Ernie Harwell, RIP

Ernie Harwell, the voice of the Detroit Tigers, died last night of cancer of the bile duct.

From the Detroit Free Press obituary:

“I’m ready to face what comes,” he said at the time. “Whether it’s a long time or a short time is all right with me because it’s up to my Lord and savior.” …

Unlike some announcers in recent decades, Harwell didn’t litter his broadcasts with shouting, excessive talking or all-knowing pronouncements about players and managers. Listening to him was as pleasant as being at Tiger Stadium in the summertime. As he fell silent between pitches, listeners got to hear the sounds of the ballpark — the crowd’s buzz, the vendor’s cry — and absorb the rhythm of the game. Harwell thus became an ideal companion for a listener anywhere: the couch, the yard, the car or the boat…

In 55 seasons of broadcasting big-league baseball, he missed two games, neither because of his health. One was for his brother’s funeral in 1968 and the other was for his induction into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1989.

There is no argument about it: Ernie was the best. That obit is right, too. Harwell knew when to shut up and let the sounds of the game take over.

Announcers today just can’t stop talking—ratcheta ratcheta ratcheta ratcheta. The silence must frighten them. They have forgotten that baseball is a game to be savored. We fans don’t follow it for the breakneck action. Baseball is cerebral and ofttimes best contemplated without words.

But when you had to use them, Ernie knew how to pick the fewest to say the most.

I have vivid memories of sneaking my grandpa’s transistor radio to school to listen to Ernie call opening day. What a voice!

So long, Ernie. Enjoy your rest.

5 Comments

  1. Matt:
    Are there any statisticians who are explicitly promoting a strong frequentist position? Are we at a Godelian point. We can’t prove it, but it is still useful?

  2. Mr. Briggs,
    Grew up listening to Ernie. I didn’t appreciate the style and the man until I relocated and listened to another team’s broadcast. Ernie was magical.Years latter I remember hearing him call a world series game while traveling with my family and truly tearing up listening to him again. I had the pleasure of meeting him during a game in Kansas City while he was at the mike.
    Your piece says it all.

  3. Loved his voice on his radio commercials for “Manuufactured Housing”. A close second to Uecker (I’m a Brewers fan now) as an announcer.

  4. Mr. Briggs,

    I just found out about Ernie on this post…My sympathies towards friends and loved ones…

    I can remember during the evenings usually after the family got done eating supper and the chores on the farm were done, Dad would turn the radio to WJR in Detroit. My parents would listen to that station and us kids woulld switch to CKLW a rock station from Detroit. This only happened when Dad wasn’t around.

    Anyway, I totally agree with you statement on Ernie’s way of announcing. I too appreciated not speaking and listening to the crowd and the sounds of the bat’s hitting foul balls. I remember one night a number of them were coming very close to their booth…

    Yes, I have missed Ernie since he retired…I thank God for his memories.

    Denny

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