Harwell relives career on MLB Network
Hall of Fame announcer reflects while dealing with cancer
For decades, legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell impacted millions through the airwaves with his soothing voice -- especially Tigers fans who hung on his every word.
Now he sees it all coming to an end.
"This will be my last World Series, I think," Harwell recently said to Bob Costas in an interview that will air on MLB Network next week. "Back in July, the doctors gave me six months to live, give or take a few months. I'm hoping to reach my birthday on Jan. 25, but I'm pretty sure I won't make the baseball season.
"But you never know, as the Lord works wonders."
Through 55 years as a play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Orioles and Tigers, Harwell did nothing but work wonders in front of the microphone.
On Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, MLB Network's Studio 42 with Bob Costas will debut an interview with Harwell that sees him relive it all -- from his move to Brooklyn in the mid-20th Century, through a dazzling career that made him a Hall of Fame broadcaster and up until being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in September.
At the interview's close, the 91-year-old Harwell recites the speech he gave upon being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Aug. 2, 1981.
Among other things, Harwell tells Costas about playing cards with Jackie Robinson, taking the job with the Tigers in 1960 and the art of his craft.
"All I tried to do was be myself," Harwell said. "I wanted to broadcast the game that I thought I'd like to hear as a listener. I tried to give the score as often as I could. I let the play take over and fill in with anecdotes or historical information that maybe nobody else came up with. There were going to be some people who like you and some who don't like you, and you have to accept that when you start out."
But everybody likes Harwell.
For as gifted as he was calling a baseball game, those who know him best will say his most special gift is the way he treated people -- from the higher-ups in the organization he dealt with on a daily basis to the clubhouse attendants he occasionally bumped into.
"The thing I enjoyed working with Ernie was we always had a good time," Tigers radio broadcaster Jim Price, who previously worked in the booth with Harwell, said in early September. "He was always upbeat. He'd laugh on the air, tell stories, and I loved to get Ernie laughing."
Though he was recently diagnosed with an inoperable tumor around his bile duct, Harwell said he's still enjoying his time.
"I'm not overwhelmed by the circumstances," he told Costas. "One of the doctors said, 'If you were my father, I'd say don't do anything, just relax and wait for the inevitable.' But I had great peace about that and closure to it, and I knew God was in charge, and whatever happens, happens for the best."
Upon getting the diagnosis, Harwell opted not to undergo surgery, chemotherapy or any type of radiation. He just wanted to stay at home with family and friends for whatever amount of time he had left.
Then, on Sept. 16, he got up in front of his much bigger family, as the Tigers paid tribute to Harwell at Comerica Park, and a stadium full of fans -- many of whom overwhelmed his mailbox with thoughtful letters -- hung on his every word one last time.
"The old voice hasn't changed that much in 50 years, and I think mainly the genes, the good health the Lord gave me and the fact I enjoyed the job so much," Harwell said about his on-field speech in the middle of the third inning of the Tigers' game against the Royals. "I never looked at it as work. It was something I got great pleasure out of -- getting to know the people in baseball, traveling with them and being a part of that great Major League Baseball fraternity.
"It was very heartwarming for me to see the way people felt about me."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.