Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Remembering Ernie Harwell

I did not know Ernie Harwell well.
We’d say hi when we saw each other at Tigers’ games.
We sat together in a dugout once at Memorial Field in Royal Oak and talked about baseball for a good half hour or more.
The Royal Oak Sandlot League had named one of its leagues after the Tigers’ Hall of Fame announcer.
Harwell talked sincerely about his appreciation. He talked about his love of baseball, and how that love affair had begun. I asked him some questions, but mostly we just talked. I think Ernie appreciated that. I know I did. It was no interrogation.
It was in late in the winter of 2009 when I was going through my voice mail messages at work. There is nothing noteworthy about that since I do it on a daily basis.
But one message in particular immediately got my attention. It was the voice; the same voice that came through the Heath Kit transistor radio that my dad and I built when I was a young kid. I’d turn that radio  on late at night and listen to the Tigers’ games on the West Coast.
It was the same voice that said many times he stood there like a house on the side of the road when someone struck out; the same voice that said a man from Paw Paw or a woman from Ludington had caught that foul ball.
It was Ernie Harwell wishing me good luck because he had heard I’d gotten sick. That was the kind of guy he was. Ernie was succumbing to cancer by that point and he still took the time to wish me good luck with my battle with that same insidious disease.
The stories of Ernie’s kindness are numerous and legendary. So are the tales of his impact on people, some of whom he’d never met.
I remember talking to a woman years ago who was visually impaired. Because of her blindness, she had  never had the pleasure of actually seeing a Tigers’ game. Her conduit to the sport and her hometown team was Ernie Harwell and she loved him for it. The verbal pictures he drew for her were vivid.
I hear that “Ernie,” Mitch Albom’s play dedicated to Ernie Harwell, is well-worth seeing. The play’s run has been extended to Sunday, July 31, at the City Theatre, which is just one block from Comerica Park.
Ernie Harwell was 92 when he died on May 4, 2010, after nearly a year-long battle with cancer.
“Ernie” is set on Ernie Harwell’s last night at Comerica Park, when he was about to give a final thank you to the fans. Just before he walks onto the field, he encounters a boy who is anxious to know all about him.
Most tickets cost $20, and convenient show times make it easy to also catch a Tigers’ game.
Ernie Harwell would appreciate that. He always cared about the fans. That was just his nature.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home