There is no way I can do this post justice, as my experience with Ernie Harwell is severely limited. I didn’t exactly grow up listening to Ernie on the radio during those summer nights. Now I wish I did, but it’s not like anyone told me to, and the odds of a nine-year-old discovering him all on her own is rather remote. Plus, I never understood why you’d listen to something so visually driven on the radio. Even in the past few years, when I started listening to the radio when TV wasn’t a possibility, it took me a little while to be able to follow the game without the benefit of seeing the action. I’m sure I would not have had such difficulties with Ernie Harwell. I did watch some games in the early to mid-90s, and a quick check of Wikipedia does confirm that Ernie Harwell did some TV during that time, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember who was broadcasting the games I watched.
By the time I got re-acquainted with baseball in very late 2006, I knew who Ernie Harwell was, but I had yet to see him. I know he visited the booth at least once during the 2006 ALDS, but I didn’t see any of those games until much later (thanks to the MLB.tv archives). I’d seen bits and pieces of segments from interviews and in Tigers Weekly. The first time that I really got to experience Ernie properly was when Rod Allen had to take two games off to go to his son’s graduation, and Ernie filled in for him. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have him do play-by-play (which I’d heard so much about by then), but his stories were definitely enough to keep my entertained for those two games. What I wish is for Major League Baseball or the Tigers or whoever owns the rights to those radio and TV broadcasts to release some of them, perhaps the ’84 World Series, just so I and others like me can experience his style properly. After all, it’d be the only way for the next generation of Tigers fans to know him.
As far as I know, I never actually met Ernie Harwell (I suppose there’s an extremely slim chance that I bumped into him when I was an immature 13-year-old running around Tiger Stadium), but those who have all say that he was a wonderful human being. He was welcoming, kind-hearted, charitable, and lived his faith. He certainly lived a good, full, and long life, and right now I’m sure he’s regaling the folks upstairs with his bevy of stories and unique play-by-play.
So goodbye, Ernie Harwell. I just wish I had known you better.