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Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

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  • Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

    This has been touched on in the Tigers thread, but there are a lot of Michiganders on this board, and I would guess most have fond memories and stories of Ernie. I thought it might be nice to hear some of them; the people in the media have been giving theirs, but Ernie belonged to everybody.

    I grew up in a glorious decade for baseball. The Tigers winning the '84 title is one of my earliest childhood memories, and I lived and died with every game of the '87 pennant race. My heroes were guys like Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson, and summer days were spent with a baseball glove or a bat close at hand. There were games of pickle at a friend's house wearing cheap kids Tiger jerseys. There were solo games in the front yard with the wiffle bat and ball, imitating Ernie's distinct play-by-play. Grip the bat, toss, swing, "Loooong G.." whoops, try again. Toss, swing, "Looooong go..." rats, one more time. Toss, swing, "And it's LOOOONNNGG GAAAAWN!

    Dan Miekstyn, one of the local dads, would occasionally round up all of the kids in the neighborhood for a big ball game at the local park. 20 or 30 kids, Dan, and Carl Pray (the kid who was in high school and was very big) with a rag ball, their gloves, and some metal bats. The strategy was to get on base so that when Dan or Carl got up to bat (they were always on opposing teams) they would hit a massive home run and you would score. If a kid got knocked silly, Dan would hold an open hand in front of them and perform a quick examination. "Hey, how many fingers am I holding up?" "Five?" "Nope! Four and a thumb."

    The game would continue until the fading August twilight would beckon us to our respective homes. The kitchen would welcome me with the smell of dinner on the stove and the sound of Ernie on the radio. The Tigers would be contending for first place, Trammell and Whitaker would be connecting for a double play, and the Tigers would be on their way to gaining a half-game. With Ernie you could see the green grass and the pitcher waving off the catcher and the giant swing of the slugger, whiffing at a Jack Morris fastball. On dreamy summer nights, everything was right where it was supposed to be. Family, supper, and Ernie.

    Ernie was the kind older gentleman who lived next door and took you to a ballgame with his extra change. He would give you all kinds of great insights, and then ask how your sick aunt was doing. If you inadvertently forgot to say "thank you" or ran off without saying good by, he was the man who would chuckle to himself, glad he got to spend the evening.

    My "personal" story was when Ernie spoke at a church meeting at Peas Auditorium that my family went to. I don't remember much of what he said, but I remember that before he even began he told all the boys in the crowd to come down to the front. From somewhere, he produced handfuls of brand new baseballs and threw them out to every boy who ran down. As always, approachable, kind, and gracious.

    By his testimony Ernie accepted Jesus Christ as his savior in 1960. In the last year of his life he exemplified the peace promised in Romans 5:1 -- "Therefore being now justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Ernie had no fear of death because he had God's promise of where he was going. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. We don't need to be sad for Ernie; he really is in a better place.

    Instead we are saddened for ourselves. Ernie was a part of the fabric of Michigan for decades, and millions of people have the same fond memories of him that I do. We will miss the occasional guest appearance on a telecast or even his kindly radio commercials. We are saddened for Lulu, his wife of 68 years. We are saddened for our home state, which in this time of hardship has lost yet another piece of what makes it great.

    Mostly, though, I am thankful that I knew him. We all did. Like dad coming home from work and pickup ball games and mowing the lawn, Ernie was a part of summertime. The bowls of ice cream, the lazy bike rides, the trees to climb, the warm family dinners. And Ernie.

    See you on the Golden Shore, Ernie.
    Last edited by Caustic Undertow; 05-06-2010, 01:47 PM. Reason: Removing repetition
    Jesus Saves

  • #2
    Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

    For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."

    RIP Ernie.
    bueller: Why is the sunset good? Why are boobs good? Why does Positrack work? Why does Ferris lose on the road and play dead at home?

    It just happens.


    nmupiccdiva: I'm sorry I missed you this weekend! I thought I saw you at the football game, but I didn't want to go up to a complete stranger and ask "are you Monster?" and have it not be you!

    leswp1: you need the Monster to fix you

    Life is active, find Balance!massage therapy Ann Arbor

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

      Here's a great article about Dan Shulman's thoughts on Mr. Harwell and other radio legends:

      Shulman’s first full-time radio job came at CKBB in Barrie. He worked the 3-11 p.m., shift but still lived in Toronto.

      “Every night, I would drive home between 11 and 12 and listen to KMOX in St. Louis. I’d usually get the last inning or so. And even if the signal didn’t come in clearly, I would take a crackly baseball game over my favourite song. It helped me get through the drive.”

      “When I was 16 years old, baseball on television was Wednesday night, a national game of the week on Saturday and maybe a game on Sunday,” the famed Canadian announcer said. “Now, if you have the digital package, you can get 15 games a night, every night. You can get every hockey game, every football game, and add to that the Internet, Nintendo, XBox, Wii. The attraction to your team isn’t the same. Now, if you don’t want to watch your team, you change channels.”
      Growing old is mandatory -- growing up is optional!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

        This thread title would make a terrible bodice ripper.
        Cornell University
        National Champion 1967, 1970
        ECAC Champion 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1980, 1986, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2010
        Ivy League Champion 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

          I must have listened to just about every game during summer vacation '84, carrying my portable radio around. My guys were Lance Parrish and Sweet Lou. The high point was Morris's no hitter, when I got so extremely stressed out that I buried my head under my pillow so I wouldn't have to hear the 9th inning, popping out every 5-10 seconds to see if it was over yet. When he completed the no-no, my mom kicked me out of the house for exceeding acceptable noise levels.
          Good ol' Ernie Harwell. "He stood there like the house by the side of the road, and watched that one go by."
          My brother tape recorded the final World Series game. I wonder if he still has it.
          Huskies are very intelligent and trainable. Huskies make an excellent jogging companion, as long as it is not too hot. Grooming is minimal; bathing is normally unnecessary.
          USCHO Fantasy Baseball Champion 2011 2013 2015

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

            A nice blog post from Brewers TV announcer Brian Anderson, on his first congratulatory phone call after getting his first MLB job: http://babrewer.mlblogs.com/archives...e_harwell.html

            They had a moment of silence for him Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

              Originally posted by Caustic Undertow View Post
              This has been touched on in the Tigers thread, but there are a lot of Michiganders on this board, and I would guess most have fond memories and stories of Ernie. I thought it might be nice to hear some of them; the people in the media have been giving theirs, but Ernie belonged to everybody.

              I grew up in a glorious decade for baseball. The Tigers winning the '84 title is one of my earliest childhood memories, and I lived and died with every game of the '87 pennant race. My heroes were guys like Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson, and summer days were spent with a baseball glove or a bat close at hand. There were games of pickle at a friend's house wearing cheap kids Tiger jerseys. There were solo games in the front yard with the wiffle bat and ball, imitating Ernie's distinct play-by-play. Grip the bat, toss, swing, "Loooong G.." whoops, try again. Toss, swing, "Looooong go..." rats, one more time. Toss, swing, "And it's LOOOONNNGG GAAAAWN!

              Dan Miekstyn, one of the local dads, would occasionally round up all of the kids in the neighborhood for a big ball game at the local park. 20 or 30 kids, Dan, and Carl Pray (the kid who was in high school and was very big) with a rag ball, their gloves, and some metal bats. The strategy was to get on base so that when Dan or Carl got up to bat (they were always on opposing teams) they would hit a massive home run and you would score. If a kid got knocked silly, Dan would hold an open hand in front of them and perform a quick examination. "Hey, how many fingers am I holding up?" "Five?" "Nope! Four and a thumb."

              The game would continue until the fading August twilight would beckon us to our respective homes. The kitchen would welcome me with the smell of dinner on the stove and the sound of Ernie on the radio. The Tigers would be contending for first place, Trammell and Whitaker would be connecting for a double play, and the Tigers would be on their way to gaining a half-game. With Ernie you could see the green grass and the pitcher waving off the catcher and the giant swing of the slugger, whiffing at a Jack Morris fastball. On dreamy summer nights, everything was right where it was supposed to be. Family, supper, and Ernie.

              Ernie was the kind older gentleman who lived next door and took you to a ballgame with his extra change. He would give you all kinds of great insights, and then ask how your sick aunt was doing. If you inadvertently forgot to say "thank you" or ran off without saying good by, he was the man who would chuckle to himself, glad he got to spend the evening.

              My "personal" story was when Ernie spoke at a church meeting at Peas Auditorium that my family went to. I don't remember much of what he said, but I remember that before he even began he told all the boys in the crowd to come down to the front. From somewhere, he produced handfuls of brand new baseballs and threw them out to every boy who ran down. As always, approachable, kind, and gracious.

              By his testimony Ernie accepted Jesus Christ as his savior in 1960. In the last year of his life he exemplified the peace promised in Romans 5:1 -- "Therefore being now justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Ernie had no fear of death because he had God's promise of where he was going. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. We don't need to be sad for Ernie; he really is in a better place.

              Instead we are saddened for ourselves. Ernie was a part of the fabric of Michigan for decades, and millions of people have the same fond memories of him that I do. We will miss the occasional guest appearance on a telecast or even his kindly radio commercials. We are saddened for Lulu, his wife of 68 years. We are saddened for our home state, which in this time of hardship has lost yet another piece of what makes it great.

              Mostly, though, I am thankful that I knew him. We all did. Like dad coming home from work and pickup ball games and mowing the lawn, Ernie was a part of summertime. The bowls of ice cream, the pickup ballgames, the trees to climb, the warm family dinners. And Ernie.

              See you on the Golden Shore, Ernie.
              Well written, sir- especially the last couple of paragraphs. I hope you are doing good.

              My own experience with Ernie started back in 1980. I had the humbling good fortune of being a decent high school baseball player and was invited to Tiger stadium with a couple teammates to receive on-field All-League awards prior to the Catholic League championship games. Ernie happened to attend because the Tigers were off that day and were about to open a home stand. He greeted each and every one of us as we exited the field. He didn't have to be there, but he came anyway because he wanted to.

              I ran into Ernie a couple of years later while working in downtown Farmington, not far from his home. He was in a banking institution and I was there to pick up overnight deposit bags. I was shocked that he remembered me- and he remembered where I played, what position and what number I wore. He was an incredible human being and I will never forget him- not so much for his announcing skills but for the way he made every one he met feel important. He truly lived what he believed.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                great memories!

                Ernie made baseball poetry. He was a class act through and through.
                Originally posted by mtu_huskies
                "We are not too far away from a national championship," said (John) Scott.
                Boosh Factor 4

                Originally posted by Brent Hoven
                Yeah, but you're my favorite hag.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                  Well said Caustic! Thanks for sharing.
                  Originally posted by Priceless
                  Good to see you're so reasonable.
                  Originally posted by ScoobyDoo
                  Very well, said.
                  Originally posted by Rover
                  A fair assessment Bob.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                    Originally posted by streaker View Post
                    My own experience with Ernie started back in 1980. I had the humbling good fortune of being a decent high school baseball player and was invited to Tiger stadium with a couple teammates to receive on-field All-League awards prior to the Catholic League championship games. Ernie happened to attend because the Tigers were off that day and were about to open a home stand. He greeted each and every one of us as we exited the field. He didn't have to be there, but he came anyway because he wanted to.

                    I ran into Ernie a couple of years later while working in downtown Farmington, not far from his home. He was in a banking institution and I was there to pick up overnight deposit bags. I was shocked that he remembered me- and he remembered where I played, what position and what number I wore. He was an incredible human being and I will never forget him- not so much for his announcing skills but for the way he made every one he met feel important. He truly lived what he believed.
                    That's awesome. It would be interesting to calculate how many people have had that sort of personal encounter with Ernie. Many thousands at least.

                    And, I'm doing well, thanks for asking.
                    Jesus Saves

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                      Pat Reusse's column from today's Strib.

                      My favorite part:

                      For me, the most memorable Harwell moment as a broadcaster came in May 1984. The Tigers -- in what would be a World Series-winning season -- were off to a fantastic start. I was listening to WJR late one night when Detroit won in Anaheim.

                      Harwell gave the totals, the details of the Tigers' latest streak, mentioned matter-of-factly they were now 35-5 and then added in low-key tribute, "What a ballclub."

                      A single "what a ballclub" from Ernie Harwell was better-earned than all the superlatives a home team can get from a modern-day yelper in a full season.

                      Minnesota's Pride On Ice: 1974, 1976, 1979, 2002 & 2003 NCAA National Champions


                      And the preacher said, you know you always have the Lord by your side
                      And I was so pleased to be informed of this that I ran
                      Twenty red lights in his honor
                      Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord

                      ~Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                        Originally posted by Caustic Undertow View Post
                        That's awesome. It would be interesting to calculate how many people have had that sort of personal encounter with Ernie. Many thousands at least.

                        And, I'm doing well, thanks for asking.
                        Absolutely. He was a far better man than we truly know, too.

                        I also encountered his son, Bill several times. Sounds *just* like his father. We worked together very briefly when I was with a very prominent insurance company in 1985.

                        Oh, and last time we spoke you were out in California. Now in Duluth? (Heard they are expecting 3-5" of snow tomorrow.) Maybe you can get to Yost some day soon again.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                          I had the opportunity to go by Comerica Park this morning and pay my respects. Mike Illitch and Dave Dombrowski were both there to greet each and every fan. It was a classy way to honor the classiest guy I have ever known.

                          Ernie Harwell is the single reason I liked baseball growing up. The Tigers were terrible when I was a kid, but every single night I listened to Ernie because I loved the way he made the game come alive in my mind.

                          As Ernie once spoke about Tiger Stadium, we say to him today..."Farewell ole friend...we will remember."
                          MICHIGAN STATE
                          1966:1986:2007

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                            I have no idea what he is like as a person, but as an owner and a Detroiter we are lucky to have Mike Illitch. Very impressed that he would greet every fan.

                            My family and I moved to Duluth last summer to assume an assistant pastor position after I finished school. We love it, and it is nice being somewhere where hockey is relevant again. I caught about a game and a half at the DECC where UMD plays, and I actually did make it to the Minnesota game of the Showcase when we visited family. I looked around a bit but could not find you. I might get to catch the Showcase again this year (closer to where I live, obviously) and I am planning on watching Michigan's Frozen Four semifinal game in person. My next Michigan football game is a bit farther off--Michigan doesn't play in the Cities until 2012 or 2013, I believe.

                            Can't forget where I come from, though. Nobody hassles me about rooting for the Lions, but being a Tigers fan was tough after game 163.
                            Jesus Saves

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Ernie Harwell: A summertime companion

                              Nice work caustic.

                              I didn't grow up in Michigan, and had little exposure to Harwell, but as these old time broadcasters pass away, we lose not only great people, but our intimate connection with baseball on the radio, which for may of us, helps define the Sound of the American summer.

                              Baseball, with its languid pace, is built for radio. You can relax on your back porch on a summer evening, and hang out with with your dad and the game on in the background, and just enjoy that almost daily bond that develops between families, communities and their team. Most of us who grew up with limited baseball on TV have a true fondness for baseball on the radio, and with all the games on TV now, I think we are losing something...

                              RIP, Ernie.

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