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Ernie Harwell

From Academic Kids

William Ernest Harwell (born January 25, 1918 in Washington, Georgia) is a former Major League Baseball announcer. For 55 years (42 of them spent announcing Detroit Tigers games), Harwell called balls, strikes, and home runs over the radio.

After graduating from Emory University, Harwell began his career as a copy editor and sportswriter for the Atlanta Constitution and as a regional correspondent for The Sporting News. In 1943, he began announcing games for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, after which he served four years in the Marines. In 1948 Harwell became the only announcer in baseball history to be traded for a player when the Brooklyn Dodgers' General Manager, Branch Rickey, traded catcher Cliff Dapper to the Crackers in exchange for breaking Harwell's broadcasting contract.

Harwell was also play-by-play man for the New York Giants in the early 1950s (calling Bobby Thomson's "Shot heard 'round the world" in the 1951 National League playoff game on national television), then for the Baltimore Orioles in the late 1950s. Early in his career he also broadcast football and golf events.

In 1960 Harwell became the "voice" of the Tigers, replacing veteran broadcaster Van Patrick. He was known for his low key delivery, southern accent, and conversational style, which included:

  • Pausing periodically with the game action, allowing listeners to hear the sounds of the stadium
  • Frequently referring to the location of Tiger Stadium -- the corner of Michigan and Trumbull
  • Following up foul balls into the crowd with, "That one was caught by a fan from (insert name of local city or town)."
  • Exclaiming on a called third strike, "He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched it go by."
  • Saying straight strikes were "right down Woodward," Detroit's main street
  • Describing a home run, "That ball is looooong gone!"

In a controversial move, Harwell's contract was "non-renewed" by the Tigers and then-flagship station WJR in 1991, but a popular outcry led to his partial reinstatement on the team's television broadcasts the following year; he resumed full-time radio duties with the team from 1999 to 2002. Harwell also did numerous regular-season and postseason broadcasts for the national CBS radio network from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Harwell was elected to the National Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 1989, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998, and was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 as only the fifth broadcaster to receive its Ford C. Frick Award, among many other honors.

In 2004, the Detroit Public Library dedicated a room to Ernie and his wife, Lulu, which will house Harwell's collection of baseball memorabilia valued at over two million dollars.

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