Ernie Harwell information

Here is a compilation of Ernie Harwell related articles, videos, and information about ceremonies and remembrances. The above picture was taken by current Tigers broadcaster and former radio partner of Harwell, Dan Dickerson shortly after the news filtered out last night.

Ceremonies

The funeral and memorial will be a private affair. However, there will be a public viewing taking place at Comerica Park on Thursday May 6th. The viewing begins at 7 a.m. at Gate A. It will last as long as it takes and complimentary parking is available in Lots 1, 2, and 3.

To further the endowment of the Ernie Harwell Collection at the Detroit Public Library and to fund partial college scholarships, please send memorial donations to the Ernie Harwell Foundation c/o S. Gary Spicer, 16845 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe, MI 48230.

The team will wear uniform patches for the remainder of the season and a flag will be raised at Comerica Park prior to the May 10th game against the New York Yankees.

In light of the news of Ernie Harwell’s passing, MLB Network will re-air Harwell’s interview on “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” tomorrow, Wednesday, May 5 at 4:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. CT.

Multimedia

Below is an audio clip of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price both announcing, and coming to terms with the news during the first inning of last night’s game. It was painful, poignant, and touching. Dan and Jim had to experience their grief over the air, live. A terrific job by both.

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Commentary

RIP Ernie Harwell 1918-2010

When it was announced late last summer that Ernie Harwell had cancer, everyone knew this day would be coming too soon. Sadly, it came May 4th, 2010 as William Earnest “Ernie” Harwell has passed away at the age of 92.

I don’t have a unique story to tell about my relationship with Ernie. It was similar to the relationship millions of fans had over the years. He was a comforting voice, a soothing sound of summer on a warm evening. But you all knew that.

I had the pleasure to speak with Ernie one time. He agreed to do an interview for this site (Part 1 & Part 2). It was only the second interview I’d done and I was incredibly nervous. Mr. Harwell was incredibly gracious and instantly put me at ease. As I stumbled through my questions he would start to spin an answer so eloquent that I’d forget I was the one he was actually talking to. It was like I was a kid listening to him call a game.

There isn’t too much left to say at this point. Instead I will link to an article I wrote following the game in which he addressed the fans at Comerica Park.

Ernie Harwell and the Moment

The week that was

Things have been very quiet here at DTW lately. While it wasn’t my intention for things to go dark here, when it’s a one person gig sometimes life gets in the way. Fortunately life will be out of the way this coming week so my winter meetings coverage should be pretty robust and very timely. In the mean time I’ll use this post as a way of catching up on everything that got neglected.

Continue reading The week that was

Ernie Harwell and the moment

When it was announced that Ernie Harwell would be a trip to Comerica Park to address the fans my first instinct was that I should look into tickets. I hemmed and hawed and after reading a wonderful article by Tom Gage I decided that I simply had to be in the stadium that Wednesday night. I don’t know that I’ve ever described myself as melancholy before, but that was an apt description that day. During lunch I found a single ticket in the second row on StubHub and I pulled the trigger. I’d be in the park for Ernie’s Thank You/Farewell.

The night was somber in so many ways. It was a celebration of the greatest generation and World War II veterans. A celebration, but hardly a party. A time to honor those that were there and remember those that weren’t.

Plus there is something about late season games. The park just feels different. There is a little chill in the air, the park darkens more quickly than at the height of summer, and the end of summer as dictated by baseball’s 162 game season is palpable. The anticipation and build up that fans feel starting in February is coming to a close and the thought of a long cold winter looms. The setting was appropriate for the greatest Tiger of them all to once again step-up to the microphone.

Continue reading Ernie Harwell and the moment

Ernie Harwell has cancer

The news certainly puts a damper on, well, everything. Legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer that is near his bile duct. Harwell is 91 and has had very good health up until this point. Prayers go out to Ernie and his bride of 68 years Lulu.

Not even cancer diagnosis can shake Harwell’s spirit | Detroit Free Press | Freep.com

Interviewing Ernie – Part 2

Continuing on with my interview with Ernie Harwell. Click here for part one.

DTW: Since the format of the Veterans Committee was changed, there have been two elections, and nobody was elected. Do you think that?s appropriate, or do you think that the Committee will be changed again?

EH: Well, I think they might tweak it, but I think one of the strengths of the Baseball Hall of Fame is that it?s more difficult to get into than most other halls of fame in sports. And I?d like to keep it that way. I don?t think it?s really bad that you don?t elect anybody. But I also think that probably, in the long run, that the Veteran?s Committee is something that time has bypassed. I think most of the people that really belong in there, with a few exceptions, have been selected by the writers. I don?t like the idea of the second chance that is symbolized by the Veteran?s Committee. I know a lot of people disagree with that because there are some players that are on the cusp, on the margin there that I?d like to see in. But I like that it?s tough to get in.
DTW: My favorite player is Lou Whitaker, does he have a shot?

EH: I don?t think so. I think the voting that we?ve seen indicates that he wouldn?t have much of a chance. He?s very deserving if you look at the stats, and compare him with second basemen who are in there. He ranks right near the top I?d say, but there are a lot of things that factor in. One of them is exposure in the World Series. One of them is the media center in New York. I think a lot of things get factored in and he doesn?t have much of a chance.
DTW: So the same fate is probably true of his Tiger teammates like Trammell as well?

EH: Regretfully I have to say it does. His showing in the balloting just wasn?t strong enough to give us any optimism that he?ll get in.
DTW: Given the recent steroid allegations, if they came up on the VC ballot, would you vote for some of the guys who?ve been accused/suspected like Bonds and McGwire?

EH: I think I?d vote in favor of those two guys.

I really think the steroid situation will die down in a little while. It was brought to the attention of Congress and I think it?s a good that it?s out in the open. And I also felt that baseball could have avoided that if commissioner and players union had gotten together earlier and had nipped it in the bud, and issued a strong policy against steroids which they didn?t do. And they still haven?t done.

Although it was a great embarrassment to baseball, I think it?s good that it came out and maybe something will happen now to strengthen the ruling about using steroids.

The way I feel about records is that you have to take them as they come. I don?t believe anybody would be able to figure it out. Let?s take say Barry Bonds, and you were to make some asterisk to his home run total. I don?t know how you?d figure out when he started taking steroids, or if he did. It?s such a murky situation. I think we sort of have to just accept it, and as we talk about it just say ?well, he probably took steroids while he was playing.?

DTW: Does this just become another era like pre-segregation, WWII, the spitball era, the deadball era?

EH: Yeah, I think so. I think you?ve got to say back in 1909 guys were hitting less than 10 home runs and leading the league ?that was one era, just like you said. Then the spitball came in and went out and that was another era. Then you had the so-called lively ball coming in. Way back you had moving the pitching mound back to 60 feet, 6 inches. And you have more changes like that. You have smaller ball parks, bigger guys, and there are so many variations that come and go in baseball. I think this just has to be another one.
DTW: Speaking of eras, is there one you are most fond of, or would have like to have seen?

EH: I sort of would have liked to have been around during the dead ball era. I think that was pretty interesting. First the ballparks were primitive. The equipment wasn?t very good. But, maybe things were a little purer then, about the game than they are now. Though they had a lot of rascals, and a lot of things happened that they?d [laughing] put an evil eye on now. But from a standpoint of what we knew how people followed the game at that time, it was really more just a game. The only way people followed the games those days was through the newspapers. You didn?t have the investigation, and all the pressure and media attention that you have now that puts the spotlight on everything and digs in the dirt and brings out somethings we don?t want to know.
DTW: Over the years I know you?ve amassed a large collection of memorabilia and artifacts. Are there a couple that are most special to you?

EH: Well, I?ve gotten rid of most of them because I gave them to the library. The Detroit Public Library has most of my stuff. And when we moved in 2003, I just couldn?t bring the stuff with me so we had an auction. An auction house in Chicago auctioned off what was left that I didn?t give to the library. So I really don?t have anything anymore. I had a Babe Ruth check at one time. I had my World Series rings, a replica of the 1968 World Series trophy. I had signed pictures from guys. I was proud of all those things, but you?ve got to move on.
DTW: To wrap things up, I?m going to ask you about some of your favorites
DTW: What was your favorite season to call?

EH: Well, I think that it is probably 1968 or 1984. They were pretty equal. 1968 a little bit more maybe because it followed the riots and it was a longer interim between championships between ?45 and ?68 than ?68 and ?84. So I think that one would probably be my favorite.

Ebbetts field in Brooklyn was really great for me because it was my first job, and I really liked the people. The Dodgers had a contending team, a pennant winner my second year there.

There?s so many things. You know the Giants won in ?51 and that was a great thrill. Just going to Baltimore and being the first announcer there was a great break for me as well.

So it?s hard to put your finger on, but I?d probably say it?s the ?68 Tigers.

DTW: Favorite manager?

EH: I?ve got a lot of them. The guy I like the best out of all the managers I worked with was probably Sparky. I think he was probably the best manager that I saw. I liked Durocher, he was a good sharp one. Bob Scheffing was one of my personal favorites. Although he didn?t last too long, we were real close friends. Paul Richards was another one that I had a lot of admiration for. He taught me more about baseball than any of the other guys.
DTW: Favorite umpire?

EH: [laughing] I guess Nestor Shylack. I liked his attitude. I liked his enthusiasm. I liked the way he approached the game. I liked the way he was fairly liberal with not tossing guys out. And he was an excellent umpire. There were a lot of great ones, but I think probably he was my favorite.
DTW: Most interesting baseball character?

EH: I tell you we could make a list of a hundred of those. Norman Cash probably. Clint Courtney was another one. A fellow named Ray Murray in Baltimore, a sort of a journey man catcher was another one. Mark Fydrich. And Ted Williams was always an interesting personality I thought.
DTW: One of my favorite things about listening to you call games were the anecdotes that you?d sprinkle throughout the broadcast. What are a couple of your favorite baseball stories?

EH: Well you know, everybody has a different reaction I guess. One of them that I liked a lot was the rookie in the Southern League. Joe Engel was sort of the Barnum of Baseball in the minor leagues, sort of an early Bill Veeck. He had a shortstop that was holding out. In those days a telegram was a big deal. You negotiated by Western Union. He got a telegram from this guy who said ?Pay me $5000 or count me out.? So Joe Engel sent back a telegram that said, ?One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten.?

Another one I like is Gene Mauch, when he retired as a player he actually got a hammer and nails and nailed his shoes up against his locker.

Those things, there?s millions of them and it is sort of hard to put your finger on one. I sort of like the one about the two-tone bat. It started when Dixie Walker went to Louisville and he found a bat in a bucket of paint. About half way up the bat was one color, and the rest of the way up the bat was another color. That started the two-tone bat.

But all those things I like to delve into them because they are a little bit different.

At this point we wrapped things up and I thanked Mr. Harwell profusely.

He was very generous with this tims, and very patient with me as I nervously stumbled through my questions. I grew up listening to Ernie, and the number of times that he and Paul Carey put me to bed at night were countless. I’d set my clock-radio to ‘Sleep’ and listen as long as I could stay awake. When I shared that with Ernie his response was simply, “we sure cured a lot of insomnia.”

The biggest thrill for me doing this interview was listening to Ernie talk about some of his favorite stories. Each story on its own isn’t that remarkable. However, it is all the small stories, like the ones he shared, that seperate baseball from the other sports. It’s the funny quotes and situations that can only be born in the midst of a summer long schedule. When the stories are combined they form the fabric of the games itself. And to hear Ernie tell the stories in his own voice, that is what baseball is all about.

I know that some of you commented in the other post that you could hear Ernie saying the words as you read them. I exerienced a similar phenomenon while conducting the interview. Hearing him talk was so second nature, I almost forgot sometimes that I was having a conversation with him, and not listening on the radio. It was a tremendous thrill for me to do this, and I hope that you guys enjoy it.

Interviewing Ernie – Part 1

For those who have lived in the metro Detroit area, there is one voice that is instantly equated with summer. That voice belongs to Mr. Ernie Harwell. Harwell called Tiger games from 1960 through his retirement in 2002 (except for a messy 1992 season). Prior to coming to Detroit, he worked for Baltimore, the NY Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He’s called no-hitters, World Series’, Willie Mays debut, Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world, and has seen and experienced the game like few others have. He remains the only announcer to be acquired via a trade (Branch Rickey sent Cliff Dapper to the Atlanta Crackers in exchange for Harwell). Harwell’s distinctive voice and no frills attention to detail led to a longevity that made evenings at the cottage with Ernie a tradition and rite of summer.

Mr. Harwell was kind enough to spend a morning speaking with me over the phone. Here is part 1 of that interview:

DTW: How is your retirement going?

EH: Well, retirement is going beautifully. I just took another direction, I’m still as active as I was, I’m just not doing play by play. I’m the spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield. We signed a ten year contract with a ten year option so I’m going to have to live to be 106 to fulfill it. But I’m going to do it or die trying, one or the other. It keeps me busy. I do a lot of speaking, a lot of commercials. They use me on the billboards at Ford Field, Comerica Park and all over Michigan. It’s been pretty productive for us and it’s been a great association.

Also I’ll be writing my column for the Free Press. It starts next week and I’ve been doing it every summer for 15 years now.

And in addition to that I do about 27 vignettes on FSN Detroit that they use. Just sort of stand up and tell a story and reminisce a little bit.

And other than that I’m just sort of hanging around here. I don’t miss the play by play much. I did it for seven decades and 55 years, so I feel like that was enough. I did enough damage and I’m just going to let other guys do it now.

DTW: Do you still follow the Tigers closely?

EH: Yes I do. I went down to spring training. I got to schmooze around with them a little bit. I had dinner with Alan Trammell and some of the other guys. I keep an eye on them, more as a fan now than as a worker. But, I don’t follow them quite as closely, naturally, because I don’t travel with them. But I go down to the ballpark now and then.
DTW: Do you watch the games on TV or listen on the radio?

EH: I listen on the radio most of the time, but if there’s TV I might look a little bit at that.
DTW: Do you have a prediction for how they’re going to finish this year?

EH: Well, I think everybody’s optimistic, but that’s part of it being spring time you know? I feel everything is going good. I think they’ll be better. I’m not quite as optimistic as some people. So much depends on that young pitching staff. We’ve got to wait and see if they continue to be promising and see how they establish themselves as major league starters.
DTW: Speaking of spring training and optimism, you started a tradition of reading a verse from the Song of Solomon (2, 11:12), the Voice of the Turtle. How did that begin?

EH: Well, I had been in Detroit for quite a while before that started. I’d say it was probably in the mid 70’s or early 80’s. I don’t have any idea that I can put my finger on it precisely. But I was reading that in the bible and it sort of struck me that this reminded me a lot of spring training and Opening Day, and I began to use it and people picked it up so I kept on using it.
DTW: Before coming to Detroit you were with the Dodgers, Giants, and Baltimore. What was it about Detroit that made it your final destination?

EH: Detroit was always a favorite city of mine when I traveled in the American League when I went to Baltimore in 1954. The first two games the Orioles played in their new Major League situation were in Tiger Stadium. I used to come to Detroit with the Orioles and I really liked the town a lot, and made some friends here. Then when Van Patrick was out as the announcer after the 1959 season, the Tigers got in touch with me and wanted to know if I’d be interested in leaving Baltimore. I felt like I had a good job there, and I was very happy there but I’d be foolish not to listen to an offer. They made me a good offer and I decided I’d come.

The franchise at that time was a well established franchise. It was a great baseball town, Michigan had terrific support for the Tigers. All those things enticed me to come here.

DTW: George Kell was involved in you coming to Detroit, as the two of you had met in Baltimore, and he was currently with the Tigers. Do you still keep in touch with Mr. Kell? I know that he’s had a rough streak.

EH: He’s had a tough time. I’ve called him several times. The last time I called him he couldn’t’ get to the phone, but I talked to his wife Carolyn. He has had a struggle.

When he was playing he got hurt in Baltimore, and he was up and around the press box so I said come on, get on the air with us. He did a few innings on the radio with us and seemed to like it. Then he got a job with CBS on the pregame show. He landed a job here [Detroit], and when an opening came up he called me in New York right at the end of the season in ’59. He told me the Tigers were interested in me and asked if I’d come. So there was a little payback there and we had a great association.

DTW: One anecdote I heard about you in the booth is that you would set an egg timer to remind you to give the score. Is that true?

EH: I did that for a little while, but that was sort of a Red Barber thing. He did that in Brooklyn, and would give the score and then turnover the egg timer. But it took a little bit too long I think, to drain the sand out and I felt you ought to give the score a little more often than that. I really made that my number one priority. If you don’t do that the listener really can’t set himself or herself psychologically as to how to listen to the game. I believe that’s the first thing that an announcer has to do is to keep people informed about what the score is.
DTW: You called a number of significant moments, like pennant clinching games and no-hitters. Is there anything that you would do to prepare for those dramatic ninth innings?

EH: I never did that. I just thought it would be more effective if you just react to whatever happens. You can never anticipate how it’s going to happen. Sometimes, like Aaron’s homer you can look forward to, but it’s too contrived to prepare what you’re going to say. So I always just let it go and react in the way that it hit me when the event happened.
DTW: Calling the last inning at Tiger Stadium, you did something very uncharacteristic for you and ignored the action on the field to read a tribute. Were there any other times that you broke away from the game like that?

EH: No, I’d prepared a little bit of a speech there as I remember it. I felt like I had to do that. It was uncharacteristic, you’re right about that. I can’t remember another time. I think in Baltimore we came back and did something after the game was over. And I think in Toronto [Ernie’s final game] we did it right at the end of the game.
DTW: As part of the speech you prepared for the last game at Tiger Stadium, you referred to the stadium as , “My home, my office, my refuge…A timeless gift to the past.” What do you think should be done with Tiger Stadium and what do you think of it standing empty.

EH: Ideally I think they should make some kind of a shrine out of it. Maybe keep it alive and have sandlot baseball or something like that. But it seems like it is such a large problem to get money to maintain it, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think eventually it will either fall down or be the victim of the wrecking ball.

I know a lot of people in the years since the closing of the stadium had been imminent have had grandiose ideas about what to do but, nobody has come up with any money. They have a lot of neat things that they think should happen, but nobody comes up with the backing. I just don’t think it’s going anywhere.

DTW: At this point would you rather see it knocked down or have it sit there and rot?

EH: Well, I think so. It’s a matter of practicality. I think it would probably cost a lot more money to knock it down than have it fall down. Either way it is going to be a sad occasion, but I think the better way to do it would be to have the wrecking ball take over.
DTW: In your Hall of Fame induction speech, you read an essay you penned in 1955 called “Baseball – A Game for All America.” It’s been 50 years since you wrote that. Does it still hold true for you, and would you change it at all?

EH: Oh yeah, I’d bring it up to date. I’ve been tempted to do that. I think ESPN or CBS or somebody had a TV game opening the season and they asked me to change it a little bit and I did for that occasion. But I always felt that I should leave it as is. If I ever recite it I always say that times have changed and a lot of things have happened to the game, good and bad. But I really think the spirit of the game between the lines is pretty much the same as it was.

I’ve had people know it’s written in 1955 because you say things like Honus Wagner hit a triple 46 years ago [laughing], and there are a lot of great players that aren’t even mentioned in that. You have to be selective when you make it. For instance I didn’t mention Ted Williams although he was contemporary then. Then people that came later like Hank Aaron, and Roger Maris, and Barry Bonds aren’t even in there. That’s why I think it’s better to keep it the way it is and give a little preface.

Part 2 will becoming in the next day or two once I get a chance to transcribe it, and we’ll talk about the Hall of Fame, the Veterans Committee, and steroids in baseball.