Former Tigers announcer and Detroit legend Ernie Harwell passed away today at his home in Novi, MI. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just under one year ago. While he would balk at the thought of anyone feeling sorry for him, it’s hard to not feel empty after this news. He was adopted by the city of Detroit as one of her own, and he embraced the city and its people just as warmly.
Mr. Harwell was born on January 25, 1918. A native Georgian, he began his broadcasting career in New York in 1954. He became the voice of the Tigers in 1960, continuing until the conclusion of the 1991 season. He was a TV broadcaster for the team from 1994-1998, then resumed radio duties from 1999 to 2002, totalling 42 years with the team. He made occasional appearances with Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on Fox Sports broadcasts over the past few seasons. While I was too young to have very many memories of Mr. Harwell’s broadcasts, he truly touched the lives of millions of Detroiters throughout his time in the booth.
As I sit here, I’m struggling to come up with the words to describe what Mr. Harwell meant to this city. Ironically, the only person gifted enough to make this description would be Mr. Harwell himself. The outpouring of sympathies on Twitter and in other venues since this news broke is truly astounding. The statue of his likeness on the concourse of Comerica Park serves as a reminder of how beloved he was by Tigers fans of all ages.
I can’t rightfully say that this was my idea (@chollis was the first one I saw that tweeted it), but I’m definitely jumping on the bandwagon of naming the field after Mr. Harwell. “Ernie Harwell Field at Comerica Park” has a pretty nice ring to it, and would be a fitting tribute to the long-time voice of Tigers baseball.
Rest in peace, Mr. Harwell. Though you may be gone, you will never be forgotten.