“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” – Song of Solomon 2:11-12
Every year, Detroit Tiger Broadcaster (and legend) Ernie Harwell, would open the baseball season by quoting the above passage of Scripture. It was one of those things that Detroit baseball fans looked forward to each year. It was the signal, if you will, that spring was here and it was time for baseball.
Every year, we’d listen to the voices of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey on WJR. Ernie had been in baseball for a long time and always told so many wonderful stories (many of them appearing the many books that he wrote.). He had an amazing ability to tell a story – and still call the game while doing so.
I may or may not have written about Ernie before, so forgive me if this is repetitive. Ernie was a master. His catchphrases will forever remain etched in my memory. When someone hit a foul ball, he’d say “A (man/woman) from (City in Michigan) will take that one home….” If a player watched a third strike, he’d say “He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched that one go by!” One cannot even begin to express the excitement when a Tiger hit a home run and Ernie declared that the ball was “Looooooong Gone!”
Ernie passed away in 2010, but left a wonderful legacy here in Michigan. He WAS the voice of the Tigers. He spent 42 of his 55 years broadcasting in Detroit. To honor him, the Detroit Tigers even gave him a jersey …
Ernie did his last broadcast on September 29, 2002. I don’t think that there was NOT a radio tuned in to hear Ernie sign off. As I type this quote, I can still hear it in his voice. I remember tearing up, as did everyone else listening:
“It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure. I’m not leaving, folks. I’ll still be with you, living my life in Michigan — my home state — surrounded by family and friends,” he said.
“And rather than 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 work place 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’ve been a very large part of mine. And it’s my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all.”
Seven years later, he addressed the fans one more time. This time it was a farewell. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer. In his address he said, “In my almost 92 years on this Earth, the good Lord has blessed me with a great journey,” Harwell told fans, “and the blessed part of that journey is that it’s going to end here in the great state of Michigan. I deeply appreciate the people of Michigan. I love their grit. I love the way they face life. I love the family values they have. And you Tiger fans are the greatest fans of all.”
When Comerica Park became the new home of the Detroit Tigers, one of the coolest things to see was the statue of Ernie to honor him and thank him for all his years with the organization.
Ernie was not shy about his faith. Many players recalled that on road trips with the Tigers, he always carried his well-worn Bible with him. Ernie told the Detroit News that he and his wife, Lulu, spent at least an hour a day studying their Bible. It is no surprise that he would chose a verse of Scripture to open the baseball season.
I miss Ernie ….