One evening after the homespun voice of legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell was quieted forever, the man known as Mr. Tiger gave his friend a tearful and heartfelt farewell in New York City.
Speaking at Gotham Hall for Fordham University radio station WFUV’s annual gala Wednesday night, Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline accepted the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award for sports broadcasting on behalf of Harwell, who called Tigers games for 42 years and baseball games for 55. The event, an auction to raise money for WFUV, also honored Bob Schieffer and Levon Helm.
“For Ernie, broadcasting a baseball game was never just a job; it was a way of life,” Kaline said.
Kaline fondly remembered Harwell’s remarkable knowledge of baseball history, saying the man “had a gift for making all that history come alive.”
Those who spoke before Kaline also paid their respects to the sports broadcasting icon. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “he really had a great life and he did what he loved,” adding “we really ought to celebrate his life with a smile on our face instead of a tear in our eye.”
Vin Scully, who began his storied broadcasting career at WFUV, offered a video tribute, recorded shortly before Harwell’s death. He called Harwell, “one of the true, fine broadcasters the medium has ever seen.”
The praise was mutual. Kaline said Harwell recently had told him he thought Scully was the greatest baseball broadcaster in history. But with his voice cracking as his speech ended, Kaline summed up the way Detroit baseball lovers felt about the southern kid who became a Midwestern icon.
“We Tiger fans respectfully disagree,” he said.