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 brotherâ€™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.