Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Harwell, Ernie

Ernie Harwell was the longtime “voice of the Tigers,” who provided on-air commentary of baseball games for many decades. Born in 1918 in Georgia, William Earnest Harwell began his sports casting career covering the games of the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. After serving in the Marines during World War II, in 1948 he became the only broadcaster in history to be traded for a player when Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey sent a catcher to the Crackers in exchange for Harwell’s contract. He worked for the Dodgers through 1949, the New York Giants from 1950-53, and the Baltimore Orioles from 1954-59 before covering Tigers games beginning in 1960.

Except for a brief period in 1991-92, during a contract dispute, Harwell was the lead play-by-play announcer for Detroit’s franchise from 1960 until his retirement at the end of the 2002 season. His signature phrases, like “he stood there like the house by the side of the road,” “loooong gone” and “the Tigers need instant runs” remain part of the everyday lexicon in Detroit.

During his career, Harwell broadcast more than 8,000 baseball games spanning seven decades – 42 of those years at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, turning play-by-play into an art form at old Tiger Stadium. His excellence as a broadcaster was recognized on a national level. Among his milestones were his broadcast of the first American League Championship Series, three World Series, and hosting of the CBS Radio Game of the Week for five years. Harwell was inducted into both the Radio and National Baseball Halls of Fame.

Ernie Harwell died on May 4, 2010 after a short battle with cancer. In 2017, Wayne State University opened Ernie Harwell Field, named in his honor. 



Ernie Harwell headshot, 1980s - 2012.022.631

Microphone signed by Ernie Harwell, 2000s - 2004.035.002

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