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The Harwell Effect
September 4, 2009 - Steve Schulwitz
The man seemed like he would be here forever. His voice is so sincere and virtuous that I never really believed the good Lord would strip those on Earth the pleasure of listening to it. Today reality has set in and it has hit me like a ton of bricks. Longtime Tigers’ announcer Ernie Harwell was diagnosed with incurable cancer and may have a year or less to live. This affects me personally. When I think back to my childhood for the most part Ernie is in most of my fondest recollections. If I was at the cottage fishing, Ernie was on the boat with me. If I was in the car going on vacation with my family, Ernie was with us. Even on school nights, and the team was one the west coast, I wouldn’t fall asleep until Ernie would sign-off from his broadcast. I’m sure Ernie wouldn’t have approved of me staying up so late when I had class the next morning, but my day wouldn’t have been complete without having him tell me goodnight. I credit Mr. Harwell for me wanting to be a writer and for my brief stint as a play-by-play announcer for Wildcat football on WATZ radio several years ago. To this point the highlight of my reporting career was when I had a chance to interview the man for the radio station. It was like meeting a grandfather you knew you had, but never had a chance to meet in person. I was never so nervous in my life, but Ernie sensed it and with that soothing voice calmed me down and settled my nerves enough to move forward with the interview. I consider that one moment a turning point in my journalism endeavors. I learned it’s ok to have the jitters, but not to feel intimidated. I will never be intiminated by anyone when questioning them. During the interview I slipped Ernie a note with a name on it, hoping he would pick up my hint to wish the person a big Tigers’ hello. Without even the slightest hesitation the hall of famer finished his remarks and sent a special greeting to my grandma, who had been a Tigers’ fan for many more years than I. I was so excited afterward I drove to my mother's and my grandma’s house to play the interview to them. The event would soon become more special to me, as I saw tears flowing down my grandma’s face while listening to me interview the icon and absorbing his special salute to her. That visual of her will live with me long after my grandma passes. It was special. This is a very emotional piece for me to write. I have tears bubbling in my eye’s as I type .That is how deeply I admire the man. In a statement he made to the Detroit Free Press, Harwell said. “It could be a year, or it could be much less than that, but whatever is in store, I am ready for a new adventure.” Leave it to Ernie to add a poetic twist when discussing his own demise. I have often thought about e-mailing Ernie to thank him for how, in a very indirect way, having a positive effect on my life. That one task will be accomplished this weekend. I will miss ol’ Ernie, but that golden voice will ring in my ears until the day I join him on his new adventure.
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