#2: September 16, 2009: Ernie Harwell bids a final goodbye to Tigers fans
For many generations of fans, there was only one voice of the Detroit Tigers and that was Ernie Harwell. Ernie was a veteran when he came to the Tigers in 1960, coaxed to come to Detroit by fellow legendary broadcaster (and player) George Kell. He stayed on with franchise until 1991 when he was unceremoniously dumped by Tigers’ President Bo Schembechler.
It is hard to remember just how much a legend like Bo, football coach at Michigan for so many years, was hated in the State of Michigan after that move. He is beloved once again and most forget this sidestep in his career. Bo thought Ernie was “boring” and wanted more youthful voices for games on the radio. He must have underestimated his beloved status over that of Harwell.
He spent the 1992 season calling games for national broadcasts and some select California Angels’ games. In 1993, after Mike Ilitch purchased the team, Ernie was back in Detroit to call three innings on radio with Rick Rizzs and Bob Rathbun. The following year, PASS made him their primary cable play-by-play voice. In 1999 he moved back to the radio booth and stayed there through the 2002 season before retiring.
Ernie was an ambassador to the game not only in Detroit but throughout baseball. He wrote books, made speeches and promoted the game. He was as much of a Detroit Tigers legend as Cobb, Kaline and Trammell.
In 2009, Ernie was diagnosed with incurable cancer and would live just a few more months. Shortly after the announcement, Harwell addressed a capacity crowd at Comerica Park as the Tigers and their opponents for the evening, the Royals, stood on the first step of the dugout to listen to the iconic voice of the game one last time.