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 Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column

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PostSubject: Re: Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column   Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Posted: Feb. 14, 2010
Harwell: Everything is perfect during spring training

BY ERNIE HARWELL
FREE PRESS BASEBALL COLUMNIST

It's spring training time, the best time of the year. All the hitters will hit .300 this season, the pitchers all will win 20 games apiece, and the announcers won't make any mistakes. It is a rite of spring, an ever-returning fantasy.

My first adventure into this never-never land was with the Atlanta Crackers in March 1941, at St. Augustine, Fla. Before that, the Crackers trained at home. As a youngster, I had shagged fly balls for them and hung around Ponce de Leon Park. One afternoon I tried to catch a vicious line drive. I didn't catch the baseball, but did catch a gorgeous black eye.

That 1941 coverage came in my second year at radio station WSB. I had missed spring training the year before because I hadn't started at the station until May.

In August 1948, I joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1949 went to spring training at their facilities in Vero Beach, Fla. All players -- major leaguers and minor leaguers -- lived in wooden barracks. One of our writers was Arch Murray, a smoker and drinker. His double-edged problem was so severe that Branch Rickey assigned a rookie minor leaguer to sit outside Arch's room and keep a fire watch.

In 1950, I went to the New York Giants, who trained in Phoenix. Lulu and I drove there from Larchmont, N.Y., with our sons, Bill, 15, and Gray, 12. Because the boys were rock hounds, we stopped at every arroyo and rock shop. The journey took seven days.

In 1951, the Giants swapped training sites with the Yankees. We went to St. Petersburg, Fla., enjoying the beach. That was the first time I heard about the brilliance of Willie Mays. Owner Horace Stoneham and manager Leo Durocher had gone to the Giants minor league camp at Sanford and returned with glowing reports of Mays' exploits.

Back at Phoenix the next year, the Giants felt a strong Hollywood influence because Durocher's wife, Larraine Day, was a movie star. One rare rainy day, the ground crew at the rickety little ballpark consisted of Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye and Tony Martin.

When I joined the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, they also trained in Arizona -- at Yuma. There were only two other clubs in the state -- the Giants in Phoenix and the Cleveland Indians in Tucson. We spent most of our time on long bus trips.

Baltimore left the next year, going to Daytona Beach, Fla. Like other clubs, the Orioles discovered that Daytona was too cold and windy, so they returned to Arizona -- this time in Scottsdale. In my last year with them, they trained in Miami.

My best spring training times came with the Tigers at Lakeland, Fla. When I first arrived there in 1960, we drove our eight-year-old Rambler to our rented home. My sons were so embarrassed to arrive at a new neighborhood in our near-wreck that they exited the car two blocks from our new abode.

Two vivid memories highlight those Lakeland days. The first was manager Charlie Dressen suffering a heart attack in 1965, but refusing treatment in Lakeland to fly home to California. Charlie recovered, but died that same year in Detroit.

The other event happened at the end of spring training in 1960. Rick Ferrell came to the press box after our final exhibition game to announce that the Tigers had traded Harvey Kuenn to Cleveland for Rocky Colavito. At first, we thought he was joking. Instead, it was one of the outstanding trades in Tiger history.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column   Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:02 pm

Posted: Feb. 21, 2010
Ernie Harwell: Keep it short and sweet -- or just pick up the check

BY ERNIE HARWELL
FREE PRESS BASEBALL COLUMNIST

Most people cringe in fear of public speaking.

Remember the Seinfeld observation? He cited a poll that suggested the No. 1 national fear is public speaking, and No. 2 is dying. In other words, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.

Speaking before an audience is a chore that has always gone along with sports and sportscasting. I did most of mine during my six years in Baltimore, where the breweries dispatched me to groups who couldn't find a well-known player, coach, or any kind of belly dancer.

One such event was a father-daughter-son night. The oldest among the youngsters were 7 years old. Everybody got balloons and noisemakers. As soon as I'd been introduced, I realized what disaster I was facing. I told my audience I was happy to be there and immediately sat down.

One Saturday morning at a local school, I encountered another impossible task. It was a grammar school assembly. Movies were to be shown. The projector broke down early in the film. The lights came on and the emcee announced a delay.

"Is there anybody here who can fix the film?" he asked. No volunteer. Then he added, "While we are looking for a repairman, Ernie Harwell wants to make a speech."

Once again, I uttered a few words and sat down, disappearing as soon as possible.

My two most nervous speaking experiences were accepting my Hall of Fame plaque at Cooperstown and addressing the Billy Graham Crusade in Tampa.

Sixteen of my family came to the HOF ceremony. I sat on stage among my boyhood heroes, the superstars of the game. It was August 1981, and baseball was nearing the end of a long, bitter strike. Plus, the weather was a worry. Rain had loomed for two days, threatening to interrupt the speeches or even delay the event another day.

Somehow, I made it through my speech. After eight minutes, I sat down with a wave of relief.

Like Cooperstown, the Tampa experience came as a surprise. I received a telephone call, inviting me to give my Christian testimony at the internationally televised Graham Crusade. "I'm sorry, I can't make it," I told Graham's aide. As soon as I had hung up, I felt misgivings. Quickly, I called back and accepted.

The family drove from Dunedin to Tampa, where I reported to the producer. It was the most organized regime I had ever seen. However, my short speech was to be ad-lib.

"If you go over your two-minute limit," the big boss said, "we will pull you off the platform." Super-nervous, I managed to get the job done. It was a tremendous thrill.

Ever since I was about 11 years old, I have spoken to many different audiences in many different places -- most of my speeches after-dinner speeches. At one time, I was talking after dinner so often that if somebody burped on the bus, I got up and spoke.

Over the years, I have discovered there is only one decent after-dinner speech: "I'll pick up the check."


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column   Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:03 pm

Posted: Feb. 28, 2010
Ernie Harwell
Lulu's tales have become a storied family tradition

BY ERNIE HARWELL
FREE PRESS BASEBALL COLUMNIST

All families have stories repeated so often they become traditional within the household.

In our family, it's Lulu who contributes the most. After all, since we were married in 1941, she has been the "Speaker of the House."

Here are a few of her favorites. I admit they might not interest anybody outside our family, but here's the list anyway.

When I was broadcasting for the Atlanta Crackers in 1946, Lulu was expecting another son -- a brother for 2-year-old Bill. "The Lord's going to bring us another baby," she told him.

One summer afternoon while I was grocery shopping, Atlanta Crackers outfielder Lloyd Gearhart rang our doorbell. Bill answered the ring.

"Hi, Bill. Is Dad home?"

"No," Bill said. "But I'll get Mom.

"Tell her that Lloyd's here."

He hurried into the kitchen.

"Mom," he shouted. "The Lord is here, but he doesn't have our baby."

Another Lulu favorite happened in New York when I was with Brooklyn. If the team went on the road, wives of the players and media often met at Schrafft's restaurant in Manhattan for dinner and a Broadway show. At one of those dinners, Lulu sat next to Jackie Robinson's wife, Rachel.

"When Jackie comes home from a trip, he is so sweet to bring me a great gift," she told Lulu. "Usually, it's beautiful lingerie, jewelry or candy. What does Ernie bring you?"

"Well," Lulu answered. "Nothing, most of the time. But, if I'm lucky, he'll bring me those little bars of soap from the hotels."

Now, for the Lulu-goes-to-Paris episode.

In 1965, the family -- except for Bill, who was at Hillsdale College -- visited Paris. So, Lulu and I took Gray and the twins (Carolyn and Julie) with us. Julie became very ill on the flight overseas and had to be confined to our hotel room. Gray celebrated his 19th birthday the second night there. Lulu's plan was to take him to the Folies Bergere and then drop by the famous Le Drug Store to mingle with American tourists.

After the Folies Bergere, she hailed a cab and said, "Please take us to Le Drug Store."

"I've got a lot better place," the driver said.

"Well ... OK," she answered. And off they went.

When the cab reached its destination, Lulu and Gray got a surprise. They had been deposited at a shabby nightclub -- a Parisian strip joint. The two were ushered to a stamp-sized table and served a glass of cheap champagne. Later, they discovered the drinks cost $50 each, plus a cover charge of $150.

They escaped as soon as possible, but Lulu had no money left. They became lost looking for the Metro. Gray's $8 was enough to pay the fare. When the tired celebrants finally arrived at our hotel room, it was 2 a.m. Not a happy episode, and Lulu never did Paris again.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column   Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:48 pm

Posted: March 7, 2010
Ernie Harwell: Some of the ideas from these ad men were just plain mad

BY ERNIE HARWELL
FREE PRESS BASEBALL COLUMNIST

You have to admire people in advertising. They produce great ideas and clever writing. Most are top-notch professionals.

My final association is an outstanding example. When I was spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield, it was a joy to work with CEO Dan Loepp, Andy Hetzel, Helen Stojic and Bill Elwell. These talented people always displayed friendly cooperation, making me feel part of the Blue Cross family.

Yet, throughout my career I did run across some ad business folks who missed the mark. Most were competent, but a few came up with really unworkable ideas.

When I was with Chesterfield cigarettes on the New York Giants baseball broadcasts, they had a slogan, "Chesterfield outsells other brands three to one." They hit this campaign hard. But one ad agency genius developed a plan that was about as effective as a cut-glass flyswatter.

His idea was to promote the three-to-one slogan. Russ Hodges and I would take an engineer to small tobacco/newsstand stores and record the proprietor telling us how Chesterfield outsold the other cigarettes.

The agency sent us deep into Harlem. We visited two or three stores, but found they were owned by foreigners who could hardly speak English. The scheme was a bust and was immediately aborted.

Working for Gunther Beer in Baltimore, I encountered another bad plan. The ad agency dispatched Herb Carneal and me to various downtown bars. We were to buy a bottle of Gunther, sit and talk about its great taste. A problem arose. Our visits were scheduled for 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. The only bar occupants were lonely drunks and ladies of the evening.

"Sure, you can buy me a drink," one of the barflies told me. "But I don't want no beer. Buy me a whiskey."

The folks at Gunther went back to the drawing board.

My other beer sponsor in Baltimore, National Brewing, missed the target big-time. I had been with the company less than a week when the ad manager invited me to meet some salesman at the famous Oasis, an upholstered sewer in the notorious Baltimore Block. There were dancing girls in this dive and a pasty-faced, emaciated MC named Sid Gray. I chatted with the salesman at minuscule tables surrounding the strippers.

Gray stood and said, "Let me introduce our great Oriole announcer, a man who is doing a fantastic job." (I had been in the city only a few days and was certain that neither Gray nor anybody else had ever heard me broadcast.) "We love him. He is terrific. A big hand for the fabulous Ernie Harwell."

Reluctantly, I rose and took a timid bow. The crowd responded with the enthusiasm of a man in a dentist chair. I sat down as soon as possible. Suddenly to my dismay, Gray was introducing me again. "He is great, folks, just great, Ernie, take another bow." As I stood up again, Gray, with a toothless grin, said, "Sit down, you little so-and-so, nobody wants to look at you."

It was another ad idea gone sour.

Yes, throughout a lifetime, you take the good and the bad.

________________________________________________________

RELATED INFORMATION
A spring break for Ernie

Ernie Harwell decided in January, as he turned 92, that he wanted to continue writing columns for the Free Press, where his work has graced these pages for 20 straight years.

To provide a baseball fix for Tigers fans during the off-season, Harwell has written nearly every week. But now that the Grapefruit League has started, he will rest his fingers for a little bit, maybe until the start of the season.

Harwell, diagnosed last summer with incurable cancer, reported this past week that he was continuing to rest as comfortably as possible. He also said he had two great conversations with another legendary broadcaster, Vin Scully.

Harwell's latest accolade comes May 5, when he receives the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award, given out by WFUV Radio at Fordham University, Scully's alma mater. Harwell told his friend and attorney Gary Spicer that he greatly appreciated the award but would not be able to travel to receive it. Al Kaline is scheduled to be the presenter.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Ernie Harwell's Free Press Column   Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:02 am

Posted: 6:38 p.m. Nov. 4, 2010
Flashback: Ernie Harwell on Sparky Anderson

BY ERNIE HARWELL

Editor's note: Sparky Anderson and Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell were fast friends during Anderson's tenure with the Tigers. Here's a column Harwell, who died May 4, wrote for the Free Press in July 2000.

Everybody has a Sparky Anderson story. I have two, and each reflects his human touch -- one with his players and one with his public.

When Sparky's Reds played the Orioles in the 1970 World Series, he had a second-string catcher named Pat Corrales. In his third year of backing up Johnny Bench, Corrales was finishing the sixth year of his nine-year, undistinguished career.

The Orioles were leading the series, three games to one. The final game at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium found the Birds ahead, 9-3, in the ninth. It was all over -- just a matter of three more outs.

Mike Cueller retired the first two Reds easily. One to go and the Orioles were champions.

Corrales was watching from the dugout. It was his first World Series and his last. Anderson looked down the bench toward Corrales.

“Pat,” he told him, “get up there and hit for Hal McRae. You deserve to be in a World Series, and this might be your only chance.”

Corrales grounded out to third baseman Brooks Robinson and the series was over. But he had batted in a World Series -- thanks to a thoughtful manager.

My other Anderson story happened in 1984, the year the Tigers started 35-5. Sparky's team had won 16 road games in a row. His picture graced the covers of magazines, and his name was in headlines across the country.

He and I were having breakfast at our Anaheim, Calif., hotel when a fan approached our table.

“Hi, Sparky,” he said. “I'm a great fan of yours. I live in San Diego now, but I was living in Cincinnati when you managed that Big Red Machine. You have always been my hero. Without a doubt you are the greatest manager ever.”

Sparky beamed. Silently, he listened and just nodded his head. Then, the man spoke again.

“And by the way, Sparky, what are you doing these days?”

Sparky gave him a polite smile and returned to his eggs and bacon. But that fan's question gave Anderson a conversation topic for the rest of the trip.

Sparky always understood the mind of the baseball fan and the player.


Read more: Flashback: Ernie Harwell on Sparky Anderson | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101104/SPORTS02/101104083/1319#ixzz14NRNBHcG


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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