Missing Ernie? Unfortunately, there’s no wishing back the iconic voice of the Detroit Tigers. But if you’re looking to honor his memory, as well as to assist Wayne State University’s baseball team, WSU athletic director Rob Fournier has a suggestion. Donate to the Ernie and Lulu Harwell Field Project.
The project is a $1.3-million retrofit of the WSU Warriors’ home field. Once completed, the upgraded facility will named after the late Hall of Fame broadcaster and his wife of 68 years. A capital campaign is underway to raise the needed funds. While Wayne’s athletic department is naturally pursuing corporate donations, Fournier says it will be “the $5 and $10 contributions that will move fundraising along. That kind of grass-roots effort is really what Ernie was about.”
The first phase of the project seeks $550,000 to build a 500-seat grandstand behind home plate. The structure will house a press box and a foyer to display some of Harwell’s memorabilia. Architecturally, the exterior facade is meant to remind fans of Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, where Harwell began his big-league career in 1948. Bleachers will be built down both baselines. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin next spring. The second phase of the project will seek an additional $750,000 to build a clubhouse adjacent to the first-base dugout. This structure will include office and storage space.
The spirit of baseball past is already evident at the Warriors’ venue, which has been markedly improved since Fournier came aboard a decade ago. Fournier, whose office walls are filled with framed prints of classic ballyards, had the once-open field enclosed with fencing that matches the exact dimensions of Boston’s Fenway Park. Left field features a faithful replica of Fenway’s iconic “Green Monster.” At the base of the 37-foot-high wall is a scoreboard from Tiger Stadium. It cost about $25,000 to restore the salvaged scoreboard to working condition. “It uses light bulbs, not LED lighting,” he says. “It wasn’t easy finding an electrician who could work on it.”
The capital campaign for the Harwell Field Project was announced in June, with Lulu Harwell—now 93 and in poor health—making one of her rare public appearances since Ernie’s death three years ago. “I’m always pleased to hear people talk about my wonderful husband,” she said at the time. “I miss him so much.”
Donations in any amount – even if it’s just a buck – can be made online here.