Happy Ernie Harwell Day!

April 9, 2010

Ernie Harwell & George Kell broadcasting for the Detroit Tigers
George Kell Ernie Harwell 1961, photo by doctor_gogol.

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
~Ernie Harwell quoting the Song of Solomon (listen)

The Detroit Free Press notes that today is not just the Detroit Tigers home opener against the Cleveland Indians, but also that April 9 is now Ernie Harwell Day by decree of the Michigan Senate.

The Detroit News Rearview Mirror on Ernie Harwell writes that the Baseball Hall of Fame and longtime Detroit Tigers announcer was born on January 25, 1918 in Washington, Georgia, was so tongue-tied as a youngster that kids made fun of him and became the only broadcaster ever traded when the minor league Atlanta Crackers traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers for farmhand Cliff Draper.

In 1950 Harwell was lured to the rival New York Giants, where one year later he broadcast the debut of Willie Mays. From 1954 to 1959, Harwell was the voice of the Baltimore Orioles.

George Kell was finishing his Hall of Fame career as a player with the Orioles, and one day Ernie invited him into the radio booth. Kell later landed a job with the Detroit Tigers and in 1960 the Detroit club signed Harwell to become Kell’s partner. “It’s the best move I ever made,” Ernie said. “I’ve been very happy in Detroit.”

…Baseball author Bruce Shlain reflects: “Somehow he brings the proper pitch and phrasing to a whole season, with a rhythm and pacing that only a select few have ever commanded. In many ways a Harwell broadcast is profoundly musical, as befits a man who has published 55 songs with composers such as Johnny Mercer. Many an announcer has aspired to sounding as if talking to a friend in his living room, but Harwell effortlessly establishes the same rapport on the air as he does in person.”

Be sure to check out this shot of Ernie & George Kell out bigger and see more in Doctor Gogol’s Stadium Workers set. In honor of Ernie and the home opener, I suggest you settle back and watch the Tiger Briggs Stadium Detroit slideshow.

Check out more Detroit Tiger features on Michigan in Pictures and play ball!

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