Ernie Harwell's timing was perfect even in his passing on Tuesday night (May 4). It was just like him to pass on during a night with a full slate of baseball games around the country. I'm sure that those of you who heard the sad news during a baseball broadcast like I did will understand. It seemed so fitting.
I recalled growing up in Chicago and being able to pick up most of the Tigers broadcasts on the radio and listening to Ernie's unique style. I even remember hearing him describe the pennant clincher in 1968, the last year before divisions in baseball. The Tigers clinched first place during the final days of the regular season, and that meant they went right to the World Series. That would never happen again in that manner, although Ernie Harwell continued "happening" for 40 more seasons, thank you.
During the mid-70's when I started covering MLB games, I remember covering a Tigers game in Chicago. I saw Ernie on the field before the game, and got up the nerve to say hello to him. I introduced myself, and got to tell him how much I enjoyed his work. he said "thank you", or something very brief, and I let him go since I was also a member of the media. After hearing the news of his passing, I remain glad that I was fortunate enough to have the chance to thank him in person.
It will be sad the next time I see a batter "who stood there like a house by the side of the road", and not because the batter took a called third strike. Or a foul ball that isn't "caught by a man from Saginaw".
Even in this age where almost every baseball game is televised and statistical information is updated every few seconds around the world, we still need more like Ernie Harwell. It was the people like him that helped to develop and maintain our interest in the greatest game in the world. Without him, it won't be quite as great.
At least he spent many of his years describing the game he loved during a simpler time. He got to enjoy players being with one team for year after year, some scrambling to make the team the next season, teams having to finish in first place in order to get to the World Series, pitchers finishing games they started, and stadiums that were about baseball and not luxury suites.
And there was WJR beaming out of Detroit and across much of the eastern part of the country at night. Back when radio ruled the roost for baseball fans and most cities had the dominating station and signal doing the games every night.
There was Paul Carey, Jim Woods, George Kell, and a host of broadcast partners over the years.
The "shot heard around the world", the Bobby Thompson homerun that put the then N.Y. Giants into the World Series in 1951 happened before I was born. Yet, hearing Ernie Harwell's memory of that moment over the years has that etched into my baseball memory as if I was watching that game. Ernie loved to tell the story about how every baseball fan knows "the Giants win the pennant!!" call from the late Russ Hodges used to celebrate that moment. And how Ernie was doing the TV call of that moment, but "nobody remembers that I was even there". He chuckled every time he told that story.
Baseball fans should be glad that Ernie had his night to be honored in Detroit last season when word of his failing health first got out. And we are glad to have had Ernie Harwell be a part of our baseball experience.
A unique honor for another long time play-by-play voice. The L.A. Times let fans vote for their "Top 10 L.A. Kings of all-time". Even with fewer than half of ballots doing a "write-in" vote, the voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, finished at #7. A wonderful gesture for the Hockey Hall of Fame inductee who has called Kings games for 37 seasons. Not all of them pleasant, to put it mildly. The L.A. Kings have had to share the building and the media coverage with the Lakers, and that is a major challenge right there. I'm glad the Times went ahead and kept Miller on their list. Even though he never played, Miller is definitely a big "player" in the success of the franchise.
SEATTLE: KRKO 1380 gave The Fish the hook after last Friday (April 30). Jeff "The Fish" Aaron's afternoon show was stopped after nearly 8 years since he came over from KJR. As it goes in radio these days, management said it was not a ratings move or anything about the show itself. It was "the economy", and management was quoted as saying they hope to bring the show back at some point. For however long, national sports shows will air during that and other time slots.
MEMPHIS: It looks like the end is near for KQPN Fox Sports 730, as the station was just sold to a group which is expected to change to religious programming as soon as possible.
The Memphis market is a challenge for additional sports talk when you realize there is only 1 pro team in the market, and the Grizzlies season just ended. Fox Sports may face a challenge to get back into that city.
BUFFALO: Even though the baseball AAA Bisons games air on 1520 WWKB, the larger WGR Sports 550 will also broadcast the team's Friday night games for the remainder of this season. The first one will be this Friday (May 7) when the Bisons play at Indianapolis. The team also streams every game on Bisons.com.
YOUNGSTOWN: Youngstown State football on WKBN 570 will have Ed Muransky as its new analyst starting for the coming season. The Youngstown native won a Super Bowl ring with the 1984 Oakland Raiders and was a college standout at the University of Michigan. Bob Hannon continues as play-by-play voice.