05/05/10 3:37 AM ET
Tributes flow about beloved Harwell
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Commissioner Bud Selig:
"All of Major League Baseball is in mourning tonight upon learning of the loss of a giant of our game, Ernie Harwell."
Dave Niehaus, the Mariners' Hall of Fame broadcaster:
"He's one of the guys that almost defines the game -- just an unbelievably beloved man in Detroit. We've lost one of the giants of the game, one of the giants of broadcasting, in Ernie Harwell. Good friend, a wonderful man and he'll be sorely missed.
"He was a very religious guy, a very introspective guy, a guy who never had a bad word to say about anybody. I didn't know anybody who ever had a bad word to say about him. He'll be missed. He was brought up before television, and he cut his teeth on nothing but radio. There are very few of us left that did that. He'll be badly missed, sorely missed."
Mariners voice Rick Rizzs, who worked alongside Harwell in the 1992 season:
"No question, he was one of the all-time great broadcasters in the game of baseball, when you consider Vin Scully, Harry Caray, [Niehaus]. When it came time for baseball season and you heard his voice, it was like everything was right with the world. That's the way it is with the announcers that have been so much of a fabric of the community.
"I had the pleasure of being with Ernie every day in that broadcast booth and listen to those stories. He was a walking encyclopedia. Not only did he know the game, he lived it. Not too many guys can say that. He was a part of it."
Braves broadcaster Chip Caray:
"He had that beautiful Southern baritone voice. He was just another guy from that bygone era that loved that game. I hate to say anybody has ever become larger than the game. But guys like Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Vin Scully, Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson in Atlanta had a style so unique and distinguishable that you instantly knew who they were and what team they were broadcasting for. Nowadays, everybody wants all their guys to sound alike.
"Ernie Harwell was a true Southern gentlemen and a great man of faith. As good a broadcaster as he was, he was apparently an even better person. It's very, very sad. I think a big lesson he tried to teach us was to come to grips with your mortality, which certainly he did. He looked at life as an adventure and he said very succinctly, very clearly and very eloquently that he wasn't afraid of the journey he was about to take, but he wasn't afraid of it because of his faith. It was a very wonderful and not surprisingly poetic way to write your own epitaph. He got it."
Orioles announcer Gary Thorne:
"When I first came into the game, Ernie was a well-known veteran and he was as kind to me as you can possibly be. I always came to him with questions, he never said no. He just loved the game so much, he couldn't be around baseball enough because he cared so much about the game, the players and the fans. Ernie always broadcast for the fans. And his idea was to make the game as entertaining and as accurate as you can be. If you've done that, you've done your job as a broadcaster. And that's exactly what he did."
Astros voice Hamilton, who knew Harwell for 50 years:
"He handled his passing with class the way we knew he would. He's known it for several months. We didn't think he'd even make it through Spring Training or Opening Day, but he did. He was a fine writer. He was a correspondent for the Stars and Stripes in World War II and as a young man, maybe not in high school, but around that, he was the Atlanta correspondent to the Sporting News. He was a man of all trades, but of course, he'll be remembered for being a great broadcaster and great human being.
"I had not seen him for several years. I used to see him in Lakeland, [Fla.], every spring, but he didn't come down there much any more, and I didn't travel in Spring Training the last five years and I hadn't seen him for a while, but when we did, we always had great talks and we used to interview each other on our broadcast. He had a wonderful life, and he was certainly a big contributor to my profession. That's why I'll remember him, for that."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who was the Tigers' third-base coach in 1996:
"One of the dearest men ever. He was one of the gentlemen of the game."
Braves manager Bobby Cox:
"He was a great voice and a great gentleman. It was always great to talk to Ernie."
Rays manager Joe Maddon:
"The thing about him that stands out to me is that he treated me like I was a big league manager when I was the bench coach for the Anaheim Angels at that time. He knew you by your first name, wanted to sit down and talk to you, very engaging, very bright -- a wonderful man. And again, that's my takeaway from Mr. Harwell, he treated me really well as he did with everybody else."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi:
"It's a sad day for baseball. I was fortunate enough to go to the ballpark when I was with Florida and he read his poem about what baseball means. It's special. He was a wonderful man, always great to me, and he'll be dearly missed. It's not just a sad day in Detroit, it's a sad day in baseball."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire:
"Baseball lost a true baseball man. A really, really good guy. I was lucky I had the opportunity to at least say hello and get to meet the guy and sit in the dugout and talk with him. I hope a lot of people got that opportunity, because he was really special for this game and special for the Detroit Tigers."
Longtime Padres radio broadcaster Ted Leitner:
"We played in Detroit in Interleague Play, and I saw him in the lunch line. I went to get my tray and go by him to introduce myself, and he turned around and stuck out his hand and said, 'Hi, young man, how are you?' That's so much what I've heard about him. That impressed the hell out of me. He asked me to sit and eat with him. I thought to myself, 'What a gracious guy.'"
Jeff Piecoro, Reds pregame and postgame host:
"He was one of the last great voices of our youth. He was folksy. You listened to a game and it was the old style of broadcasting, which isn't done anymore. Now it's 'me, me, I, I.' Ernie was all about the game and made it special."
Jim Day, also a Reds pregame and postgame host:
"I was in total awe of Ernie. I got to interview him once, and I was a nervous wreck."
Drew Goodman, Rockies play-by-play:
"He was clearly one of the all-time legendary announcers. I'm sure for people in the upper Midwest, Michiganders; he signified the start of spring and the coming of fall every year. He got going before television was a large part of how people got their information or their entertainment. From conversations with Clint Hurdle and some other people that got to know him a little bit, he was -- and I include the great Vin Scully and Jerry Coleman in San Diego -- as wonderful a broadcaster as he was, he was even a finer gentleman."
Dave Wills, one of the voices of Rays radio:
"I was in the Minors, and he had a book signing at the park in Grand Rapids, [Mich]. You're a Minor League guy trying to make it in this business and he had nothing but time to sit there and talk to you about how you should do it and how you should be. And what a great profession it was. I was working for the Kane County Cougars [of the Class A Midwest League]. Very accommodating and stopped to talk in the middle of signing autographs. Just as gentlemanly as he could possibly be. And obviously, I had more opportunities to talk with him when I was covering the White Sox. One of those guys who always remembered your name. Somebody I think all of us aspired to be like. One of the best in the business. No question about it."
Dewayne Staats, Rays TV play-by-play voice:
"We had him come by the booth and actually sit in with us and do like three innings, which was a thrill. What a treat that was. He was one of those guys, for me, the aura never left him for me. Jack Buck was like that, and Ernie Harwell was like that."
Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler:
"We went to Detroit to play at old Tiger Stadium. We only went there once. And we got off the bus, walked in the ballpark and Harry [Kalas], Whitey [Richie Asbhurn] and I were kind of wandering around looking for the elevator. We didn't know where to go. Here he comes. The timing was unbelievable with that sweet disposition of his. 'Hi, Harry, Whitey, Wheels. Nice to see you. Welcome to Detroit.' It was like you were walking into his home. He said, 'Now, do you know where you're going?' No, Ernie, we have no idea. 'Well, I'll show you where the press room is. I'll show you where the elevator is. I'll take you up to your booth.' It was just vintage Ernie Harwell, one of the sweetest men in the world. No ego. We literally were wandering around this ballpark and had no idea where to go, and Ernie just took us under his wing."
Ed Farmer, White Sox radio play-by-play who also pitched for the Tigers in 1973:
"He not only showed us how to be a gentleman when I was with the Tigers, but in dying, he showed us how to be a gentleman and lived through something that was traumatic and, near the end, (he knew) was coming. They gave him two weeks to live last year.
"This was a guy who was everybody's friend. He did the game differently than anybody and gave me the best advice ever. He said, 'Let them know where the ball is, let them know the score and let them know your passion for the White Sox.'
Jack Morris, former Tigers pitcher and current Twins broadcaster:
"I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. Even when he wanted to criticize or say something about someone, he would choose to find the good in the person instead of picking apart the obvious. That's just the kind of guy he was."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Several reporters and contributors for MLB.com contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.