Ernie Harwell, A Summer Voice Finally Falls Silent

For 42 years, Ernie Harwell was the play-by-play announcer of the Detroit Tigers and as much a part of summer as crickets or the bells of ice cream trucks. His warm, resonant voice and clear, uncluttered patter became a touch of home for many Tiger fans. Host Scott Simon remembers Harwell, who died this week at age 92.

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(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. ERNIE HARWELL (Sportscaster): Well, he heaves a sigh(ph). Looks in to get his sign. Here's the pitch on the way. Fisk swings. There's a fly ball to left.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Ernie Harwell was one of the voices of summer, as much as crickets or the bells of ice cream trucks. For 42 years, he was the play-by-play announcer of the Detroit Tigers, a Southern gentleman who came north -like a lot of Southerners who came to work in the great auto plants of central Michigan. His warm, resonant voice and clear, uncluttered patter became a touch of home for many Tiger fans.

When a foul ball landed in the stands, he'd say: Caught by a lady from Ypsilanti - or Albion, Battle Creek, Saginaw or Apple Gate. Not because he knew that she was - he didn't - but as a way of tipping his hat to towns all over the state.

The Tigers fired Ernie Harwell when he was 80, saying the club needed new blood. Michigan is a swing state politically, but polls showed that 97 percent of the people there wanted Ernie Harwell back in the booth, and his voice back in their kitchens and backyards. He came back and finally retired when he was 88.

Ernie Harwell was 92 when he died this week. He told listeners on his last broadcast in 2006: I hope I've been a small part of your life. You've been a huge part of mine.

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