Home > Uncategorized > One Baseball Legend Reflects On Another And Changes My Emotions About Ernie Harwell’s Passing

One Baseball Legend Reflects On Another And Changes My Emotions About Ernie Harwell’s Passing

My initial reaction to Ernie Harwell’s death was sadness. It’s death, isn’t it supposed to be sad? Sure, it had been expected since the voice of Detroit baseball announced in September 2009 that he had terminal cancer, but it still shakes you to know that he has truly left us.

Many broadcasters on Tuesday did their part in honoring Harwell by using his familiar “Looooooooooong gone” home run call. But even in eulogies, no one can touch Vin Scully.

I eagerly awaited to see what Scully would have to say about Harwell, who passed away a couple of hours prior to first pitch of Tuesday’s Dodgers game. It came in the bottom of the first and it wasn’t filled with a lot of sad emotions. Scully was mostly upbeat, almost nonchalant and spun a yarn that only he could. And as the consummate professional, he did everything he could to honor a friend while delivering a great simulcast for Dodger radio and television. MLB Network re-aired Scully’s entire speech later in the evening. If you have a subscription to MLB.tv or MLB At Bat Gameday Audio, go find an archived version of the game and listen to Scully’s touching, but lighthearted words. If you don’t have that, this gives you a hint of what he said.

This doesn’t do it justice, but here’s an entire transcript of what Vin said, starting while Reed Johnson faced Chris Narveson in the bottom of the first. As you read, just imagine these words sound like this:

“I have a problem and I hope you will understand and bear with me. One of the finest men we have ever met and a great broadcaster in the Hall of Fame, Ernie Harwell, the voice of the Tigers for so many years who started with the Dodgers broadcasting in 1948, passed away today.

The strike-two pitch is outside, ball one.

But there’s a great story about Ernie, who came to the Dodgers in 1948 and ’49 , then went to the Giants and then he was with the Detroit Tigers from 1960 to 1991 and from 1993 through 2002.

The pitch to Reed Johnson is down and away.

But I really want to salute him and at the same time I don’t want to get in the way of the ballgame, so see if we can possibly do both. 2-2 the count to [Reed] Johnson (Vin actually called him Ernie on his instance, a little Freudian slip).

Before Ernie Harwell made it to the big leagues, he established a record — as Reed hits it foul down the line. What happened was in 1948, the Dodgers were in Pittsburgh on an off day. Red Barber was going to play golf at the Pittsburgh Field Club and instead, he hemorrhaged and was rushed to an emergency hospital and the Dodgers had one announcer, a good one by the name of Connie Desmond. But one announcer with a full season ahead is pretty tough.

2-2 pitch is high, ball three.

Now, Branch Rickey, who ran the Brooklyn Dodgers, had a friend by the name of Arthur Mann, who ran the Atlanta Crackers in the Sally League. So Branch Rickey called Arthur Mann and said ‘I need your announcer.’ And Arthur Mann said ‘I need a catcher.’

Here’s the 3-2 pitch coming up to Reed Johnson. Fastball lifted back of first, down the line. A trio of Brewers, it’ll be the right fielder, Corey Hart, making the play and we have one out.

So a deal was set up. The Dodgers sent a catcher, Cliff Dapper, to Atlanta and the Atlanta club sent Ernie Harwell to the Brooklyn Dodgers. So Ernie was the first and only baseball broadcaster to be involved in a trade.

He was such a lovely man — everybody loved Ernie. And eventually he just stole the hearts of everybody in Detroit, in the state of Michigan and for that matter, anybody who loved baseball.

Russell Martin takes high, ball one, 1-0.

Ernie was blessed. I mean, really blessed. He lived to be 91 and he was married for over 67 years to the same lady by the name of Lulu. (Yes, I know. He lived to be 92)

There’s a ground ball to short. Up to get it is Escobar, takes care of Martin so we have two down in the first inning.

Well, Ernie passed away just about two hours ago or thereabouts. I never could say ‘God bless you’ to Ernie, because God had blessed him indeed. And from what I heard the last time I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, he was ready to go. He was totally and completely at peace. You and I should be that lucky.

So anyway, we say goodbye to Ernie today. Detroit’s in Minnesota. I wish they had been home today, but they weren’t. And we have lost a very dear, gentle soul, Ernie Harwell.”

So yes, Ernie has passed, but let’s shed no tears. This should be a celebration of his long life with stories of how he touched people’s lives, even by those who only knew him through his voice. He lived a life many would envy. It was filled with happiness and good fortune, and he left this world in comfort and tranquility. In the end, that’s pretty damn cool. Thanks to Vin for helping me think that way.

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: I hate the Dodgers, but I do love that man. It’s going to be a tough day in my world when Vin Scully buys the farm.

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  1. May 6, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for posting Vinnie’s eloquent eulogy. There aren’t many of Scully’s and Harwell’s generation left. I’m glad that I’m old enough to have gotten more than a taste.

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