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 Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away

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PostSubject: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Wed May 05, 2010 12:04 am



Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away
Georgia native was iconic voice of the Tigers for 42 years

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

05/04/10 8:21 PM ET

DETROIT -- The man who will forever be the voice of the Tigers is gone, and the baseball community is left silent in remembrance. Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away Tuesday at age 92.

Harwell succumbed to cancer of the bile duct. Doctors diagnosed the condition as an aggressive form in August, and Harwell and his family decided against surgery at his age. He explained his situation with an extraordinary sense of peace, both to his friends in the community and to fans at Comerica Park when he made one last visit in September.

"I've got a great attitude. I just look forward to a new adventure," Harwell told the Detroit Free Press when he disclosed his illness. "God gives us so many adventures, and I've had some great ones. It's been a terrific life."

It was a new journey, Harwell said, and he was ready for it. Still, many who knew him weren't quite ready to say goodbye.

Everyone knew this day was coming, but it didn't make it any easier to handle.

"He's going to pass at some point," former Tigers great Alan Trammell said during the 1984 Tigers reunion in September, "but the memories are always there, like Tiger Stadium. And obviously, being around him for so many years, there's a lot of good memories for me, and for a lot of people here."

Born Jan. 25, 1918, in Washington, Ga., William Earnest Harwell grew up an aspiring sportswriter, working as a paperboy in Atlanta and as a batboy for the Minor League Atlanta Crackers. He was just 16 years old when a letter he sent to The Sporting News led to a freelance job as its Atlanta correspondent. He spent his high school and college years working on the desk at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He was on his way to becoming a sportswriter, but as he explained later on, life would put him on an unexpected path soon after he graduated from nearby Emory University. With writing jobs in Atlanta hard to find, Harwell auditioned for WSB radio in 1940 and earned a job hosting a sports show. His persistence landed him one of baseball's most coveted interviews at the time when he won over the reclusive Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

Soon after, he broke into play-by-play broadcasting with the Crackers, his start in what ultimately became his profession.

"I'm a failed newspaper man myself," he recalled earlier this year. "I wanted to be a sportswriter when I was younger, working on the [Atlanta] Constitution, doing everything that nobody else would do. Thought maybe I'd be the next Grantland Rice, but it didn't happen. God had another plan for me. Couldn't get a job on the paper, and I got into radio. Stuck with radio and television, and it stuck with me up until 2002."

Harwell honed his broadcasting style with the Crackers, where his conversational style and southern accent took on polish. But it took baseball's only trade involving a broadcaster to break him into the Major Leagues. The Crackers let Harwell out of his contract to join the Brooklyn Dodgers as a fill-in for Red Barber in 1948 in exchange for Minor League catcher Cliff Dapper.

Harwell would stick in the Majors for more than a half-century. He went from behind the microphone of the Dodgers to the Giants (1950-53) -- Vin Scully succeeded him with the Dodgers -- then to the Orioles (1954-59).

Among Harwell's feats, he broadcast Bobby Thomson's home run to win the 1951 National League pennant, better known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," but his call of "It's gone!" ended up overshadowed by Russ Hodges' proclamation that the Giants won the pennant.

He was a household name in the business well before the Tigers hired him to replace Van Patrick in 1960. In Detroit, however, he found a home, on and off the field. Though he had better than four decades of broadcasting left in him, he was done moving.

Harwell spent 42 seasons broadcasting in Detroit, where his Georgia tones became part of the sound of Michigan summers. Through Harwell, fans came to know Tiger Stadium by its location on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, recognized double plays as "two for the price of one," and home runs as "looong gone!" They still associate called third strikes with Harwell's phrase that the batter "stood there like a house by the side of the road."

Countless kids and more than a few adults wondered how Harwell knew the hometowns of so many fans who caught foul balls, whether Ypsilanti, or Sturgis, or whatever town Harwell wished to recognize.

The accolades deservedly followed over the years. He was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, earned induction to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, then the radio sports Hall of Fame in 1998. His songwriting skills, more of a side effort he enjoyed rather than a second career, led to more than 60 recordings by various performers.

To those who came in contact with him, whether longtime friends, colleagues, players or fortunate fans, his legacy as a broadcaster is matched by his legacy away from the microphone. He got to know many Tigers players over the years not only through his job, but through an active role with the Baseball Chapel.

"The thing that you remember," Trammmell said, "is what a special man he is, the way he treated you. That's not easy to do."

The way he treated his situation, too, touched many.

"This whole community loves Ernie Harwell, and they should," Jack Morris said. "He's lived a full life, a life of kindness, grace and honor and goodwill."

Even those who had never met him until recently, until his illness brought him back into the spotlight, were in awe. The grace and the gratitude with which he stood and faced his condition was one more example for many to admire.

"What a tremendous man," said shortstop Adam Everett, who had the chance to visit Harwell at his home.

As Harwell talked with fans one last time from behind home plate at Comerica Park on Sept. 16, standing tall with his hands politely behind him, he turned his fate into a storybook ending in a way only he could.

"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."

Said Morris: "He doesn't want people to feel sorry for him. I've never been an outwardly spiritual kind of guy, but I believe. He's going to get there first, and I hope he saves us a seat."

Harwell is survived by Lulu, his wife of 68 years, sons Bill and Gray, daughters Julie and Carolyn, and numerous grandchildren.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Fri May 07, 2010 12:13 pm

So sad...

http://boardblog.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/05/baseball-lost-a-legend-ernie-harwell.html


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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Sat May 08, 2010 9:53 am

Last Updated: May 07. 2010 7:22PM
11,176 paid respects to Ernie Harwell at Comerica
The Detroit News

Tigers officials announced Friday that 11,176 fans visited Comerica Park Thursday for Ernie Harwell's public viewing. Harwell died Tuesday at age 92.

The gates opened at 7 a.m., and many mourners were greeted by general manager Dave Dombrowski. Officials said the last visitor left at 12:33 a.m. Friday.

The team will honor Harwell in a pregame tribute Monday before the Tigers play the Yankees at 7:05 p.m.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100507/SPORTS0104/5070433/1129/SPORTS0104/11-176-paid-respects-to-Ernie-Harwell-at-Comerica#ixzz0nLGMJ7Mk


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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Sat May 08, 2010 8:50 pm

How I will remember Ernie Harwell
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 3:50 AM

I wish I could say I go back a long way with Ernie, but I can't. Wish I could say I listened to him for years and years, but it wasn't until I was a teenager when my family moved to Toledo and I had a chance to listen to him. But I treasured what I remember of him. I loved listening to him during the summer. More important for me, my first year on the beat was his final season on the air, and watching and listening to him go about his business that final season was unforgettable.

But my biggest Harwell memory? My first day on the job.

I took this job in the middle of Spring Training of 2002, and it was my first day-to-day baseball beat. I came to Lakeland in the middle of March thinking I knew what to do and where to go but really having no idea. I pulled into the parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium around mid-morning, looked around and tried to figure out where I was supposed to be. I looked completely lost, which was fitting since I was.

Somebody walks up to me and shakes my head.

"Hi there," he said. "I'm Ernie Harwell."

Like I said, I don't go back a long way following the Tigers. But I still know who Ernie Harwell is. So I'm in awe at this point.

After I introduced myself, Ernie Harwell -- having never met me, not really knowing what I do other than cover the team for an internet site -- showed me around the Tigers complex. He took me into the clubhouse and introduced me to then-manager Phil Garner, who by this point is readying to take the field for morning workouts. He has work to do, but because it's Ernie, he introduces himself. He then shows me around the ballpark and towards the practice fields.

By this point in Spring Training, the news was long since out that this would be Ernie's last season. He has plenty of things to do to prepare. But he took this time out of his morning to help along a young reporter who didn't have a clue. I've never forgotten that, and I never will.

I'll also never forget talking with Ernie on the phone the day he revealed his condition last summer. I'll never forget the feeling that he was trying to make me feel better about his situation, not the other way around. And I think none of us will forget the feeling that when you talked with Ernie or listening, you were with a genuinely good human being on a scale unlike many folks you meet in your life.

I think Jim Leyland and Alan Trammell are right that Harwell's life should be celebrated, not mourned. And I think whether you listened to Harwell or met him or both, you feel fortunate to have run across him. It just might take a day or two to get to that feeling. And then I'm going to remember that rainbow in the sky in Minneapolis shortly after news that Ernie passed away.


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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Sat May 08, 2010 8:52 pm

Son: Ernie's last days were "peaceful"
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Ernie Harwell's son, Gray, was amazed Tuesday morning when he arrived at Comerica Park and saw the line of people waiting to pay their last respects to his father.

"I knew everybody loved him," he said with a laugh, "but I didn't know they loved him this much."

The grace and strength his father showed, even in the face of incurable cancer, did not surprise him nearly so much, if at all.

"My dad, as you know, he was at peace with it all," he said. "He just slowed down with his breathing and he just stopped breathing and he was very peaceful."

Ernie Harwell, his son said, did not suffer much pain from the cancer that took his life. Given that his cancer was of the bile duct, he apparently suffered much less pain than might have been expected.

Up until the last day, Gray Harwell said, he was lucid. But it was in recent days that his health really turned and the end was really near.

The last time Gray Harwell talked to his father, he said, was on Monday. At that point, he said, he was ready for what awaited him.

"He died very peacefully in his bed," Gray Harwell said. "I talked to him Monday afternoon, and he said, 'Gray, I'm ready to go home. I'm ready to see the Lord.' And I said, 'Dad, God's arms are wide open to you.' And I prayed with him. I said, 'God, please be merciful to my dad. He's starting to suffer. Please take him home to be with you.' He was gone the next day, and we're thankful for that."

Gray Harwell lives in Florida, where he works as a minister. He did not make it up to be with his dad in his final moments, but he was one of a couple family members to make the trip to Thursday's public viewing. He wanted to thank people, he said, for the respect and the love they showed him.

He was grieving, he said, but the fact that they knew this was coming and he had been grieving for a while made this a little easier.

"There is an advantage to knowing somebody's dying," he said, "and having the time to adjust. You really do grieve some ahead of time. The grief is not as heavy now, because we've been grieving. We really knew nine months ago that he was diagnosed with cancer, so we've been grieving for nine months. There is a finality to it. But the main thing for us is my dad knew where he was going."

Asked how his mom is doing, the younger Harwell said, "She's doing pretty good. She's still saying, 'I can't believe he's gone.' They've been married 68 years, and her life has really revolved around him."

The Harwell family will have a private memorial service for family members Friday.


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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Sat May 08, 2010 8:54 pm

Ilitch: Ernie was a true professional
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 5:11 PM

There might be few names tied closer to Ernie Harwell in his broadcasting career than Mike Ilitch, who made Harwell's return to the booth one of his first acts when he bought the team. Harwell never forgot that.

"We had a wonderful relationship," Ilitch said Thursday. "When I brought him back, he was so grateful, and he called me often. And almost every time we would sit down for dinner or a lot of the phone calls, he'd keep repeating, 'Thanks for bringing me back. He was so grateful."

Ilitch, in turn, never forgot what Harwell to the team, to the city, to the game. When Harwell had dinner with Ilitch last fall and brought up the idea of a public viewing at the ballpark, he didn't have to ask twice.

"We went to dinner with his agent," Ilitch recalled, "and he asked me, 'I want to ask a favor of you.' I said, 'What's that, Ernie?' He said, 'I'd like to be laid out at Comerica Park.' I said, 'Well, that would be great. The fans would love that.' He asked once. I answered once."

Ilitch paid a visit to the viewing around midday and took over thanking people in line himself, giving team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and other top club officials a break for a little while.

"They've been telling me what a great man he is," Ilitch said, "how much they're going to miss him, thank you for having this, thank you. They're very appreciative. There's such a mix of our fans."

Ilitch has done some interviews on Harwell since his passing Tuesday, but has tried to keep them limited.

"If you talk too much about it, you get carried away. It's very emotional," he said. "I did some radio interviews today. I wrote down a lot of things I figured that were characteristic of him, and then I had the response from the announcers. And then all of us came to once conclusion: There were so many nice things about him, we couldn't figure out what was the key to him, what really made this guy.

"I think the best answer I got was he started in radio, and they got used to that voice and they loved that voice and he was all business and he never missed one pitch. He was very, very serious about not missing one pitch."


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PostSubject: Re: Legendary broadcaster Harwell passes away   Sat May 08, 2010 8:55 pm

Feliciano, Carey to be part of Harwell tribute Monday
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 8:38 PM

Jose Feliciano became a national headline after Ernie Harwell invited him to perform the national anthem at Tiger Stadium during the 1968 World Series. Paul Carey became Harwell's partner in the broadcast booth for nearly two decades, their two voices forever linked.

Both remained near and dear to Harwell for the rest of his life. Both will be on hand at Comerica Park to celebrate his life Monday night.

Tigers officials confirmed that both will be part of their tribute to Harwell, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who passed away Tuesday at age 92. The presentation will take place prior to the 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Yankees.

In honor of Harwell, Feliciano will return to Detroit to perform the anthem. It was his slower, nontraditional interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner before Game 5 of the Fall Classic that generated controversy among veterans who called in to complain. It marked one of the first times that someone performed a different interpretation of the anthem at a sporting event.

Harwell was in charge of choosing performers for that series, and he later said he liked it. He was proven right, as Feliciano's version of the anthem actually hit the Billboard singles charts once Feliciano released it. The two remained friends for the next four decades, and Harwell defended the performance for the rest of his life.

The 82-year-old Carey will return to the Tigers to take the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. Born in Mt. Plesant, Mich., Carey joined Harwell to share play-by-play duties on Tigers radio broadcasts in 1973. The two remained broadcast parnters until after the 1991 season.

Aside from the guest appearances, the Tigers plan to have a touching ceremony to honor their broadcaster of 42 seasons in what will undoubtedly be an emotional night. The patches with Harwell's initials that adorned the Tigers' road jerseys Wednesday will be on the home uniforms for the rest of the season. Much like George Kell last year, a flag bearing his initials will be raised in left-center field by former Tigers greats.

A video tribute will honor Harwell's life and career, including his speech to fans last September. Fans in attendance Monday will receive a keepsake commemorating the evening.


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