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Ernie Harwell memory thread

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Just thinking back on the one finest Ernie Harwell memory I have.

11 or 12 years old...parents dining room stereo...doing scorecards on the dining room table...this would be in the early Sparky Anderson era.

or was it...the absolute joy of hearing Ernie on an Armed Forces Radio broadcast while I was in Germany in September 1987

or the terrible sadness of listening to the dog years as both Tiger Stadium and the Tigers fell into disarray.

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Just a kid during the 80s, but I can remember me and my dad listening to him and paul carey on the car radio...man oh man do I miss those days

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Mid-'80s. Late summer. I'm 12, 13 years old. Mowing the backyard with dad's Simplicity tractor, Walkman on head, Ernie and Paul keeping me company.

Sunday afternoon. Going to Grandma's house in Harrison Township after church. Ernie's voice booming from her kitchen radio.

The very good old days.

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Playing the Angels on the west coast

Late at night, in 1963

Transistor radio against my ear

In my sweltering bedroom

Listening to that soft Georgia accent intone in the night

From a couple thousand miles away

Until I fell asleep, his angelic voice

Carrying me into another world

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Sitting on the dock on a sunlight afternoon, crank baiting in pursuit of a mighty Pike.

A cold drink and that golden voice from Georgia keep company with me.

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Too many to cite, although one very recent memory stands tall:

Ernie's MC'ing of the closing ceremonies for Tiger Stadium. Me standing in the left field lower deck seats, tears streaming down my face as all my heroes strode in from the center field gate that I had once entered the field from. I will never forget that day, as long as I live.

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My mom took me up to meet him in Cocoa when the Tigers were in town during Spring Training in about '93 or so. I was nervous but told him how much I love the way he works. My mom was also short for words but she was able to get the important ones out. He left a great impression through his kindness and genuine enjoyment of meeting us.

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The late west coast game with the radio hidden under the pillow is a good one that I share.

Paul Carey's voice was hard to hide in that scenario...booming.

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I don't have many memories since I didn't have everyday access to Tigers games on TV or radio until 2003ish, but I definitely watched the games where Ernie sat in when Mario or Rod took a day off, or whenever he'd sit in for an inning on national TV. I wish I had heard more, but I feel lucky enough to have heard him broadcast period.

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During the '06 season I was down along the third base line prior to the start of a game. Ernie was leading a walk of some Blue Cross people around the warning track. As he approached I yelled out to him. He slowed down and reached out to me. We shook hands very briefly. He said hello and thanked me for coming out to the ballpark, and then continued on his way.

God bless that man.

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I remember when I was a kid in the late 70's or early 80's listening to him call Tiger games on the radio late at night. Whenever there was a fould ball, he would announce the hometown of the person blessed enough to catch it.

As a young kid, I just couldn't figure out how he knew where everybody was from. I was sure he had a list of all the fans in the radio booth. and he would look up the seat number to see where they were from.

Good-bye to a great man...

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Growing up in South Bend, the only way to follow the Tigers was to listen to Ernie. Many of nights I woud lay in bed, or pretend to be doing homework with the radio tuned into WRJ, sometimes you could pick up the Battle Creek affiliate, but WRJ was the stronger signal still. He was my connection. My mom would let me skip school on Opening Day so that I could listen to Ernie..

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I met him once during the final game at Tiger Stadium. We stopped him before he went into his pressbox and asked for a picture. We talked for a few minutes, got a couple pictures, said how much he influenced our lives as Tiger fans and he asked some questions in return. Class act. I'll enjoy those pictures for the rest of my life.

And the other would just have to be a generic feeling of listening to games in my childhood - from about 1978 until the late 1980s. Listening to Ernie and Paul on the radio was just relaxing. I still love listening to those games. He was a class act.

And I guess I have to post about this last chapter in his life. He attacked it with a spirit few would. Maybe that more than anything will be my lasting memory of Ernie.

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Summer of 1989, I was stationed in Sacramento with the USAF. I remember walking into a SF Giants game at Candlestick Park the around the time the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association inducted Ernie into their Hall Of Fame. Some of the tailgaters were listening to the A's-Tigers game on the radio, and the A's announcers mentioned Harwell's induction, then switched over to the WJR broadcast for a half-inning. I hadn't heard Ernie call a ball game for nearly four years at that point, and I made my friends stop so I could listen. They rolled their eyes, but I just smiled and soaked it in. It really did give me goose bumps.

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Summer of 1989, I was stationed in Sacramento with the USAF. I remember walking into a SF Giants game at Candlestick Park the around the time the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association inducted Ernie into their Hall Of Fame. Some of the tailgaters were listening to the A's-Tigers game on the radio, and the A's announcers mentioned Harwell's induction, then switched over to the WJR broadcast for a half-inning. I hadn't heard Ernie call a ball game for nearly four years at that point, and I made my friends stop so I could listen. They rolled their eyes, but I just smiled and soaked it in. It really did give me goose bumps.

That had to be cool.

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The first glorious summer that I was a Tiger fan, 1962 (10 years old), I discovered to my amazement - one of those "told you there was a God" moments - that the radio station in Niagara Falls, Ontariio (10 miles from my home) for some reason had picked up the Tigers' games. Ernie and Paul, all summer, clear as a bell, me at the kitchen table. My Dad taught me how to keep score, and figure out batting averages and ERA.

There were some names that Ernie just took pure joy in saying - Rocky Colavito, and Chico Fernandez. You could just tell that he liked them as people. and he liked their names too.

That Niagara Falls station gave up on the Tigers' games after a year or so, and after that I had to try for WJR. More static than Ernie some times, but his voice still rang true. All through the summer weekends of 1967 and 1968 I would have a radio against my ear, walking around in the yard trying to get decent reception. I'm sure that my parents wondered what would ever become of me. Back in those days a typical outcome would be that the Tigers would win 2-1 after Willie Horton hit a solo HR off Ed Farmer in the bottom of the 7th.

Ernie never sounded like a homer. Even as a little kid I noticed it. He was fair, and most of all he was kind. He'd find a way to tell you that someone had made a mistake, without making him sound like a total loser.

My childhood wouldn't have been quite as good without him. Baseball would have been important one way or the other, but I'd never have known what I was missing if he hadn't been there.

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I was taking a creative writing course and the assignment was write a catch phrase....

I don't know what I came up with, but another student wrote:

"He stood there like a house beside the road."

I felt so many things in that one moment --- besides the pure fact that I thought the guy was an idiot for stealing such a well known phrase. I kept waiting for the teacher to say something like -- so much better when they guy you stole it from said it... but the professor must not have been a baseball fan (or Tiger fan)

with all my thoughts swimming around in my head -- like jambalaya, it hit me

Doode you didn't write that, you didn't create it --- but Ernie was/is so pervasive, we all own that in our memory.

I realized that Ernie was poetry and grace all of us --- for even those who didn't have a fleck of creativity in them

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One more

It's one of those memories that isn't one time, but an accumulation of many many seasons. Every time I Ernie's voice takes ahold of me -- from the various clips being played of late -- I am transported to the 60's --- in a dirt filled truck cab, riding next to my dad on a weekend as he went around checking on jobs.

My dad passed on eight years ago, but he is still very much alive in the timber of Harwell's voice. In fact much of what I have thought in the past three hours is... no you can't call dad and talk about this...

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Countless memories from the '70s as a kid, working outside in April with my Dad, listening to Ernie and Paul Carey on an old clock radio, blaring, excited that baseball was back.

And one from '88, working at a summer camp in New Hampshire. The Tigers were on a west coast swing, late night games, and I could tune in and listen to Ernie call the game on the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, and I felt a little closer to home.

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4579643719_ac9ac62a1c_o.jpg

There is no sports franchise I dislike or despise more than the Minnesota Twins, but I saw that during the game earlier tonight. I thought it was very classy of them to do that. Of course, even though us Tigers fans have been hit the hardest by the loss, anyone who is a baseball fan is feeling it tonight too.

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I would guess there are a lot of people born in the 50's, who lived about 90 miles from Detroit, have a special memory of static, the smell of leather, a transistor radio --- all because of Ernie Harwell

radio.png

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