by Rich Kincaide
I have to leave early for the hockey game tonight. I have to stop on the way to say good-bye to Ernie. He lies today in repose at Comerica Park and there he will remain until midnight and I suppose I could stop by on the way home but what if the game goes into overtime, etc?
It was Laura's birthday Tuesday, the day Mr. Harwell died, and I every year on Laura's birthday I remember that the day she was born, Ernie announced her birth on the air that night in the middle of a Tigers game.
I don't want to make it sound like we were big buddies or best friends or anything like that, but we were friends and we were colleagues. In a sense. I used to do the post-game talk show after Ernie had signed off, and on many other occasions I'd go up to the broadcast booth to send taped interviews back to the studio. So, Ernie and me knew each other. And me, like everybody else, he treated just great.
I talked to two of his broadcast partners yesterday. Paul Carey and Ray Lane--each great guys in their own right--each shared the booth with Ernie for more than a decade. Ray reminded me that we will always have our memories and in the case of Ernie Harwell we have the tapes to listen to. So, in that sense at least, he hasn't left us at all.
I've already told my favorite Ernie story on this blog in a post I wrote when Ernie was diagnosed a year or so ago. About how when I was covering my second Tigers game ever as a baby all of 22 years old (not bad, covering the bigs at 22) he came up to me near the batting cage, introduced himself and talked to me for five or ten minutes and about how when he left I felt, just like the cliche', 10 feet tall. I've never forgotten that and I never will. Ernie made me feel like I belonged, and I went from being a scared and nervous kid to being just another member of the working press in those few minutes he spent with me.
Paul Carey used to do the middle three innings, and while he was at the mike (in those days a guy could work a game alone, you didn't need somebody yammering at you every second of every broadcast like you apparently do today) Ernie would often venture from the broadcast booth up to the press box at Tiger Stadium to visit. He'd do this most every night, in fact. I'll remember talking baseball with him on those nights for as long as I live too.
I've taken his death harder than I thought I would. I mean, we all knew he'd been diagnosed with a fatal cancer and he had a great life and he got to be 92 and all that, but I am sad nonetheless. Today, I say farewell and Godspeed to him. I will probably cry a little.