Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remembering Merle Harmon

Sorry to hear about the passing of Merle Harmon at the age of 82 a few days back. Merle may have been the best example ever of the "you know and enjoy the voice but you don't know the name" derby. I have a hunch that way too many sports fans reacted to news of his death by saying "Who?". They should have known and recalled his contributions to sports broadcasting right away.

In addition to his work on NBC and other networks calling a variety of sports, Merle Harmon made a local impact as one of the first primary voices of the Milwaukee Brewers. He was their in the early days when the Brewers were a new American League franchise, having moved from being the Seattle Pilots for a matter of months.

Harmon was actually the lead radio announcer for the Brewers for several years. This was back when only a small package of games were televised at all, and radio was everything to the baseball fan. His number two announcer was the legendary Bob Uecker, including the years that "Ueck" was making appearances on Johnny Carson and doing color on ABC-TV Monday Night Baseball and even some of their playoff and World Series coverage.

The sounds of "Merle and Bob with ya from Milwaukee" would go across much of the midwest via WTMJ Radio. The pair got along great and it showed on the air. For a couple of years, they would actually do a joke or a quick comedy routine at the start of the broadcast, and that is something I never heard anyplace else. Even their goofy routines such as "wearing this heavy jacket to keep insulated from the heat on the field" could bring a chuckle to the serious baseball fan.

Harmon was their when the Brewers finally started getting up to speed, as the likes of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor came up from the minor leagues and joined the Brewers. In later years, Harmon moved on to Houston, continued his work for NBC, and opened up a series of souvenir stores. These days, fans can buy official team merchandise from several chain stores, but the stores bearing Harmon's name were among the first to open up this marketplace.

Thanks for the memories, Merle!

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