– Having grown-up in Michigan, Red Wings forwards Drew Miller
and Justin Abdelkader
each spoke glowingly about legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died on Tuesday following a nearly year-long battle with cancer. He was 92.
“He did so many great things for the game and for the fans, and he was also a song writer, which I didn’t know that,” said Miller, who grew-up in East Lansing. “He had a pretty interesting history. It’s a pretty tough loss for the Tigers.”
Harwell enjoyed one of the longest broadcasting runs with one Major League Baseball club, doing Tigers play-by-play – predominantly on radio – for 42 years. He will be forever remembered by generations of Michiganders for his Southern charm and warm personality.
Growing-up in Muskegon, which is closer to Lake Michigan than the corner of Michigan & Trumbull – made famous by Harwell – Wings forward Justin Abdelkader
respected the acclaimed broadcaster and understands the powerful memories that will resonate with fans.
“He left a great mark on Detroit and the city and did a wonderful job for the Tigers for so many years,” Abdelkader said.
As a youngster growing up in Guelph, Ontario, Wings forward Kirk Maltby enjoyed baseball during the summer months, though he admits to being a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays back then.
Maltby was traded to the Red Wings two-weeks prior to the start of the Tigers 1996 season, and while he never met Harwell, listening to his Southern cadence and short whimsical calls for many years was special, Maltby said.
“I had the privilege to hear him call enough games since I’ve been here,” he said. “There aren’t too many better voices and from what I could tell – hearing and listening to people – there weren’t too many greater people then him.
“He didn’t just contribute to the baseball world, I think as a human-being he was a great person and he’ll be remembered for a long, long time.”
While baseball has its ebbs and flows throughout a nine-inning episode, Maltby appreciated Harwell’s engaging ability to hook listens from the first pitch to the last out.
“Baseball isn’t the fastest game in the world,” Maltby said, “and I think when you have a guy like him to call a game I think he kept a lot of people glued to the game.”
Hockey hall-of-famer Ted Lindsay, who made his permanent home in suburban Detroit after his playing career ended in 1965, often crossed paths with Harwell on the local banquet or charity events circuit over the decades.
“He was always a gentleman, a class person in his profession, and it’s a tremendous loss,” Lindsay said. “But I heard him when he gave his eulogy to himself. He was a good Christian man. He knew what was coming and he was ready for it. That’s one hell of a man as far as I’m concerned.”