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Steve with Baseball Personalities

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell (1918-2010) The voice of the Detroit Tigers for so many years was such a decent and down-to-earth person. I was privileged to spend a day with him (and the woman he introduced to me has "my bride," his wife Lulu, whom he was married to for 68 years) in 2004. I was doing a story on the Harwell Collection of baseball photographs, books, and clippings that Ernie had donated to the Detroit Public Library. My article, "The Face of Baseball," was published in SABR's The National Pastime the following year.

Ernie had an amazing collection of photos, which included early 20th-century images that a Detroit photographer had given him decades earlier. Ernie gave away the collection when he realized he might be starting to collect for the sake of collecting. To his credit, Ernie's collection is accessible to researcher and writers, at the main library of the DPL on Woodward Avenue.

Ernie was a big admirer of a ballplayer for my hometown team, Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners. Ernie showed me his index cards, on which he had jotted down baseball stories and anecdotes over the years. Before each game he broadcast, Ernie would grab a handful of the cards and share the stories with his listeners.

In September 2009, Ernie announced he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had about six months to live. In early March, soon after our 1921 book came out, I sent Ernie a signed copy of the book. Shortly thereafter, I received a Thank You card from him. Dated March 16, 2010, he wrote, "Dear Steve, Thanks for that terrific book. I know I'll enjoy it. All my best—Ernie Harwell." Ernie passed away on May 4th. I sometimes wonder if 1921 was the last book he read. I hope it met his expectations. That card hangs on my office wall.

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