A Somber Morning Breakdown

Ernie Harwell, the legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster, passed away yesterday at the age of 92.  You may be wondering why this is being mentioned on a hockey blog.  Well, so much of what I do is based on the fact that I love the art of broadcasting and play-by-play so much, and it’s something that I hope to do in the future.  It’s my ambition, and guys like Ernie Harwell show that there’s nothing stopping ambition.

I don’t know too much of Harwell’s legendary career, so here’s what NBC/VERSUS play-by-play man Mike Emrick, whom Harwell had a major influence on, wrote about the man back in 2008:

He never broadcast a hockey game, but he has had an untold influence in the lives of so many people, including a handful of us who DO broadcast hockey games.  If you ever met him, you would be impressed that such a man with Hall of Fame credentials would be such a humble, kind, wonderful soul.  Ernie Harwell has just passed 90 and has written another book about baseball and broadcasting.  I first had the pleasure of meeting him when he agreed to serve as an unpaid unadvisor to my doctoral dissertation on baseball broadcasting while I was a graduate student at Bowling Green in 1975.  I visited him at Tiger Stadium over 30 years ago during that time and we spoke in the middle of the afternoon before a night game about his profession, his life, and how the two were intertwined.  I knew that, in addition to his long career in announcing games, he had c0-founded the baseball chapel program.  Seemed as though this might be a real strong human being.  And, in meeting him, I found that he was, in a polite, amiable southern gentleman kind of way.  As I walked around Tiger Stadium 3 hours before a night game, a hockey announcer who had only a fan’s interest in baseball, was introduced to concessionaires, ushers, and a couple of people on the field.  His advice to a college guy just getting into pro sports broadcasting,” you learn that you need to ride the tide of change…because in sports, there is change in ownership or leadership on the field or the players in the lineup…there is often turmoil but you do best to ride the tide.”  I have thought of that so many times in my career, in the career of others, and in even the unblemished career of Harwell who was relieved of his job for a brief time by then-Tigers boss  Bo Schembechler whose credentials in the Wolverine State were nearly as strong as Harwell’s.  But, true to his faith and his life,  Ernie trashed no one, he didn’t grouse, he moved to other opportunities which had him back in the Tigers booth in very short order…not because he exerted himself in internal politics…but because the public willed him back.  He had been wronged.  Everyone knew it.  And, it was righted.  Now in his 90s with malice toward none and charity for all…he is still as loved as anyone in the state is.  Not only for the job he has done.  But, more so for who he is even to this day.   To have met and been influenced by such a man is one of the more fortunate things that has ever happened to me.

Rest in peace, sir.  On with our day now, there’s work to be done.

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