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Ernie Harwell
Ernie Harwell statue Comerica Park Detroit.jpg
Statue of Ernie Harwell at Comerica Park
Background information
Date of birth: January 25, 1918 (1918-01-25) (age 92)
Birth location: Washington, Georgia, U.S.
Other name: The Voice of the Tigers
Team(s): Brooklyn Dodgers (1948-49)
New York Giants (1950-53)
Baltimore Orioles (1954-59)
Detroit Tigers (1960-1991, 1993-2002)
California Angels (1992)
Genre(s): Play-by-play
Sports: Major League Baseball

William Earnest "Ernie" Harwell (born January 25, 1918 in Washington, Georgia) is a former American sportscaster, known for his long career calling play-by-play of Major League Baseball games. For 55 years, 42 of them with the Detroit Tigers, Harwell called balls, strikes, and home runs on radio and television. In January 2009, the American Sportscasters Association ranked Harwell 16th on its list of Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time.[1] On September 3, 2009, it was revealed that Harwell has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer of the bile duct.[2]




Early life and career

Ernie Harwell grew up in Atlanta, working in his youth as a paperboy for the Atlanta Georgian; one of his customers was writer Margaret Mitchell. He was an avid baseball fan from an early age; he became visiting batboy for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association at the tender age of five and has never had to buy a ticket for a baseball game since then.

After graduating from Emory University (where he helped edit The Emory Wheel), Harwell began his career as a copy editor and sportswriter for the Atlanta Constitution and as a regional correspondent for The Sporting News. In 1943, he began announcing games for the Crackers on WSB radio, after which he served four years in the Marines.

Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles

In 1948, Harwell became the only announcer in baseball history to be traded for a player when the Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager, Branch Rickey, traded catcher Cliff Dapper to the Crackers in exchange for breaking Harwell's broadcasting contract. (Harwell was brought to Brooklyn to substitute for regular Dodger announcer Red Barber, who was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer.)

Harwell broadcast for the Dodgers through 1949, the New York Giants from 19501953 (including his call of Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world" in the 1951 National League pennant playoff game on NBC television), and the Baltimore Orioles from 19541959. Early in his career, he also broadcast The Masters golf tournament,[3] as well as pro and college football.[4]

Detroit Tigers

Ernie Harwell was honored alongside the retired numbers of the Detroit Tigers in 2000.

In 1960, Harwell became the "voice" of the Tigers, replacing Van Patrick. In 1973, Paul Carey joined the broadcast, forming the Tigers' best-known broadcasting team, until Carey's retirement after the 1991 season.

On December 19, 1990, the Tigers and radio station WJR announced that 1991 would also be Harwell's last, as his contract was "non-renewed".[5]. Fans across Michigan and throughout the baseball world were outraged, but the ballclub and the radio station (who eventually wound up blaming each other for the decision) stood firm: "(Harwell's firing is) not going to change no matter how much clamor is made over it," said team president Bo Schembechler. (The former University of Michigan football coach, a legend in his own right in the Wolverine State, continued to face harsh criticism before quitting in 1992, when owner Tom Monaghan sold the team). Rick Rizzs was hired away from the Seattle Mariners to call Detroit's games in 1992, teaming with Bob Rathbun; predictably, they were not as popular as Harwell and Carey had been, and Rizzs returned to Seattle in 1993.

Harwell worked a part-time schedule for the California Angels in 1992; the following year, new team owner Mike Ilitch brought Harwell back, having Ernie call innings 1–3 and 7–9 of each game. From 1994 to 1998, Harwell called television broadcasts for the Tigers. In 1999, he resumed full-time radio duties with the team, continuing in that role through 2002. During spring training of that year, Harwell announced that he would retire at the end of the season; his final broadcast came on September 29, 2002. Dan Dickerson replaced Harwell as the lead radio voice for the Tigers.

As a national broadcaster

Nationally, Harwell broadcast two All-Star Games (1958, 1961) and two World Series (1963, 1968) for NBC Radio, numerous ALCS and ALDS series for CBS Radio and ESPN Radio, and the CBS Radio Game of the Week from 1992 to 1997. He also called the 1984 World Series for the Tigers and WJR.

Post-retirement broadcasting works

Following his retirement, Harwell came back briefly in 2003 to call a Wednesday Night Baseball telecast on ESPN, as part of that network's "Living Legends" series of guest announcers. In 2005, Harwell guested for an inning on the Fox network's coverage of the All-Star Game (which was held in Detroit that year), as well as an inning on the ESPN Radio broadcast. For Game 3 of the 2006 American League Division Series between the Tigers and New York Yankees, he provided guest commentary on ESPN's telecast for two innings, called an inning of play-by-play on the Tigers' radio flagship WXYT, and guested for an inning on ESPN Radio. Harwell also called one inning of Game 1 of the 2006 World Series for WXYT.

Harwell served as a guest color commentator for two Tiger games on FSN Detroit on May 24 and 25, 2007. Harwell worked the telecasts (alongside play-by-play man Mario Impemba) as a substitute for regular analyst Rod Allen, who took the games off to attend his son's high school graduation. (Harwell had filled in for Allen once before, on a 2003 telecast.) [6]

He also appeared as a guest on an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast in Detroit on July 1, 2007. His typical sense of humor was on display. He talked about working beside the deep-voiced Paul Carey ("next to him, everyone sounds like a soprano") for 19 years, "which seemed like 30." He then asked Jon Miller and Joe Morgan how long they had worked together. "19 years." Harwell grinned at both of them, "Uh-huh, uh-huh."

Harwell currently does occasional vignettes (small video clips) on the history of baseball for Fox Sports Detroit's magazine program Tigers Weekly.

Broadcasting style

He is known for his low-key delivery, southern accent (Detroit "Ti-guhs"), and conversational style. One of his trademark phrases was "that one is long gone" with an emphasis on "long." Harwell would also begin the first spring training broadcast of each season with a reading from Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (KJV): "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."[7]

Awards and non-broadcast activities

Harwell was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 as the fifth broadcaster to receive its Ford C. Frick Award. He was elected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998, among many other honors. In 2001, Harwell was the recipient of the prestigious Ty Tyson Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting, awarded by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association (DSBA). In 2009, Harwell was named the first recipient of the DSBA's Ernie Harwell Lifetime Contribution Award. The award, called the Ernie Harwell Lifetime Contribution Award, is named after the Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers announcer. Harwell is the first winner of the award. The award will annually honor an individual from the broadcast industry who has contributed outstanding time and effort to the betterment of sports broadcasting through a lifetime body of work. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inducted Harwell in 2008.

Harwell's 1955 essay "The Game for All America", originally published in The Sporting News and reprinted numerous times, is considered a classic of baseball literature. He has also authored several books, and pens an occasional column for the Detroit Free Press.

Harwell also wrote popular music. His first recorded song was "Upside Down" on the Something Stupid album by Homer and Jethro in the mid-1960s. In the liner notes of the album, it says: "Detroit Tiger baseball announcer wrote this one, and we think it's a fine observation of the world today, as seen from the press box at Tiger Stadium. We were up there with Ernie one day and from there the world looks upside down. In fact, the Mets were on top in the National League." All told, 66 songs written by Ernie Harwell have been recorded by various artists. "Needless to say, I have more no-hitters than Nolan Ryan." – Ernie Harwell in article published May 31, 2005 in the Detroit Free Press

Harwell made a cameo appearance in the 1994 film Cobb and in the made-for-television movies Aunt Mary (1979), Tiger Town (1983), and Cooperstown (film) (1993). His voice can be briefly heard in the films Paper Lion (1968) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and in the TV movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004). Harwell appeared as an interview subject in the 1998 documentary film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and has contributed to numerous other baseball-themed documentaries and retrospectives over the years.

The 1997 text-based computer simulation game APBA for Windows: Broadcast Blast features play-by-play commentary by Harwell.

Harwell currently serves as a spokesman for Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan. His contract with the organization, which began in 2003, runs for ten years with an option for another ten. If Harwell fulfills the entire contract (by which time he will be 95 years old), Blue Cross has pledged to extend it for yet another decade. Harwell formerly ran a blog about healthy living and fitness for BCBS. He retired from it on March 5, 2009.

A devout Christian, Harwell has long been involved with the Baseball Chapel, an evangelistic organization for professional ballplayers.

In 2004, the Detroit Public Library dedicated a room to Ernie Harwell and his wife, Lulu, which will house Harwell's collection of baseball memorabilia valued at over two million dollars.

On April 26, 2008 Harwell was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The University of Michigan at their Spring Commencement ceremony. One week later, on May 3, 2008, he was presented with another Honorary Degree of Laws this time from Wayne State University.

In late 2008 Harwell began to appear in television public service announcements for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, advising viewers about the DTV transition in the United States.

Harwell is a member of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Board, an organization which attempted to save portions of Tiger Stadium.[8] He offered to donate a large portion of his historic collection of baseball memorabilia, which he had collected over the course of his storied career, if part of Tiger Stadium could have been saved for a museum.

On September 3, 2009, Harwell announced that he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer of the bile duct, and that he, his family and doctors had decided against surgery or other treatment of the condition.[9]

Harwell sat down for a 60 minute interview on an episode of MLB Network's Studio 42 with Bob Costas. It premiered November 17, 2009 at 8:00 PM ET.[10]

Harwell currently lives in Novi, Michigan. Now age 92, he still exercises regularly, including sit-ups, using a treadmill, and lifting weights. He will receive the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting on May 5 in New York City.[11]


  • (1985). Tuned to Baseball. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-912083-10-7
  • (1993). Ernie Harwell's Diamond Gems, edited by Geoff Upward. Ann Arbor, MI: Momentum Books. ISBN 0-9618726-7-5
  • (1995). The Babe Signed My Shoe: Baseball As It Was – And Will Always Be, edited by Geoff Upward. South Bend, IN: Diamond Communications. ISBN 0-912083-72-7
  • (2001). Stories from My Life in Baseball. Detroit, MI: Detroit Free Press. ISBN 0-937247-35-9
  • (2002). Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years in Baseball, with Tom Keegan. Chicago, IL: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-451-1
  • (2004). Life After Baseball. Detroit, MI: Detroit Free Press. ISBN 0-937247-45-6
  • (2006). Ernie Harwell's Audio Scrapbook, by Ernie Harwell and Bob Harris. Grosse Pointe, MI: AudioBook Publishing. ISBN 0-9792120-0-6
  • (2007). Breaking 90. Detroit, MI: Detroit Free Press. ISBN 0-937247-77-4


  1. ^ ASA's Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time
  2. ^ London Free Press, September 8, 2009
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Lions Honor Legendary Tigers Broadcaster Ernie Harwell". 2009-09-20. 
  5. ^ Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom on non-renewal ("The Tigers Fired Ernie Harwell"[1])
  6. ^ Ernie Harwell to pinch-hit twice during Tigers telecasts on FSN Detroit
  7. ^ A 1993 rendition of Harwell's Song of Solomon reading can be heard at "Listen to Ernie Harwell's 'The Voice of the Turtle,'", Detroit Free Press sports blog, posted 25 February 2009.
  8. ^ Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Board Official Site
  9. ^ Bill McGraw (2009-09-03). "Not even cancer diagnosis can shake Harwell's spirit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  10. ^ Detroit Tigers Official Site November 12, 2009 Harwell relives career on MLB Network - Hall of Fame announcer reflects while dealing with cancer
  11. ^ – Harwell to receive Vin Scully Award.

External links


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