Sep 4, 2009, 8:20 AM EDT
This is about the worst news I could have woken up to this morning:
Ernie Harwell, the treasured voice of the Tigers for all those years,
has incurable bile duct cancer. In comments to the Detroit Free Press
on Thursday, he said he won’t undergo surgery.
“We don’t know how long this lasts,” Harwell, 91, told the Free
Press. “It could be a year. It could be much less than a year, much
less than a half year. Who knows? Whatever is in store, I’m ready for a
I know he’s 91 so it’s not like this is some gobsmacking tragedy, but I can’t overstate how important Ernie Harwell has been to my life.
I was a nervous kid, afraid of the dark and afraid of going to sleep myself. My parents let me turn on the radio at night as I went to bed and the talk, rather than the music, made me feel better. The voice that gave me the most comfort was Ernie Harwell’s voice on WJR, which I latched onto before I even truly realized it was describing a baseball game.
Ernie put me to sleep most spring and summer nights for several years, teaching me about baseball in the process. He also taught me that I could enjoy it just as much if I could not actually see it, which I can’t help but think is the reason why I enjoy writing up the “And That Happened” recaps every day. I don’t see hardly any of the games I describe, but just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean that there isn’t a story to be told. Information and flavor to be teased out.
Maybe you always have a thing for your first love, but I think I’m being objective when I say that I have never encountered a better baseball broadcaster than Ernie Harwell. How lucky that I had him putting me to sleep when I was four years old as opposed to someone else. Would I have even been a baseball fan if it was John Sterling’s voice on the radio? Given that I was first tuning in for the delivery and not the product itself, I kinda doubt it.
Ernie had his fastball until the end. FOX brought him out during the 2006 ALDS between the Tigers and Yankees and let him do an inning or two. He stepped in as if it was still his full time job, and didn’t miss a beat. I recall that whoever FOX kept in the booth with him — I want to say McCarver, but it could have been Zelasko or someone — wanted to talk to him about his history and other such fluff, condescending to him, really, the way people often do to the elderly. Ernie seemed annoyed and deflected the person’s attempts to wallow in nostalgia, obviously wanting to keep the focus on the game. Where it should be. And he did. And it was wonderful.
Baseball will never see his like again.
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- Clayton Kershaw wins his 20th game of the season 9
- Why are so many people acting like Bryce Harper is a bum? 78
- It certainly looks like Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction is going to be overturned 88
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 72
- VIDEO: Derek Jeter hits first home run at Yankee Stadium this season 11
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife 103
- No, baseball does not need to “announce a domestic violence policy ASAP” 52
- Geddy Lee’s baseball obsession makes it really hard for me to hate Rush (108)
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife (103)
- It certainly looks like Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction is going to be overturned (89)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (83)
- Umpire ejects jackwagon fan heckling Bryce Harper in Atlanta last night (82)