There are fewer and fewer great baseball announcers from the great golden age of radio and early television left… and yesterday we lost one of the greatest, Ernie Harwell.
When MLB.com started a subscription program where you can listen to any ballgame’s radio broadcast live in the early 2000s, I got it and would listen in to the other announcers. Around that time, when I saw the Tigers were playing an interesting game, I would listen to Ernie’s broadcast.
He was a pro. He didn’t try to create a persona or catch phrases. He called the game with dignity, humor and with a rhythm all his own. I was happy that I could hear him live calling the details of the game instead of simply the highlights.
And remember, this was to my knowledge the only announcer who was traded for a player. Branch Rickey (who knew a thing or two about long term thinking) dealt catcher Cliff Dapper to the Atlanta minor league team in exchange for Harwell’s contract.
Dapper never played again in the bigs.
And lest we forget Bo Schembechler let Ernie go inexplicably in the early 1990s during Schembechler’s disastrous turn at running the Tigers.
It’s one thing to put a crappy product on the field, but Bo made it SOUND worse without Harwell in the booth!
When Mike Ilitch took over the team, the first thing he did was bring Harwell back. (Oh yeah, Mike Ilitch also made sure the Red Wings remained champs and the Tigers made it back to the World Series.)
So rest in peace whereever you are Ernie.
And for the rest of us on Earth, let’s remember Ernie for what he was… one of the best voices in the game.
Click HERE to hear him call the 1984 AL East title for the Tigers.