Posted by: Ignorethebucklesonmyjacket | September 17, 2009

Thanks Again Ernie


 During a childhood of instability, the only thing consistent was the lack of consistency itself.

But from the end of every March through the end of September for my childhood, Ernie Harwell was there.     He is pictured above sitting in his familiar perch almost on top of home plate at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull between innings…while just doing his job.

The memories of his calls of foul balls being hit to a man from Hamtramck or Spring Harbor…maybe even to a woman from Novi or Ontonagon made me think, as an eight year old boy, that he knew every person in that stadium where he was broadcasting Detroit Tigers baseball games for every year I was ever in the state of Michigan.   I always rooted for someone from Monroe to catch a foul ball.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that he really didn’t know everyone in the stadium, but was just being Ernie…

Finding a way to come through my radio and talk to me…in my bed at night.   I remember the year we all received some kind of transistor radios for Christmas.  Of the three of us kids in the house, my radio was the smallest…and yellow. 

But it fit under my pillow better that the large round ones my brother and sister received as gifts.

At that point, FM radio hadn’t completely blossomed and the two largest stations in the Detroit market were CKLW and WJR on the AM dial.   WJR-760 AM carried the every Detroit Tigers’ baseball game and I listened to everyone I could…when I had live batteries.

For six months out of the year and about at least four nights a week, the voice of Ernie Harwell is what I went to sleep listening to from under my pillow.  

As I was listening for all of those years, I really never paid attention to the quality of his voice of even the eloquence of his speech.    But, when I listened to him each night, he made me feel like I was sitting right next to him at Tiger Stadium.

Any issues of my childhood were GONE as I drifted off to sleep.

Dead batteries caused by me drifting off to sleep with the radio on were the biggest issue until two years later when I received my first alarm clock/radio that actually plugged into the wall.

Growing up in Michigan and being a little league second baseman, Lou Whitaker was naturally my hero.   But I learned to know about Lou from my baseball cards and the sound of Ernie Harwell’s voice.

My earliest memories of listening to the games are with my dad…wither in the living room in the evenings or during the days fishing at the State Park.   He never cared about the radio scaring the fish.  Maybe even the sound of Ernie’s voice brought fish to us out there.

From there, I can remember setting up my baseball cards for both teams as they were playing.   Jack Morris, Dan Petry or some other pitcher was on the mound while Whitaker,  Alan Trammell and Lance Parrish patrolled the middle of the field.   Most of the other players came and went each season, but not Ernie.

Ernie Harwell didn’t have a baseball card to represent himself on that blue carpeted floor, but he didn’t need one because he was right there with me the whole time.

Year after year and spring after spring, just like the spring thaw, Ernie was always there and I took him for granted.

Now, when I hear his voice, I melt inside.

So many things in our past take us back to the back memories of our childhood and youth, but when I hear the sound of his voice it brings joy to my heart and peace to my soul.

Last night, as I was spending time feeling bad for myself for some general crappiness that was going on in my life, I heard his voice between innings.  I stopped what I was doing, sat down and listened to him one last time.  This is the view from lucky fan that was there last night…

Most of you that read this wont understand any of this unless you stumbled here via some google search FOR Ernie Harwell.   But I am just fine with that and can keep him for myself for the time he is still on this earth.

Ernie Harwell, who is 91 years, said his goodbyes to Tiger fans last night at the stadium.  He hasn’t been a broadcaster in seven years, but he is a part of each and every one of us that snuck radios under our pillows when we were supposed to be sleeping.  he has been diagnosed with incurable cancer and has elected not to have surgery.    He knows his time left on this earth is short.

But, as he “stood there like the house by the side of the road” at home plate last night, he thanked us…

But I thank him for allowing a little boy to escape the issues he was having and allowing him to run away with him to the corner of  Michigan and Trumbull all of those nights.

He let me escape for a few minutes last night too… 

Thanks again Ernie.


  1. An awesome tribute MTAE, absolutely awesome.

    Thank you.

  2. I think that’s the key to a happy life. Hang on to those things that bring peace and joy. The other stuff? Be aware, but don’t obsess about it. Nothing that happened in the past can be changed. We can only try to make solid decisions and focus on the things that help make our future as painless as possible.

    …or so someone wise once told me… something to that effect.

    You have some smart people in your life ;)

  3. I too listened to Ernie on WJR when I was a kid. It is a fitting tribute. Well done.


  4. I totally get it. Whenever I hear Ernie’s voice, I think of listening to Tigers games late at night on the way home from camping. I know we listened to him all the time, but those nights are my strongest memories. (Even when he did those silly home improvement commercials a few years back, hearing his voice took me back like that.) :)

    Living out of town makes it so I don’t hear the commercials. I remember being home a few months ago and “shushing” everyone when a Blue Cross commercial came on. Everyone was puzzled.

  5. All the old time broadcasters are slowly fading away. I hope, but am ye of little faith, that future generations will have people like Ernie and the dozens of others who made you feel part of the action.

    Fred Cusick, the Bruins announcer for 40+ years, died earlier this week. We’re seeing more and more patches on players jersey’s connected to the men on the mic.

    Sports has, once again, turned another page.

    Our collective attention span is too short for baseball these days…and that is even on televsion. Radio is so dead.

  6. Very nice post. Good announcers can do that and we have one here too (Dave Niehaus). Glad to hear Ernie gave you a lot of great memories.

    It always makes me feel good to hear his voice.

  7. Looking at the photo and reading your blog makes me feel like I’m home. The smell of hot dogs, the field carpeted in shades of green and brown, the sense of anticipation and the joy in an announcer’s voice – those are my childhood memories. Announcers like Ernie made it all the better. Beautiful post. Thanks to Author’s Blog, I stopped by and will be back.

    Well thank you Madison…that is a bit of a post and a break from the near-laughs I try for here.

  8. What a beautiful tribute to a man who deserves the accolades of all baseball fans everywhere. Good job! Congratulations on Post of the Day nomination from David.

    Thanks Sandi. I think he could have described anything other than baseball and it would have been just as great an impact on my life.

  9. Just swung over from authorblog to congratulate you on your POTD mention.

    What an interesting and lovely tribute! I like Ernie’s face!

    Thank you. He is has always presented himself as nothing less than a gentleman too…

  10. This is a great post and I enjoyed the video. I can so relate to some things you say about your childhood. I did not know about Ernie, but I thank God for him in your life.


  11. This is a beautiful tribute. Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!!

    Thank you. It is a shame that kids aren’t growing up with people like that anymore.

  12. I’m not a sports fan, but the sentiment sure isn’t lost on me. This is a wonderful tribute, and very worthy of David’s POTD mention.

    Thank you…sometimes we write these things and are a little embarrased about opening up a part of ourselves for people to see. Kind of like exposing our soft underbellies.

  13. That makes so much sense – and isn’t it strange how a tv or radio celebrity can become such an anchor in your life? They don’t know us at all, but we know them and what they mean to us? I can relate to everything you said. Anc congratulations for your Post of the Day mention!

    Thank you.

  14. Sigh. And that’s why they call it America’s Greatest Game.

    Wonderful Post. Congrats on POTD.

    I am still a fan today. Thanks.

  15. Well said.

  16. […] About a year ago, a friend of mine addressed a crowd of people… […]

  17. Great tribute, Steve.

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