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May 6, 2010 - Zach Baker
Baseball is not all about the players on the field. Some of the most important names, the most important voices, the most important people never stepped on a Major League field to play.
Ernie Harwell was one of those people. Despite growing up in the Cleveland area, I still had opportunities to listen to him. Detroit's radio station was powerful, and when the Indians played the Tigers, my father would find the station, and listen to Harwell.
Listening to Harwell call a baseball game was similar to the first time I'd been Tiger Stadium. I was used to Cleveland Stadium, used to listening to Herb Score.
To this day, I love Municipal Stadium and I love Score. But Harwell was a classic baseball announcer, just like Tiger Stadium was a classic baseball park.
When I listened to Harwell, it was a surprise. I didn't know baseball could sound like that. It was like I'd been eating ham sandwiches for dinner for years, and had just been handed a filet mignon.
He was a classic. My favorite baseball announcer of all time. He called the first game at Jacobs Field for a national audience. I loved the call, but my mother complained about how he pronounced second baseman Carlos Baerga's name.
My mother requested we change the station. My father and I refused.
Harwell died yesterday at 92. He had a long and probably wonderful life. But his passing means the loss of another link to a different era, an era before Wild Cards, Interleague Play, teams in Florida, the designated hitter, and, of course, steroids.
Baseball changed, but the fact that Harwell was calling games until 2002 meant that baseball's past wasn't completely gone.
Maybe it isn't, even now. But knowing Harwell is no longer around is a reminder of how things, and how times, change.
Still, everyone who listened to the voice won't forget it. Harwell is gone, but he made the game better. If you were lucky enough to hear him, you know why.