The voices of the game of baseball are often the audible history of the game. A call, a moment, a memory. All tied up in the tones that became familiar to generations of fans accustomed to following their teams on the radio and TV.
And, without hyperbole or hype, there have been few of those voices more integral, more loved and respected than the great Ernie Harwell.
Through his four decades with the Detroit Tigers, players came and went, teams rose and fell, but there was always Ernie to share the game – and a quirky catchphrase or two – with the people of Michigan.
And now that voice, one of the few that truly transcends a sport in an age of homogeneous broadcasting names, is gone.
Ernie Harwell is dead at 92 after a battle with cancer.
Many words will be spilled and emotions near the surface for legions of baseball fans in the coming days as the great broadcaster is eulogized in Tiger Nation and beyond. But in the end, the sad truth is that baseball is yet another treasure lost from the glory days. With Harry Caray passing in 1998, the Philadelphia Phillies Harry Kallas last year and now Harwell, Vin Scully stands alone as the last of the great voices of the game.
While Harwell’s career stretched into the ’40s and included numerous assignments, including famously his near-brush as the NBC TV broadcaster at the Giants-Dodgers “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” playoff game, he will forever be a Tiger.
Baseball survives even its biggest losses. But the gentle, iconic Harwell, even after living in retirement for the past few years, will leave a gap in the game not soon filled.
Perhaps the most fitting way to pay tribute is to let Harwell say farewell in his own words from his final Tigers broadcast, but just as poetic now as then:
It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure. I’m not leaving, folks. I’ll still be with you, living my life in Michigan — my home state — surrounded by family and friends. And rather than goodbye, please allow me to say thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your family. Thank you for taking me with you to that cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your work place and your backyard. Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers. Now, I might have been a small part of your life. But you’ve been a very large part of mine. And it’s my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all.