I thought of that story last night for two reasons. First, because Rizzuto's sentiments about the passing of the pope 32 years ago are an apt expression of my feelings in the wake of Ernie Harwell's passing at 92 last night. And secondly, because Rizzuto, who we lost nearly three years ago now, was as beloved by Yankee fans as Harwell was by Tiger fans. Such announcers are literally a dying breed, and so long as the Yankees continue to employ the likes of Michael Kay and John Sterling as the voices of the team, we won't ever again have the luxury of such a beloved announcer.
I touched upon Harwell briefly last September, when he announced that he had inoperable bile duct cancer and just months to live. As a Yankee-centric baseball fan, I'm having a tough time putting my finger on why it is that the passing of Harwell, who had no ties to the Yankees, is registering with me. I have virtually no connection to him. I barely recall listening to him at all during his broadcasting days. I know I read one of his books when I was younger, and I remember liking it a lot, but not enough to remember which one of his works that it was.
But as the reactions to Harwell's passing pour in from around baseball and blogosphere, I suppose I'm not alone in my sentiments. There are several others out there, who like me, have little or no connection to Harwell, but who are nonetheless saddened by his passing. Harwell was as good an ambassador as the game has ever had, a humble and dignified man throughout his career, and over the past several months, in the face of his impending death, spent his time doing more to console those who would mourn him than he did thinking about himself.
As I thought about this last night, with the Yankees post-game show on in the background, Joe Girardi held his post-game session with the media. There, Kim Jones asked Girardi for some thoughts on Harwell. It was only then that Girardi found out the news, and he became somewhat emotional as he shared his limited memories of Harwell. I suppose that's as representative a reaction as any: someone with no specific ties to Harwell, but with ties to the game of baseball, understands that the game has suffered a significant loss.
Here are far more poignant remembrances of Harwell:
An extensive obituary by John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press
A remembrance by our friend Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, who grew up in Michigan, falling asleep to the sound of Harwell's voice.
Joe Posnanski re-runs his Sports Illustrated piece on Harwell from last September
Rob Neyer met Harwell just once, just over ten years ago
Larry from Wezen-ball digs up an article that Harwell wrote for Baseball Digest about Ty Cobb and the manager who discovered him.We'll leave you with this video, from Harwell's night at Comerica Park last September.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times excerpts Harwell's famed Cooperstown speech from 1981, when he was given the Ford C. Frick Award.
CYC does Kepner one better, reprinting the speech in its entirety.
'Duk at Big League Stew says it best: Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs, and Marvin Gaye can step aside. Harwell had Motown's sweetest voice.
Jason at IIATMS
Bleacher Report's Tim Cary recalls growing up to the voice of Harwell
Sam Walter Foss' "House By The Side of the Road", the poem that helped a young Harwell overcome his stuttering problem. He would later pepper his broadcasts with references to the poem, and the line that closes four of the poem's five stanzas seems to have been a mantra for Ernie:Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
And be a friend to man.