A Custom for Ernie
May 5th, 2010 by slangon

2010 SlangKo Award Winners Ernie Harwell

As most of you probably know by now, longtime Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away yesterday after a prolonged battle with cancer. I was not fortunate enough to ever hear Ernie call a game, but sometimes the figure in the booth becomes bigger than the game he’s calling. I was legitimately taken aback when Gary Cohen and Ron Darling mentioned his passing during the Mets game last night. I guess I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy listening to a game being called by great announcers, so even though I never got to hear Ernie call one, I can imagine how much Tiger’s fans must be bummed.

Ernie Harwell worked for 55 years broadcasting baseball games, 42 of them in Detroit. He also called games for the Brooklyn Dodgers (filling in for a hospitalized Red Barber), the New York Giants (where he famously called Booby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’round the World”) and the Baltimore Orioles.

He started working as the visiting batboy for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association and never had to buy a ticket to a baseball game after that. After college and a stint in the Marines, Harwell worked announcing games for the Crackers on the radio. In 1948, he became the only broadcaster to ever be traded for a player when Branch Rickey traded catcher Cliff Dapper to the Crackers in exchange for breaking Harwell’s broadcasting contract.

1960 marked the beginning of Ernie’s time in Detroit. The Tigers and radio station WJR infamously decided to not renew his contract after the 1991 season, enraging fans across Michigan. He worked part time for the Angels in 1992, after which the Tigers were sold to Mike Ilitch, who wisely made it one of his first priorities to bring Harwell back. He continued to call Tigers games until 2002, when he announced he would be retiring after the season. His last game came on September 29, 2002.

Rest in peace, Mr. Harwell.

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