Ernie Harwell, longtime radio announcer for the Detroit Tigers, passed away from cancer today at the age of 92.
I met Ernie Harwell back in 1990. He came to Kalamazoo for the Barrier Bash, a charity softball game that pitted local celebrities against former Detroit Tigers. The game was held at Hyames field on the campus of Western Michigan University. Ernie, along with his radio partner Paul Carey, was there to sign autographs. Naturally, there was a long line. I can remember standing in line trying to think of something to ask him. When I finally got to Ernie, I handed him my program to sign and said to him “That was quite a debut for Travis Fryman last night, huh?” Ernie said to me “It sure was. I think that he’s going to be a good one, how about you?” I was flabbergasted! A Hall of Fame broadcaster and living legend had asked me, an eighth grade kid, for my opinion about a baseball player!
When I think of Ernie Harwell, I think of many things. Sincerity is one word that comes to mind. When I met him back in 1990, I believe that he was sincere when he asked me what I thought of Travis Fryman’s debut. Ernie made all of us feel like we knew him and were his friend. Even if you never met him, the way that he called a baseball game made you feel comfortable. His catchphrases (Llllooooonnnnggggg gone! Two for the price of one! He stood there like the house by the side of the road. Caught by a man from (insert random town here).
When Ernie announced last year that he had inoperable cancer, he took it like the class act that he is. "Whatever happens, I'm ready to face it, I have a great faith in God and Jesus. In my almost 92 years on this Earth, the good Lord has blessed me with a great journey, The blessed part of that journey is that it's going to end here in the great state of Michigan."
I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to meet and also listen to Ernie Harwell call Detroit Tiger games for many years. Although I am sad today that Ernie is gone, I am happy because I know that he is in heaven right now talking baseball with somebody.
Thank you Ernie for all that you have given to life and the game of baseball. You will be missed.