For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
Those were the words with which Ernie Harwell began his broadcasts each spring for the Detroit Tigers. The famous passage came from the Song of Solomon from the Old Testament. With them, fans knew Tiger baseball was back.
Regardless of how many games the team won or how exciting they were to watch on the diamond, Ernie made the games fun to listen to. Much of that appeal came from his classic signature phrases.
Many broadcasters have signature calls and phrases, but Ernie earned a special place in the hearts of Tiger fans. He was like part of the family. Just as your grandpa may have special sayings he spits out every once in a while that make you smile, Ernie sprinkled his broadcasts (judiciously, never in grandiose fashion) with his personal calls.
How many can you remember?
“He’s out for excessive window shopping.” – When a batter took a called third strike.
“The Tigers need instant runs.” – Ernie would use this late in a game when the Tigers trailed.
“It’s two for the price of one!” – When the Tigers turned a double play. Was especially sweet when it involved Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
“That one is loooong gone!” – Ernie’s trademark home run call. It seemed he used this one a lot for the big power hitters like Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton, and Cecil Fielder. Perhaps his most famous use of this call was for Kirk Gibson’s second homer in the fifth game of the 1984 World Series. As he called the homer, the ballpark shook from the reaction of the crowd. Interestingly, when Ernie made his most famous home run call, the blast by Bobby Thomson of the Giants to win the 1951 pennant on national TV, he said simply, “It’s gone.”
“He stood there like the house by the side of the road, and watched it go by.” – This was also trotted out when a batter watched a third strike buzz past him. It was my favorite. I rooted for called third strikes as a kid so I might hear Ernie say this one. The source of the line is a poem titled “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss.
“A fan from Pontiac will be taking that ball home today.” – Harwell is best remembered for how he connected with his listeners. This phrase is one way he created an allusion of connection by inserting a Michigan city name into his phrase. It was a subtle and clever way to give a shout out to his listeners in whatever community he chose.
Ernie is missed, he passed away in 2010. But his signature baseball calls can stay with us forever, as long as there’s someone alive who remembers hearing him on the radio.
14 replies on “Harwell’s signature phrases were part of his appeal to Tigers fans“
I used to love when he’d announce whether a pitch was a ball or strike — and then say, “Mr. ____ (the umpire) said so.”
It always seemed to me that it was Ernie’s way of saying, “I don’t agree with the call, but that’s what the umpire said it was!” He was too much of a gentleman to say he disagreed with the ump.
Steve, he also had, “The paying umpires disagree with that call,” sometimes calling fans “the umpires who paid to see the game.” I could never be sure if he was saying that he disagreed with the call or if he was saying that it was close and some people did not see it the way that the umpire did.
He certainly was very much a gentleman, but he also was from an era when an announcer tried not to put too much of himself into the game.
Dan, the phrase “long gone” became a catch phrase later in his career. He had used it for years, but he tried hard for a long while to not have a singular phrase that he used for all home runs. That went against the idea that the attraction should be the game, not the announcer. Eventually, though, he did use “long gone” as a call for almost all home runs. He was able to recognize that times had changed and that the people tuning in wanted to hear a catch phrase for a home-run call.
Great memories! I do recall that LOOONG GOOONE didn’t really become a signature phrase until the late 1980s and maybe even 1990s. Growing up listening to him in the 1970s, I didn’t hear him use it much.
Mostly, I remember Paul Carey telling us that the blast was a “Be-Mo Potato Chips” home run. Sending a case of Be-Mo chips to some lucky charity. Remember that?
When a batter swung and missed, especially late in the game, he would often say “He was swinging for the boondocks on that one!” Saw a few cuts like that in the LCS and WS.
“They’re having a confab on mound”
“And the Bluejays are flapping their wings”
I remember one phrase referred to in the article more accurately as exhorting the Tigers to “open a can of instant runs.”
Listening to Ernie as a youngster I BELIEVED him when he would say a fan from ……. will take that ball home. Not until I was older did I get the hang of what he was saying!
Timothy J. Weber
I can remember Ernie saying, “he kicks and deals”……..loved him growing up, I felt he put the game where I could see it with no T.V. set on..
My son is now playing HS ball, and his goal is to never “(Stand) there like a house by the side of the road”, watching strike three go by.
You were “The Man”, Ernie!
Here’s a long belt hit high
and deep it might be this 1 is
loooooooong gone a HR for Lance
I never realized exactly how great Ernie was until having to listen to his successors. AAUGH!!!!!
I heard that earlier in his radio days he called an entire game from ticker tape, or from a game that was already over he filled in all the details to make it seem like he was at the game calling it live.
I wish I’d been a Tigers fan as a kid and been able to get to know Ernie better. Baseball – and the world – could sure use more like him today.
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