harwell during the public viewing. There was a
large postcard available for fans to leave messages, which will
be given to Harwell's family.
was Mr. Baseball, fantastic, a very compassionate man," said
Joani Cartolano from Clawson, Mich. "When my girls were younger,
we went to spring training in Florida. He let them come up to the
booth and signed their glove and everything. They have that memory
to this day. It wonderful they're giving us an opportunity to say
goodbye. We're going to miss that voice."
The main branch of the Detroit Public Library is featuring a special
exhibit with historical artifacts used by Harwell through May 15.
Some of the artifacts being displayed are Harwell's 1968 World Series
ring, seats from Tiger Stadium and a mock broadcast booth. The Detroit
Historical Museum has also put its Ernie Harwell collection back
on display through May 30 in its Round Hall.
Wikipedia.org, detroithistorical.org and www.detroit.lib.mi.us.