Grand Cards: Loooong Gone

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Loooong Gone

Even though everybody knew it was coming, Ernie Harwell's death seems to have struck a chord both locally and nationally. I want to thank Bless You Boys and the Detroit Tigers Weblog, primarily for their extensive links and quotes to all things Ernie. It was a huge help when trying to catch up on public sentiment after traveling all day yesterday.

Bless You Boys' round up of the local perspective and national perspective.

Detroit Tigers Weblog's offering including some very good audio links.

Everyone seems to have their stories--a brief meeting, important moment in life, pervasive feeling of comfort and calm whenever you turned on the radio. They are all wonderful. For me, there are three quick ones.

The first involves meeting Ernie in a dark Tiger Stadium concourse after he was leaving after a game. I got his attention and asked him if he would sign my cap--the blue faded "E Harwell" is still on the underside of that Tigers hat, and although it doesn't fit me any more, I've kept it around. For a kid, getting an autograph is really exciting, and I've been proud of that one for years.

The second memory is of Opening Day the year that Ernie was fired. I remember before the game, out in the street, someone was handing out thousands of cardboard cutouts of Ernie's face on a stick that we could all hold up as cheap Harwell masks. This was, of course, a form of mass protest designed to showcase the disgust we all had for the firing. I held mine up throughout the game and it is still one of the more vivid memories I have from any particular baseball game.

While I was writing that, I decided to do a quick eBay search and...there it is. The internet is so awesome. Here's a screen shot:

Finally, the third "memory" seems to be what people are talking about most. Tigers baseball, broadcast by Ernie Harwell, defined summer. We went to sleep to it. Listened to it in our cars. In my case, listened to it across 4 or 5 different radio stations on our way up North, not sure if there was static on the station because we were losing it or if it was just the gentle hum of the crowd at Tiger Stadium. Then, during the days, sitting outside in the sun and looking over the lake with the game on in the background and Ernie just smoothly telling the story of baseball. There is nothing else like it.

Ernie's passing is truly is the end of an era for me, that combines with the demolition of Tiger Stadium and the death of my Grandfather last year. Those three have always been inextricably intertwined for me, and it is very sad that they are no longer around. At the same time, they are now all firmly cemented in a very-well defined era of my life. The memories are clear and easy to access and don't get muddled up by incongruous timelines or things like that. Ernie Harwell--the most beloved man in the history of Michigan, according to the Free Press subheader the other day--will certainly be missed. I can only hope that, somehow, future generations are able to experience something anywhere close to what he gave us.


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