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Get ready for a Harwell weekend
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09/12/2002 2:48 pm ET 
Get ready for a Harwell weekend
Two days of ceremonies planned at Comerica Park
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

The broadcast booth, Ernie Harwell's second home for more than four decades. (Stephen J. Carrera/AP)
Get your tickets for Ernie Harwell weekend at Comerica Park >

DETROIT -- Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell has enjoyed some sort of ceremony at every ballpark the Tigers have visited this year. This weekend, it's Detroit's turn.

The Tigers have honored Ernie in some fashion or another throughout his final season behind the microphone, most notably with video tributes and standing ovations since the All-Star break. Their more formal celebration, originally slated for this Sunday, has grown so large -- and the collectibles so numerous -- that it will encompass two days instead of one.

At times, Harwell has been a reluctant honoree, fearing that the celebration takes away from the game and the team he's paid to describe. With the Tigers closing out a difficult season on the field and hurtling toward a 100-loss campaign, Harwell's last gift to the Tigers is to let the Tigers and the city shower gifts of thanks and praise upon him.

The festivities now begin with Saturday's 2:05 p.m. matinee against the Royals. The first 5,000 fans age 21 or older receive a Harwell bobblehead doll -- hat on head and microphone in hand -- to go with a collector's card. With that, Harwell will join Haray Caray and Harry Kalas as Hall of Fame broadcasters to have their own bobblehead dolls.

Harwell himself is impressed. The only problem he had with the doll, he said, was that "I sent it back to have more wrinkles put on it."

As fans enter the ballpark, Ernie will complete a book-signing tour that began in Spring Training for the large release of his most recent work, My 60 Years in Baseball. He'll sign copies of the book, co-written with New York Post sports writer Tom Keegan, from noon to 1 p.m. near the Tigers retail store at Gate B of Comerica Park.

As grand as a bobblehead event can be, the major events are saved for Sunday. With the first pitch pushed back to 2:25 p.m. ET, the Tigers have dedicated more than an hour to pregame ceremonies and tributes -- complete with guest speakers and gifts galore. The video tributes that have become a seventh-inning staple at Tigers games will be run, as will tributes recorded by fans over the past two months.

Also included will be footage of Friday's U.S. Senate hearing, in which a resolution passed honoring Harwell, who "brought to life, through the medium of radio, the performances of some of baseball's greats, such as Sparky Anderson, Kirk Gibson, Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Alan Trammell, and many others." Most of Sunday's presentation, to start sometime after 1 p.m., should be available on the local telecast, which begins at 1:30 p.m. on UPN 50 Detroit.

The big gift for fans, however, will be a CD-ROM retrospective on Harwell's career that ranks among the most ambitious promotions the club has tried. More than a computerized promotion, the disc contains a multimedia bio, video tributes, a large part of his photo collection and a couple of writings penned by Harwell.

The disc's true treasure, though, is the 45-minute collection of radio calls selected from throughout Harwell's career. The clips stretch from the 1968 and '84 championship seasons and include separate sound bytes for his famous strikeout, double play and home run calls. Beyond Harwell's 42-year Tigers tenure, listeners get a taste of the rest of Harwell's career with a half-inning from a 1947 Atlanta Crackers game and a 1954 college football matchup between Yale and Army.

The CD-ROM is available to the first 10,000 fans ages 21 and older, who can start enjoying it before they get back to their computers. The package unfolds into its own photo collection. But perhaps the best part is that the audio collection plays in a regular CD player.

Beyond the archive collection, listeners to the Tigers radio network will receive a taste of how Harwell used to sound with his old broadcast partners. Ray Lane, who worked with Harwell from 1967-72, will join him for the first three innings Saturday. Paul Carey, Harwell's longest-running partner from 1973-91, will do the same on Sunday.

Plenty of seats remain available for both games. With the walkup crowd Sunday, Tigers officials expect the second-largest attendance of the season, behind only the home opener.

Once the weekend ends, Harwell will have two weeks worth of broadcasts left, including a week of home games with the Twins and Yankees and a season-ending series at Toronto Sept. 27-29. By then, he could probably stand to take a day off.

Jason Beck covers the Tigers for MLB.com and can be reached at jason.beck@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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