Tiger fans recall Harwell as g-r-r-e-a-t
Posted: Thursday, May 6, 2010 5:00 pm
By: By COREY WILLIAM, Associated Press Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Ernie Harwell’s mellow Georgia drawl carried Detroit Tigers baseball over the airwaves for decades, conjuring for generations of fans a trip to the ballpark.
That voice now silenced, fans began coming to Comerica Park to pay their final respects to the man whose love of the game enriched the Tigers’ successes and soothed the pain of losing.
The stadium was scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Thursday to allow fans to view the body of the Hall of Fame broadcaster who died Tuesday night of cancer at age 92. The Tigers said the viewing would continue until the last fan had said goodbye.
Some fans didn’t wait, dropping off small bouquets of flowers Wednesday in front of a large concrete Tiger statue outside the stadium’s main gate. A hand-lettered sign stuck between the bars of the fence surrounding Comerica Park read, “Ernie Alway’s the voice of summer You will be missed.”
It was a refrain repeated countless times by Michigan residents, ranging from a U.S. senator to those scraping up money for a bleacher seat.
Baseball followers, young, old and in-between, remembered Harwell by assembling makeshift memorials, posting nostalgic Facebook entries and gathering to share favorite stories about the man many in Michigan regarded as the voice of summer.
Mike Eaton owns an auto spring shop near the site. Started by his grandfather, the shop first opened across from the old ballpark in 1939.
“You knew summer was coming when Ernie Harwell was on the radio,” he said. “Everyone has stories of being a kid and sneaking to keep their radios on at night to listen to late games. I did that as a kid.”
Like the old stadium, Harwell was a fixture at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. He called Tigers games for 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting, most of them at Tiger Stadium.
He announced Detroit games on the radio from 1960-1991, again in 1993 and from 1999-2002. He broadcast games on over-the-air and cable television from 1960-64 and 1994-98. The last game was played at Tiger Stadium in 1999.
Harwell called his final game at Comerica Park on Sept. 22, 2002.