The Old Ball Game

The Old Ball Game, photo by dblstripe

“Ernie (Harwell) is probably the most beloved person who has ever been in Detroit with the Detroit Tigers. He is loved by everybody and rightfully so. He’s a great broadcaster but even a better person. That comes across on his broadcasts.”
~ Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer Al Kaline

Two years ago today, one of the greatest members of the Detroit Tigers organization passed away. It’s no coincidence that Ernie Harwell received a baseball announcer’s highest honor by winning the Ford Frick Award from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Here’s his Hall of Fame induction speech, set to a scrapbook of photos. There’s much more about Ernie Harwell on Michigan in Pictures.

Bryan shot this photo of the pitchers mound at old Tiger Stadium aka Ernie Harwell Park last fall. Check it out background big and in his Detroit slideshow.

We’ll close with words from Harwell’s farewell address that you can read in full at the Baseball Almanac. Click head over to “Ernie” on Absolute Michigan to read about the play about him by Mitch Albom and to see Ernie with thousands of the fans he talks about here…

“Thank you for letting me be part of your family. Thank you for taking me with you to that cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your work place and your backyard.

Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers.

Now I might have been a small part of your life. But you have been a very large part of mine. And it’s my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all.”

The Last Pitch
The Last Pitch, photo by baklein62

“I’d like to be remembered as someone who showed up for the job. I consider myself a worker. I love what I do. If I had my time over again, I’d probably do it for nothing.”
~Ernie Harwell

Like thousands of other people, whenever I see a picture like this of my beloved Detroit Tigers, the voice that narrates it in my head is the voice of William Earnest “Ernie” Harwell, who passed away last night at the age of 92.

Probably the best thing that I’ve seen about Harwell is this video. The Detroit Tigers tribute page to Ernie Harwell lists his accomplishments:

He also called the pitch from Todd Jones in the photo above that ended the last game ever at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999.

Struck him out.

I’m thinking Ernie would have liked this photo from Barney even more, but I already blogged it. More in his terrific Baseball as Art set (slideshow) and more about Ernie Harwell and the Detroit Tigers on Michigan in Pictures.

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!

Tigers at night

Tigers at night, photo by baklein62

101 years ago today on April 20, 1912, Tiger Stadium opened at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull in Detroit’s Corktown Neighborhood. Last year Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports observed that this milestone passed largely unmarked:

It was 100 years ago this weekend. Ty Cobb scored the first run by stealing home. From that day until 1999, this very spot rumbled with din and greatness. Pretty much every legend that played in Fenway in the 20th century also played here. Lou Gehrig sat himself down for the first time in 2,130 games here, ending his incredible ironman streak. Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run here. Reggie Jackson hit one into the right field light tower here during the ’71 All-Star game. The Tigers won World Series titles here in 1968 and again in 1984, with Kirk Gibson launching a late-inning home run off Goose Gossage that no Tigers fan alive to see it will ever forget. Fair to say this was the most exciting place in the history of Michigan.

And now there’s hardly a trace. Fans committed to honoring the old stadium in some form maintain a home plate, a pitcher’s mound, two chalk lines for base paths and two benches where the dugouts used to be. The 125-foot flagpole from the old center field is still standing.

While the old ballpark’s birthday is definitely passing unmarked again this year, mLive hadan article about the uncertain future of the site a couple of weeks ago. If you’d like to do a little remembering, head over to 100 years at Tiger Stadium on Absolute Michigan for a whole lot more about this beloved ballpark and links to videos including the intro to the DVD Michigan & Trumbull featuring Ernie Harwell. (a 2 1/2 minute stroll through Tiger Stadium)

Check Barney’s photo out on black and see a whole lot more in his great Baseball as Art slideshow.

Lots more Detroit Tigers pictures on Michigan in Pictures!

Tigers Game_2012-07-21_15-08-05_P7210017_©MikeBoening_2012_HDR (1)

Tigers Game, July 21, 2012, photo by memories_by_mike

It may come as a surprise to regular readers that despite all the posts about the Detroit Tigers here and at Absolute Michigan, I’ve never been to Comerica Park. Today I not only get to go – I get to sit on the 3rd base line (2nd row!!)as the red-hot Detroit Tigers face the New York Yankees tonight!

Wikipedia’s entry for Comerica Park (edited a bit by me) explains that:

Groundbreaking for a new ballpark to replace Tiger Stadium for the Tigers was held on October 29, 1997 and the new stadium was opened to the public in 2000. In December 1998, Comerica Bank agreed to pay $66 million over 30 years for the naming rights for the new ballpark. Comerica Park sits on the original site of the Detroit College of Law.

In contrast to Tiger Stadium, which had long been considered one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, Comerica Park is considered to be extremely friendly to pitchers. Except for dead center – 420 feet versus Tiger Stadium’s 440 feet – the outfield dimensions were more expansive than those at Tiger Stadium. This led to complaints from players and fans alike, and engendered the sarcastic nickname Comerica National Park.

Although a few public figures—notably radio announcer Ernie Harwell—supported the dimensions, most agreed that the left-field wall, in particular, needed to be brought closer to home plate. Before the 2003 MLB season the club did so, moving the distance from left-center field from 395 to 370 feet. In place of the old bullpens in right field, 950 seats were added for a new capacity of 41,070.

At the time of construction, the scoreboard in left field was the largest in Major League Baseball. The first playoff game at Comerica was played on October 6, 2006 against the New York Yankees. It hosted its first World Series later that month. The stadium also includes many baseball-themed features, including a “Monument Park” in the deep center field stands, complete with statues of former Tigers Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, and Willie Horton.

A few neat things I found are Comerica Park from Ballparks.com, baseball writer Geoff Baker touring Comerica,  Calvin Johnson hitting a HR in BP, Comerica on Michigan in Pictures, a time-lapse of the installation of the new high-def scoreboard, the slightly bizarre Comerica UFO footage and a very cool RC plane fly-over of Comerica.

Check this photo out big as a ballpark and in Mike’s slideshow.

at the corner

at the corner, photo by 1ManWithACamera

“It was the most famous address in Michigan. Not the number, but everyone knows the location. The corner of Michigan and Trumbull was a connection for everyone all over Michigan to the city of Detroit”
~Charley Marcuse, former hot dog vendor at Tiger Stadium

The above is a quotation from a heartbreaking feature on the 100th anniversary of Tiger Stadium that we are linking to today from 100 years at Tiger Stadium on Absolute Michigan. It’s chock full of great links, photos and a video narrated by Jeff Daniels and featuring Tiger greats Al Kaline, George Kell and Ernie Harwell.

The feature was especially heartbreaking for me as I was as guilty as most of the rest of the media that let this historic milestone pass unmarked. Don’t get me wrong – I think Comerica Park is a fantastic place to play baseball and a fitting home for the Tigers. To me, the shame lies in the manner in which one of the finest ballparks in all of baseball was cast aside by a city that seemed more interested in squeezing one last dime from the stadium at Michigan & Trumbull than celebrating and honoring her rich legacy.

Check this out bigger and in Larry’s great Detroit Tigers and their ballparks slideshow.

Much more on Tiger Stadium and the Detroit Tigers at Michigan in Pictures.

Tiger Stadium Usher 2, circa 1999

Tiger Stadium Usher 2, circa 1999, photo by LAWRENCEcreative.

Greenberg, Kailine, Manush, Heilmann, Kell, Newhouser, Jennings, Harwell – the stadium may be gone, but the names live on. Brett writes:

These are pictures taken from the last season of Tiger Stadium. Rather than watching all of the the games, I would find myself wandering the hallways and aisleways trying to capture moments significant to this iconic place…

I hope these pics bring back some great memories as we all wait for the final brick to fall on this historic landmark.

View his Tiger Stadium, circa 1999 slideshow (photo set). Do it, for real. The scenes he captured of the daily life of this grand old ballpark are priceless.

Although a series of bids to save all or part of the ballpark over the last several years, the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy has until August 1st to prove it can raise $12-15 million to preserve the diamond, dugouts, 3,000 seats and an area that would house Hall of Fame Tiger’s broadcaster Ernie Harwell’s collection of sports memorabilia. Detroit News story.

Here’s some more Tiger Stadium Stuff:

At the corner of Michigan & Trumbull

Michigan and Trumbull was the address for professional baseball in Detroit for 104 seasons. From 1896 when Bennett Park opened, until the last game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, Michigan and Trumbull was the most famous street corner in Michigan. Tiger Stadium by Irwin J. Cohen takes you on a visual tour of baseball in the Motor City from the beginning of the Tigers franchise to the historic final game played at Tiger Stadium. The pages are filled with photos (some never before published) of the stadium and Tiger legends from Cobb, Gehringer and Greenberg right up to Kaline, Lolich, Trammell, Gibson and others.

1968 Detroit Tigers / St. Louis Cardinals World Series program cover
The World Series went a full seven games and games three, four, and five were played in Detroit. Each game attracted the same 53,634 attendance numbers. (Author’s collection.)Click above photos for a larger view!
Willie Horton of the Detroit Tigers
Affable slugger left fielder Willie Horton hit 36 home runs in 1968. In game five with St. Louis ahead three games to one, Horton made the most memorable defensive play in the history of the ballpark when he threw out speedster Lou Brock trying to score from second on a single. (Courtesy B&W Photos.)

Tiger Stadium by Irwin J. Cohen is available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.

View other excerpts from Arcadia Publishing’s Michigan books at Michigan in Pictures!

On a more editorial note, I had originally thought when I requested these photos that this would be part of a requiem for this grand old ballpark. It still may, but with Tiger icon Ernie Harwell pushing a plan to redevelop Tiger Stadium as a smaller ballpark and museum complex, maybe not!

You can follow Tiger Stadium news at Absolute Michigan.

Tiger Stadium, in pictures

August 16, 2007

Aerial View of Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium #1, found by m7k7k7

Many folks in Michigan have a piece of their heart stored at the Corner of Michigan & Trumbull. Wikipedia’s Tiger Stadium entry says the ballpark located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit hosted the Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball team from April 20, 1912 when it opened as Navin Field, through its expansion in 1938 when it was renamed Briggs Stadium (and began hosting the Detroit Lions as well) through 1961 when John Fetzer took control and renamed it Tiger Stadium. It saw two World Series championships, 1968 and 1984 and was the home of the Tigers until Comerica Park opened in 2000. It was declared a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1975 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.

And it’s scheduled for demolition in October of 2007.

From honorary bat boys spending a few moments with a player to huge and cheering crowds, this ballpark has made millions of memories.

Now it waits for the wrecking ball, slowly falling to pieces. I don’t think that too many want to remove the Tigers from their palatial new home, but it would (in my opinion at least) be a wonderful thing if Ernie Harwell and his group could succeed in preserving a scaled-down park at the Corner so none of us have to say goodbye to an old friend (and maybe The Last Strike at Tiger Stadium wouldn’t actually be the last).

Here’s a whole lot more photos in the Tiger Stadium group on Flickr. If you have any photos (or memories) to add, post a comment below!

Read Ernie Harwell’s plan for Tiger Stadium on Absolute Michigan.

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