Ernie Harwell died today...
What I did know was Ernie's voice. There was something soothing and comforting about it. It was almost always even and calm, always in control. Even when there was a big home run that brought the Tigers from behind, his voice rose and fell as the ball went out over the field and into the seats. Ernie would comment that a gentleman from Brighton took that one home. I was always amazed how he knew these things. I asked my dad who in his own infinite wisdom and sense of humor said that Ernie had a chart of the seats with all that information on it. When a player, Tiger or opponent, would watch that third strike zip by without a swing Ernie would comment, "He stood there like a house by the side of the road and watched that one go by."
When I found out that Ernie had passed away tonight, it was as though a beloved uncle had died. I'm positive that I'm not even remotely alone in this feeling. Even as I saw another mention of his passing between periods of the hockey game, I could feel tears in my eyes. I was watching a You Tube video of his farewell address at Comerica Park and as I was watching it and listening to his still-strong voice, I heard the lawn mower outside and again I was transported back. Suddenly the old yellowed clock radio was there next to me and the sounds of the freeway were filtering in through the open window of my bedroom and in the fading light of the evening, just as tonight, the sounds of the lawn mower getting louder and softer as the path took it up and down the lawn. And there, in both places, the voice of my youth and my summers and my nights told us it was a beautiful evening in Tigertown. And in that moment, however brief it was, life was good and right and a man from New Hudson was taking home a souvenir.
Thank you Ernie. Thanks for everything.