Oct 6, 2006

Catching Up With Ernie Harwell

(Toledo, OH) Like all Detroit Tigers fans I have been ecstatic about the team's resurrection after 12 years of some of the worst baseball ever played. As I write this I am watching the Tigers-Yankees game on ESPN.

I was doubly blessed to find that ESPN invited Ernie Harwell into the broadcast booth. Harwell, for those unfamiliar with this legendary broadcaster, was the radio voice of the Tigers from 1960 until 2002. He worked for 58 years as an announcer in baseball, calling games for the Dodgers, Giants, and Orioles before joining the Tigers.

There are few memories from my childhood clearer than the nights I spent with an ear to my transistor radio listening to Ernie call the Tigers games.

A throwback moment when Kenny Rogers fanned Jason Giambi, and Ernie gave one of his trademark calls: "STRIKE three! He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched it go by."

One of the few criticisms of Harwell (near the end of his career) was that his vision was weakening, and that there might be no relation between his play-by-play and what happened on the field. In the fourth inning, he summed up a high fastball by Rogers in this fashion: "Strike! He got one on the inside corner."

You know what? I couldn't care less if Ernie called balls as strikes. The reasons I loved listening to Ernie Harwell involved his enthusiasm for the game and his wealth of baseball lore.

I can say with complete honesty that I have never heard the same Harwell anecdote twice. In a discussion with Joe Morgan about the possibility that Derek Jeter might win the Most Valuable Player award, Harwell dug out a nugget about Roger Peckinpaugh, the 1925 MVP who committed 8 errors in the World Series against Pittsburgh.

"Ever since that time, they waited until after the World Series to announce the MVP," he said.

Pretty damn sharp for an 88-year-old man, that Ernie Harwell.

Ernie - it's been too long, but I am glad we reconnected tonight, if only for two innings.


Valbe said...

I enjoyed those two innings as well, Mike. And the rest of the game, too!

My son essentially told me I was being a bandwagon fan today because I was rooting for the Tigers. Well, when your team (Cubs *sigh*) isn't in it, you might as well cheer someone on, eh? (And I detest those Yankees!)

Go Tigers!

LTLOP said...

Who could ever forget the poem that he read every every opening day? It touches the psyche of every baseball loving American, whether you are a bleeding heart liberal, concrete hearted conservative or somwhere in between.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I never sought out Ernie, but I remember his voice and his style as if he were speaking right now.

Riveting ;-)

JET said...

We cut off the tv at our house and just listened to him call the game over the surround system. Quite memorable.