How I will remember Ernie Harwell

I wish I could say I go back a long way with Ernie, but I can’t. Wish I could say I listened to him for years and years, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager when my family moved to Toledo and I had a chance to listen to him. But I treasured what I remember of him. I loved listening to him during the summer. More important for me, my first year on the beat was his final season on the air, and watching and listening to him go about his business that final season was unforgettable.

But my biggest Harwell memory? My first day on the job.
I took this job in the middle of Spring Training of 2002, and it was my first day-to-day baseball beat. I came to Lakeland in the middle of March thinking I knew what to do and where to go but really having no idea. I pulled into the parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium around mid-morning, looked around and tried to figure out where I was supposed to be. I looked completely lost, which was fitting since I was.
Somebody walks up to me and shakes my head.
“Hi there,” he said. “I’m Ernie Harwell.”
Like I said, I don’t go back a long way following the Tigers. But I still know who Ernie Harwell is. So I’m in awe at this point.
After I introduced myself, Ernie Harwell — having never met me, not really knowing what I do other than cover the team for an internet site — showed me around the Tigers complex. He took me into the clubhouse and introduced me to then-manager Phil Garner, who by this point is readying to take the field for morning workouts. He has work to do, but because it’s Ernie, he introduces himself. He then shows me around the ballpark and towards the practice fields.
By this point in Spring Training, the news was long since out that this would be Ernie’s last season. He has plenty of things to do to prepare. But he took this time out of his morning to help along a young reporter who didn’t have a clue. I’ve never forgotten that, and I never will.
I’ll also never forget talking with Ernie on the phone the day he revealed his condition last summer. I’ll never forget the feeling that he was trying to make me feel better about his situation, not the other way around. And I think none of us will forget the feeling that when you talked with Ernie or listening, you were with a genuinely good human being on a scale unlike many folks you meet in your life.
I think Jim Leyland and Alan Trammell are right that Harwell’s life should be celebrated, not mourned. And I think whether you listened to Harwell or met him or both, you feel fortunate to have run across him. It just might take a day or two to get to that feeling. And then I’m going to remember that rainbow in the sky in Minneapolis shortly after news that Ernie passed away.

9 Comments

Thanks for sharing that Jason, since most of us can’t say we spent time with Ernie it is neat to get stories like that. I grew like so many of us listening to Ernie and he had some special knack for announcing games. So many of his phrases will be remembered forever. I was always amazed to hear how Ernie knew where the different fans that caught foul balls lived!

He will be a Detroit icon and I think it would be way cool to be at Comerica tonight. Ernie is in a special place now, and he is also in a special plates in baseball history, I hope he is never forgotten.

Mr. Harwell was a class act and will be sorely missed by all.

Well said, Jason. I wonder how many people have similar stories when it comes to Ernie? Thousands? The world is a lesser place without him.
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–Rich

When I was eleven, I found a powerful AM station named WJR, in Detroit. I was thrilled to be able to listen to my beloved Tigers in Big Stone Gap, Va, a full 560 miles from Tiger Stadium. And in that year, I was blessed to hear the voice of “Ernie”. He became my connection to the tigers, and every night the weather was clear, Ernie’s melodic voice kept me informed about the game, as though I were right there. Ernie’s strong and passionate faith in God was as genuine as his voice. And I believe God needed that voice to keep things running smoothly in Heaven. Thank you God for sharing Ernie with us for so long, and thank you Ernie for just being you. We will sorely miss you.

Greg

Thanks, Jason. Been reading and listening to stories about Ernie all day. Can’t get enough of them.
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My Ernie story is like that of so many- his voice was the soundtrack of my childhood. He reminds me of my grandpa in his backyard, my dad barbequeing, my best friend and I shooting hoops and just being a kid in the summertime.
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Growing up, I didn’t know how lucky we were to have Ernie. I guess I figured every baseball team had an announcer like him. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
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Hoping to get to Comerica tomorrow evening.
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Tracey

Thanks for posting that Jason. You have been blessed. There are precious few souls who walk for a season among us who so radiate God’s tender mercies and grace, we cannot help but be lifted up by them. Ernie was one of those souls. Who God chooses, in His sovereignty, to impart such a love is a mystery, but Ernie would be the first to tell us that everything he was ever given was a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:6-10).
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Ernie truly lived his faith, and all the love he was given he happily gave back to his fellow man. The vehicle just happened to be baseball. There isn’t a person on this blog who doesn’t passionately love the game. We measure our lives by it in many ways. So many of our memories are wrapped up in baseball and in Ernie’s Tiger broadcasts on WJR. And I really appreciated your thoughts Greg, aka DavidTiger. It couldn’t be said any finer. As a 13 year old listening to Ernie for the first time on the old Phillips radio I could have been right there with you. We were all right there with each other, listening to Ernie, we just didn’t know it at the time. We are kindred spirits.
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I am sad that Ernie has left us. Life changes. We lose those we love and we have to keep going. But God gives us precious memories we can continue to cherish. It’s a gift. God gave us Ernie. We will miss him. May God bless and comfort his family who will miss him so much more than us.
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But much more than sad, I am happy that Ernie is with the Lord now. His faith assured him of that promise. What a testimony he was in the sight of God. I don’t know if there will be baseball in Heaven. I suppose you could ask why it should even matter or you could simply think ‘why not’? But on the chance that it would be, I’d like to have a catch with Ernie one day. Psalm 90:12

One mark of a truly good person is how they bring out the good in everyone else. These posts exemplify that, I am touched reading everyone’s comments. I always like this blog’s following for the respect we all give each other, but I like it even more now.

We were all so lucky to have grown up listening to this man. There will never be another one. All those years I took for granted and now he’s gone.
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There are thousands of stories out there of people and their personal experiences with Ernie that just touches your soul. His death just brings back so many memories of my dad, my brother in-law, sister and brother all listening to the games where ever we happened to be. We are the lucky ones to have known such a person. He was so good to us.

that was a beautiful story you shared with us! Thank you for that! May Mr Harwell rest in peace. He loved the game so much and I only wish I could have listened to one of his broadcasts or met him in person. What a wonderful spirit.

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

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