Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Harwell, Ernie

No matter who sits behind the radio microphone at Comerica Park in years to come, to many Tigers fans there is only one voice of baseball in Detroit: Ernie Harwell. An undisputed living legend, Harwell has 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.

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 (handling the NBC telecast while Red Barber made his immortal “The Giants win the pennant!” call on radio during the 1951 National League playoff) and the Baltimore Orioles from 1954-59 before becoming “the voice of the Tigers” in 1960.

Except for a brief period in 1991-92, when a shortsighted Tigers management team refused to renew his contract, 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.

His local excellence was recognized on a national level. He broadcast the first American League Championship Series, three World Series and hosted the CBS Radio Game of the Week for five years. Harwell is a member of both the Radio and National Baseball Halls of Fame.

Ernie Harwell died on May 4, 2010 after a short battle with cancer.

 


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