This past Tuesday evening, I heard the sad news of Ernie Harwell passing. He was not a close friend of mine or someone I had even met before. He was the longtime Detroit Tigers baseball broadcaster. He spent 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting with the Tigers. That is unreal in this day in age!
It did make me think of a sad day in June 2002. I was just a month out of college and was working in minor league baseball when I heard that Jack Buck had passed away. Jack Buck was the longtime St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster who also called many World Series Games (“I cannot believe what I just saw,” Kirk Gibson’s Homerun in 1988.) to several Super Bowl throughout the late 20th century. What I think made the event even more challenging to Cardinal fans, was that just a few days later, the Cardinals starting pitcher Daryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room.
I remember those nights growing up that I would “borrow” my parents’ portable radio player (even had a tape deck too!) and had the headphones on listening to Cardinals’ games many nights growing up. I had to hide it when the parents would check up on me in my room and fake being asleep. They would leave and the radio was back on. I still specifically remember Jack Buck calling the last out in the 1992 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays (Otis Nixon: Really, a drag bunt for a hit and you hit it to the pitcher??? Come on!). Jack Buck had a patented voice and so did Ernie Harwell.
Harry Carey was another one of the great broadcasters for the Cubs and so was Harry Calas of the Phillies. They are slowly passing away as their times have come. Some have had crazy reputations away from the both or in Carey’s sake, in the both while enjoying an ice cold beverage of choice. I have a feeling those times are changing. No more hiding to listen to games or no more patented voices like those mentioned above. These men would gather so many people together throughout the country by simply making you feel apart of the game. I still get chills hearing the call of all Cardinals’ calls “Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy.” I was FIVE at the time that happened and do not remember that exact moment, but Cardinal fans will always say they remember it.
Ernie Harwell lived 92 years and retired in 2002. He was quite a religious man and started the season with the same quote ever year.
“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song of Solomon Chapter 2:11-12).
Enjoy these memories Tiger fans. It gives you a chance to reflect on your times growing up listening to Mr. Harwell at night as you quietly cheered on your Tigers. It does not look like there will be another, and to be honest, that may not be a bad thing. Sometimes memories are not to be relived; but to be remembered and to simply make you smile.