Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ernie Harwell, RIP

Legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away yesterday. I can't improve upon this piece by Jack Hoogendyk from last September when Ernie announced that he has incurable cancer. Ernie is in a better place now.

Jack on Ernie Harwell


Ernie Harwell Sets the Standard for Faith and Class

Ernie Harwell, Hall of Fame broadcaster who for 42 years, brought the Detroit Tigers into our homes, and under my pillow as a young lad, announced today he has incurable cancer. He handled the public announcement just the way you would have expected him to; with humility and a positive outlook. You can read a full account of his announcement here.

I have admired Harwell since my earliest memories of Tiger baseball. I used to stick my little transistor radio under my pillow at night, when they were playing the Angels or the Athletics out west. Invariably, I would fall asleep before the game was over only to be awakened by the National Anthem playing as the radio station signed off the air. Of course, back then, there was no way of finding out who won until the next day when the newspaper arrived.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was the day I had fly out to California from Detroit and found myself on the same flight with about half the Tigers team and Ernie Harwell! They were heading out to Anaheim to play after the all-star break. There was a mix-up in the seating assignments and I found myself sitting in business class. About halfway through the flight I looked over and saw Ernie sitting across from me, glancing at the in-flight magazine. I knew he had to bored. The seat next to him was empty, so I took a chance and sauntered over.

He was happy to chat with me about any subject I desired. I had a chance to find out a little about Ernie Harwell, the man. We talked about what kind of car he drove, the love of his life, Lulu and other subjects. I didn't engage him for too long. I gave him my card and walked back to my seat.

When I returned home, several people told me Ernie had mentioned my name on the radio. I had told him I would be attending the game in Anaheim; he told the radio audience that a fan from Detroit was at the ball park.

A Man of Great and Abiding Faith

There were many things about Ernie Harwell to admire as a professional and as a person. But to me, what was most to be admired was his abiding faith in Jesus Christ. He was an example to all those around him and was never afraid to share his faith, yet he did not wear it on his sleeve. For him it was a way of life.

Even now, as he tells the world of this devastating disease, he does it the same class he has always exhibited . "I really feel good. I've got a great attitude. I just look forward to a new adventure," Harwell told the Free Press. "God gives us so many adventures, and I've had some great ones. It's been a terrific life. Of course, the best thing that ever happened to me was my wife, Lulu. I'm just happy that we were able to reach our 68th wedding anniversary."

That pretty much says it all. We love you, Ernie. May God continue to bless you in this, the sunset of your life on earth.

Jack Hoogendyk

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