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A great voice of baseball is lost
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Forsyth County News
Baseball lost one of its best friends last week, when Ernie Harwell died of cancer at the age of 92.

Harwell spent 42 years as the voice of his beloved Detroit “Tiguhs,” but he really belonged to baseball fans everywhere.

On many a bright, still summer night, you could tune in the clear channel voice of WJR-Detroit, 760 on your AM dial, and experience the delight of hearing Ernie practicing his craft.

He had a nice, deep voice that never hurried, always friendly, comfortable, never on edge. He’d weave anecdotes around the play-by-play and sound like your best baseball buddy sitting right next to you.

Home runs were “Looong gone.” Double plays were “two for the price of one.” A called third strike elicited, “He stood there looking like the house by the side of the road.”

Hearing Ernie call a game was casual, relaxing, enjoyable. He could make a four hour game pass by in what seemed like minutes, and leave you wanting more.

I vividly recall driving home through the night from my honeymoon. The date was April 15, 1983, and as the sun set, I pick up WJR on the car radio. As soon as I heard Ernie’s voice, I knew that the hours — and miles — would fly by.

They did indeed. That night, the Tigers’ Milt Wilcox (119-113 lifetime) decided to pitch the game of his career. He was within one out of a perfect game when Jerry Hairston of the White Sox singled. I’ll never forget the compassion in Ernie’s voice as the hit fell.

That’s as close as Ernie ever came to announcing a perfect game. As David Enders of the Detroit Free Press wrote upon Ernie’s retirement in 2002, “His prodigious resume had one noticeable blank. He never broadcast a perfect game. But he broadcast thousands of games perfectly.”

Curt Smith lauded Ernie in his definitive book, Voices of the Game: “If a baseball broadcaster is good enough, lasts long enough, and is possessed of an easy familiarity, he becomes almost an extended member of the family. Throughout broadcasting, no baseball manner has spoken more distinctly of friendship as opposed to stagecraft or egomania, than that of the lyricist, poet and historian also known as Ernie Harwell.”

The native Georgian started at old Ponce de Leon Park with the Crackers, and also worked at The Atlanta Constitution and WSB.

In 1948, at the age of 29, he joined Red Barber and Connie Desmond as voices of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1950, he changed boroughs and teamed with Russ Hodges on New York Giants broadcasts.

In 1951, Ernie was at the mike for the NBC telecast of the final playoff game between the Giants and Dodgers. It was the first broadcast in history to go coast-to-coast, and it ended with Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”

“I said it was gone,” Ernie told Smith. “Then I saw Pafko going back to the wall, and I began to have second thoughts. My wife was watching on television, and when I got home, she said, ‘The only times I’ve seen you with that dazed look is when we got married, or when our kids were born.”

Ernie moved to Baltimore in 1954, and on the Detroit in 1960. In 1981, The Sporting News proclaimed, “He could probably be elected mayor of Detroit, if not governor of the state. He has that hold on people. Kids, mothers, grandfathers, cops, firemen, teachers, bankers, and insurance men spend their summers with Ernie Harwell. He has been in their lives for more than two decades, a cherished friend who brings them the sounds of baseball.”

“Ernie is probably the most beloved person who has ever been in Detroit with the Detroit Tigers,” Al Kaline, perhaps the Tigers most beloved player, told “He is loved by everybody and rightfully so. He’s a great broadcaster, but an even better person. That comes across in his broadcasts.”

Ernie’s love for baseball shines through his classic, “The Game For All America.” Every reading will refresh your love for our great game.

But for insight into the man himself, look no further than his farewell remarks on the occasion of his final broadcast on September 30, 2002:
“Rather than say goodbye, please allow me to say thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your family. Thank you for taking me with you to that cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your workplace and your backyard.

“Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers. Now, I might have been a small part of your life. But you have been a very large part of mine. And it’s my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all.”

Sorry, Ernie. The privilege was all ours.