I wrote yesterday about broadcasters, but I wish I didn’t have to write this one: the legendary Ernie Harwell, voice of the Tigers for 42 years, has incurable cancer.
Harwell is 91. The grace and strength with which he is responding to this news is staggering, but not surprising. I have had the pleasure of knowing Harwell a little bit through the years, and he is one of the finest people I have ever met in baseball. When I wrote a story about broadcasters last year, I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Harwell telling me he liked the piece.
You might remember that in the early 1990s, then-Tigers president Bo Schembechler (the old Michigan football coach) made the unfortunate decision to force Harwell out of his job calling the Tigers. His replacement with the thankless task of replacing Ernie Harwell was none other than Rick Rizzs. He did it from 1992-94 but was never quite accepted in Detroit. Through it all, however, one of Rizzs’s biggest champions was Harwell, and Rick still loves him for it. Harwell returned to Tigers television in 1993 and eventually to the radio, while Rizzs landed back in Seattle in 1995.
Until this illness, Harwell was still going strong in his 90s, writing a column for the Detroit Free Press, exercising daily, and enjoying life with his wife of 68 years, Lulu. That’s Ernie and Lulu pictured in a 2002 ceremony honoring Harwell’s 55 years in the broadcast business.
In the Free Press story, Harwell says of his illness, which has manifested itself with an inoperable tumor in the area of the bile duct: “We don’t know how long this lasts. It could be a year, it could be much less than a year, much less than a half a year. Who knows?
“Whatever’s in store, I’m ready for a new adventure. That’s the way I look at it.”
May his remaining days be happy ones.
The Tigers-related website Bless You Boys published this address for sending cards and letters to Harwell:
c/o S. Gary Spicer Sr.
Attorney at Law
16845 Kercheval Ave.,
Grosse Pointe Michigan 48230
(Associated Press photo)