It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

A young journalist’s take on the death of Ernie Harwell

with one comment

Everyone in the state of Michigan knows by now that Ernie Harwell, the broadcaster known as the “voice of the Tigers” died May 4 at his apartment in Novi. His death has people all over the state remembering listening to him on the radio broadcasting games, and remembering how much he meant to them and their childhood. Harwell broadcasted Tigers games for more than four decades, before retiring in 2002.

Former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. (Found on rodgerdodgerowl.wordpress.com)

His death is being mourned all over the state and the country. From signs at food markets to “EH” patches already being donned by the Detroit Tigers players, even to a moment of silence before a criminal court hearing in Detroit, people are remembering one of – if not the – greatest voices to broadcast baseball.

With all of the tributes and recollections of years past involving Harwell, it made me think: Who will be our generation’s version of Ernie Harwell?

The big memory it seems that people have of Harwell is late at night, broadcasting games on the radio (AM radio, to be exact), a form of media that our generation, the ones raised in the time of iPhones and wireless Internet, does not embrace. The intimacy of one man being the gatekeeper and connecting with millions of people seems to be gone.

Perhaps this is a big reason why, even though Ernie had retired in 2002, older generations still waited for him to appear and make a guest call during an inning or two. As much as Ernie was a broadcaster, he was something else: a link to the media past.

Nowadays, you can know how the Tigers are doing on TV, on the radio, online via play-by-plays, livestreams and GameCasts. That intimacy of feeling like you’ve gotten to trust someone to inform you of what’s happening is gone. That’s why so many people loved Ernie Harwell, because no matter what happened in their personal lives, they knew they could turn on the radio that afternoon or evening, and get the information on the Tigers from a reliable source they could trust.

Our generation may never get an Ernie Harwell, wherever we end up in this country or across the globe. With all the different ways people can now get information, there probably won’t be someone who was so relied on as much as Ernie was.

Personally, I don’t consciously remember strictly listening to Ernie when I was younger. There’s not a specific time I could point to and say “I remember when he called that game.” But being a major Detroit Tigers fan growing up (I am my father’s son), I understand and realize how important he was to the baseball culture of Michigan. And I will always remember hearing his speech he gave in September 2009 thanking everyone for listening to him and supporting him while he battled cancer. As much as he thanked everyone for their support, most of the state is saying the same thing back right now tenfold. Rest in peace, Ernie. You’ve made this state a better place. All it took was a microphone.

ERNIE HARWELL LINKS

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Mitch Albom: Gone, but not forgotten

DETROIT NEWS: Interactive display with video tributes, as well as audio from Harwell’s last address in September 2009

DETROITTIGERS.COM: Full page of information on Harwell, including video


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Written by David Veselenak

May 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

One Response

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  1. Just a thought from me, I don’t think there will be an Ernie for our generation. That kind of loyalty to a city – the kind Ernie had and the kind players like Steve Yzerman had – it just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. For the most part, money makes loyalty. That, and winning.

    Lindsay Knake

    May 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm


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