Ernie Harwell, the acclaimed Tigers broadcaster whose eloquence and kindness made him a beloved Michigan institution, died Tuesday night after a nearly year-long bout with cancer. He was 92.
He died in his apartment at Fox Run Village, a retirement center in Novi, with Lulu, his wife of 68 years, at his side. His death came eight months to the day after he revealed to his fans, in an interview with the Free Press, that he had a cancerous tumor in the area of his bile duct and that in late July he had been given only a few months to live.
“I’m ready to face what comes,” he said at the time. “Whether it’s a long time or a short time is all right with me because it’s up to my Lord and savior.”
In the ensuing months, in an emotional farewell ceremony at Comerica Park, in his columns for the Free Press and in interviews with national media, Harwell referred to death as his next great adventure, a gift handed down by God.
“I’ve had so many great ones,” he said. “It’s been a terrific life.”
Harwell had one of the longest runs by a broadcaster with one major league club, calling Tigers games for 42 seasons. For the first 32 of those seasons, he made and cemented his legacy by doing play-by-play on the radio. His Southern voice — rich and authoritative but not overbearing — became as distinctive to Michigan listeners as baseball itself.
Here is Ernie's Farewell Address at Comerica Park, Sept. 16th, 2009.