Harwell calls his final game in DetroitPosted: Sunday September 22, 2002 5:57 PM
DETROIT (AP) -- Ernie Harwell said he only wanted to do his job, but he has meant far more than that to several generations of Detroit Tiger fans.
"I'm overwhelmed by all of the attention," the Tigers' Hall of Fame radio announcer said Sunday after he called his last game in Detroit.
"I always looked at myself as just a worker and it's hard for me to comprehend all of the attention," he said.
The announced crowd of 23,930 paid homage to the work of Harwell, who will retire after 42 seasons with the team and 55 seasons of calling major league games.
Fans gave the 84-year-old Harwell a tremendous ovation, which featured chants of "Ernie! Ernie! Ernie!" during the seventh-inning stretch of the Tigers' 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees.
Since the All-Star break, there has been a video tribute to Harwell by different people during the seventh-inning stretch.
On Sunday, it came from Harwell's wife of 61 years, Lulu Harwell.
And after the game, there was an on-field ceremony in which the Tigers presented Harwell with Comerica Park's home plate and a plaque announcing that the stadium's press box will be officially dubbed "The Ernie Harwell Media Center" at the beginning of the 2003 season.
Most fans stayed for the ceremony.
"He has been a voice of the Tigers every since I was a kid," said Ron Masters, 37, of New Baltimore, who stood on a seat in the first row and watched the postgame ceremony through the screen behind home plate. "When we'd go to a game, we'd bring a radio so we could listen to him ... I'm getting choked up just talking about it."
The Tigers honored their radio voice with Ernie Harwell Day on Sept. 15 at Comerica Park.
There he was presented with trips to Honolulu -- which came from Tiger players -- Cancun, Mexico and the Grand Caymans. He also received a Tigers jersey. During the week, he said he received a home plate signed by all the team's players.
During Sunday's game, local media members presented Harwell with a weekend at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel for he and Lulu.
The Tigers have six more games in 2002. Harwell's last game will come in next Sunday against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
His retirement is only from the broadcast booth.
Harwell said he will still appear in television commercials for Comerica Bank and Kroger Supermarkets and will do 26 television vignettes for Fox Sports Detroit's "Detroit Tigers Weekly." He also plans to write 27 columns for the Detroit Free Press next season.
"I'm looking forward to a new chapter, now I'm looking forward reaching another crossroad," said Harwell.
Harwell called Tigers games on the radio from 1960 until 1991 and was a television announcer for Detroit games from 1993-98. He returned to the radio booth in 1999.
Before coming to the Tigers, Harwell called games for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles.
He replaced famed Dodgers radio broadcaster Red Barber in 1948 after being "traded" from the Southern Association's Atlanta Crackers.
Barber fell ill and Dodgers' general manager Branch Rickey needed a broadcaster. It just so happened that the Crackers needed a catcher. So Brooklyn sent minor league catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta and Harwell went to the Dodgers to call the games.
Dapper and Harwell had never met until last week's Ernie Harwell Day.
While calling for the Giants, Harwell was the television announcer for the 1951 National League playoff game against the Dodgers. It was the first major sporting event televised from coast-to-coast in the United States.
The game featured Bobby Thomson's dramatic "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run, which gave the Giants the National League pennant.
Harwell listed that as his most memorable on-air moment in his career.
"My partner Russ Hodges became famous for his call," Harwell said.
Hodges, doing the radio side, shouted, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" after the home run.
Harwell said his biggest moment that didn't involve a broadcast was receiving the 1981 Ford C. Frick Award, which the Baseball Hall of Fame uses to recognize excellence in broadcasting. He was the fourth broadcaster to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
And his most memorable moment in his Detroit broadcasting career
came during Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. It was Jim Northrup's
triple, misplayed by St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood,
that sent the Tigers to the championship.