Respect can come in many forms.
One way we're used to seeing it is from massive amounts of media coverage when one dies. And we see that with first the illness and now the passing of Ernie Harwell.
But behind the mass reporting of the life of Harwell is the real reason for the respect shown to the broadcast legend. He was loved like a family member. He was loved and respected by those who love baseball, Michigan residents, the legions of dedicated Detroit Tigers fans, and anyone who ever met him.
It was his personal touch that made Harwell such a hero. He was a great broadcaster who knew baseball, had a one-of-a-kind voice, and possessed an art to telling stories and describing plays. But his humility with fans and caring for all people is what made them love him, especially after they met him.
In a world where Tweets and reTweets now create connections, Harwell did it one person at a time. I'm sure when people met him and were so impressed with his interest in them and the time he could spend sharing, they shared that with other people. And though hundreds of thousands would listen throughout the baseball season, their respect grew over the years as stories of gentle nature were spread.
Of course, I'm taking this from the stories shared about him in the past year, especially today.
I wrote a piece for Thursday's paper about what readers had to say, and I want to share some more of the highlights of what he meant.
So here is what you had to say:
FROM ONE READER: "My Grandma turned me on to Ernie back in the mid 60's. I remember her sitting in her chair, lights down low, smoking a cigarette, relaxing and listening to our beloved Tigers on the radio. The announcer of course was Ernie Harwell, whose voice and description of the game of baseball remain unsurpassed.
Those memories and of the Tigers 1967 season when we lost out on the last day of the season to finish one game out of first place, then the 1968 season when the Tigers won the American League championship, then beat the St Louis Cardinals in a seven game World Series made me a life long Tigers fan. Ernie guided me through the whole season, always on the money with his description of the game on the field, while paying homage to the history of the game of baseball. The games were not all on television back then, we listened to Ernie to keep up on the Tigers. I clearly remember listening to the broadcasts on a transistor radio tucked under my pillow and falling asleep to the voice of Ernie Harwell, sweet dreams.
What a great man, a true gentleman, a class act all the way.
Even in accepting his fate, he thanks the fans for their support, comforting them, while we just wanted to hug him and thank him for the memories and showing us how to live and die with dignity and class.
Ernie Harwell was one of a kind, his memory will remain with us forever.
FROM GPS: "'87 found us in a tight race going into August. Though the season wouldn't end for two months I had a hunch and I went to Hudson's and bought 2 tickets for the final 3 games against Toronto. All upper deck behind home plate. Sure enough the season went down to the wire.
I went to pick up my girl friend and her grandfather was there. He just had his leg amputated and was in a bad way. He started telling me stories about seeing Ruth and Cobb and all the old time greats. He really loved baseball and he told me he would be listening to the game on the radio.
About the third inning I went to the bathroom and noticed a a guy guarding the catwalk to the press box.
I went back to my seat and scribbled a note to Ernie telling him of my girlfriends grandfathers surgery and asking to please give a mention on the air...
Later on when I dropped my girlfriend off I went inside and the old guy was in tears and thanked me profusely. Ernie had mentioned his name on the air! He was genuinely touched and it really lifted his spirits.
During the next few days people he hadn't heard from in 30 years called him. They had heard Ernie mention his name and picked up the phone.
It really made a difference in that mans last few days on earth to know people remembered him and cared.
As I think back to all the times I heard Ernie send well wishes I realize how he touched the lives of so many people beyond being a great sports announcer. He was a great humanitarian as well..."
FROM STONEY: "Who will ever forget: 'he stood there like the house by the side of the road?'
Or those utterly amazing insightful words, 'and that ball will go home with a gentleman from . . . . . . '
For all the problems the Detroit area owns and the sports market having ups and downs, Detroit never lacked in broadcast talent that used to get us through the slow (dead) times and ease us into the greater times.
Thank you for making life a l ot more bearable: Ernie, George, Al, Bruce, Bud, Van . . . . old age just set in. Memory slowed down by the tears. God Bless you one and all!"
BY RICK O'DONNELL: "My favorite memory of Ernie Harwell has to be when Mike Ilitch had the good sense to bring him back to the Tigers after his predecessor made the asinine and unfathomable decision to fire Ernie. Say what you will about Ilitch, but I thought it showed tons of class (and good business intuition) to bring Ernie back. And, of course, Mr. Harwell agreed to come back, without a disparaging word against the buffoon who had foolishly let him go."
BY DIREINDEED: "Whenever I hear the name Ernie Harwell or hear his voice I think of my Dad. He was a Detroit Tiger fan his entire life and loved to watch the games on TV or listen to them on the radio and Ernie's voice is a comfort because it brings back that feeling of childhood and how wonderful things were back then. Simple, safe and sure. If only things could be that way today."
FROM ANOTHER FAN: "I think the first thing I would do at Tiger Stadium was to look through my binoculars at the WJR radio booth above home plate to see if Ernie was there in his beret. I knew all was well then, and I would tune in my radio to 760 and be mesmerized by that rich green grass in the stadium and truly enjoy the entire game."
FROM ARCHIE LEITCH: "Nothing brought home to me the good character of Ernie Harwell better than the few years after college (1978 to 1980) that I worked in Chicago. Nothing against Harry Carey and the Chicago announcers but they were too partisan for me, never making the opposition personal. Ernie just loved baseball and bragged on the opposing team player stats about as much as for the Tigers. So if Detroit happened to win, it was against a much tougher foe that we knew about than just beating the opposition. I am glad to say this trait of impartiality goes through all Tiger broadcasters. We have the best broadcasting crews because of Ernie."
Labels: baseball, Ernie Harwell, Tigers