Ernie Harwell’s Final Calls

We’re all grateful this morning for the life Ernie Harwell devoted to baseball — and baseball fans. This is what I’ll remember most about the Voice Of The Game:

1. Ernie remained humble about his Christianity. He wasn’t one to attach a Bible verse to every autograph. However, the signed photo he provided for my friends at Kings Christian Bookstore (in Boone, Iowa) includes “Mathew 6:33,” only because I requested that he add a favorite verse.

2. Ernie signed my photo across his forehead! When Ernie signed an autograph, he provided an interaction. He wasn’t creating a museum piece. He was making a memory.

3. Read The Babe Signed My Shoe (Honoring a Detroit Legend)
to get an idea of Ernie’s attitude about autographs. A signature was a signature. Someone might grumble that Ernie signed the Topps Fan Favorite card in the dark upper half of the photo. Nevertheless, I don’t think Ernie spent much time fawning over what future generations might make of his face or his autograph.

4. This Southern Gentleman was an all-star at the Palmer School of Penmanship. I looked up countless autographs online after news of his death. Each time, every one of the 12 letters in his name are clear. I’m guessing that he’d provide the same clear signature for one and all, even when a crowd clamored for his autograph.

5. Warner Fuselle, a former narrator for This Week in Baseball, advised me on a book project years ago. “Try Ernie Harwell,” he suggested. “He’s the nicest man in baseball.”

A Standing Ovation for Ernie Harwell

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Ernie Harwell is a man of Biblical proportions. He didn’t write such a verse. It’s from the Song of Solomon (2:11-12). But his annual welcoming of baseball’s return rang in my mind today, a perfect morning pre-game welcome for this gorgeous May day.

The 92-year-old Tigers broadcasting legend told the baseball world more than eight months ago that he’s facing inoperable cancer. The state of Michigan celebrated Ernie Harwell Day in April. I want to celebrate Ernie Harwell’s spirit every day.

I still treasure my copy of the book Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years In Baseball (Honoring a Detroit Legend)
Likewise, I’ve been delighted with Harwell’s own Breaking 90: Nine Decades Young and Still Loving Baseball

As we face the loss of the game’s grateful inspiration, I wanted to share a copy of a letter I sent upon Harwell’s 2002 retirement — to Mrs. Lulu Harwell.

Dear Mrs. Harwell,

It’s time you get a “fan letter,” too. Instead, I’d call this a thank-you note.
When I learned that you have listened to ALL of Mr. Harwell’s broadcasts through the years, I swooned. Baseball history is full of amazing behind-the-scenes leaders like managers and general managers. They allow the players to take all the bows. Well, Tigers fans should offer you yearly standing ovations, too. You’ve kept the voice we love on the air.

Tiger fans have spent seasons enchanted by Ernie Harwell broadcasts. Each fan has thought he’s talking directly to HIM. That’s the magic. He’s always made that personal on-air connection knowing that he’ll be appreciated by one special Ernie Harwell fan. You! Fans like me overhear. We are the blessed eavesdroppers.
I’m grateful for the many summers you’ve shared your husband with the baseball world. I hope you and Mr. Harwell have a lovely retirement together.

Thank you, Ernie. Thank you, Lulu. I wish you many more innings together.

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