Ernie Harwell, the "Voice of Summer" passed away last week. For any of my readers from the Detroit area, this was a monumental loss. Ernie had called games for the Tigers for over 40 years on the radio. Three generations of us had grown up listening to him tell us what city the person who caught the foul ball was from. He was, and will forever be a part of this city and state.
When I was younger, we did not have cable TV, so there were not many opportunities to watch the Tigers on TV. I remember the first time I watched a Tigers broadcast, I had no idea who was doing it. To me the Tigers automatically equaled Ernie Harwell. He had all the trademark sayings of a great announcer, and that smooth southern drawl was always easy on the ears. I used to listen to Tigers games on my little Walkman while moving the lawn at my Parents house in New Boston. He had an uncanny ability to paint the picture for you, you could almost smell the beer and peanuts while listening to him call a game.
The amazing thing about Ernie was not his skill in game calling, although that was good enough to get him inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1981, a full 21 years BEFORE he retired. The amazing thing about Harwell was how he handled his life and impending death. He was a man deeply rooted in his faith (He opened every season with a Bible verse), and was not afraid to talk about it, or to tell anyone and everyone that his faith took away all fear of death. When reading a commentary on his life, I saw mentioned by several people that Ernie was one of the few people that they had never heard a bad thing said about. Think about that. How many people do you know like that? Could you say the same about yourself?
It is clear that Ernie was a great man, not by his professional accomplishments or fame, but rather by the way he treated all he came across. There are literally hundreds of stories involving him going out of his way to be nice to fans. As recently as last year you could look up his number in the phone book and call him to have a chat. Yes, a hall of fame announcer known throughout the country has a listed phone number, and actually did not mind if you called or even dropped by.
When I heard him give his farewell address at Comerica Park, I was stunned. Here was a man with inoperable cancer, predicted to have less then 6 months to live and he goes out there and does nothing but thank everyone ELSE. Here is a proud man, proud of his faith, proud of his adopted state but also humble enough to thank God for all the blessings of his life, giving Him credit, and taking none for his own. Below is the video of Ernie saying goodbye:
In the course of my life, if I can be half as generous, kind and humble as Ernie Harwell, well then I will have lived a truly blessed life. RIP Ernie, you are a shining example to all of us of a life well lived.