The grinning statue with its poetically wide base will greet millions of fans this season to the final place many of us saw him. For me, it was my television set on that one evening in September. I was trying to get glimpses of Ernie through the tears, catching each word that he movingly described from his heart. I knew that was going to be it, but I didn’t want to believe it. For all of the tributes to Detroit’s favorite adopted son over the past day or so, it may never truly hit us that a part of our collective childhood’s are lost to memories.
Since his announcement toward the end of last season about his incurable cancer, I found myself frequently taking extra long trips to Fox Run in Novi as part of a visit to my fiancee’s grandmother. I would often take the long routes around the maze of buildings for the mere hopes of catching Ernie taking another one of his walks around the premises. Family members would frequently refer to Ernie as we all had, he was their neighbor and their friend. In a world that Ernie had created for all of us sports fans, here he was in Novi creating more memories for all acquaintances.
In today’s local sports community, it is hard to imagine any of the other current voices drawing as much praise for a legacy behind the mic. It was the ideal mix of engaging personality, national pastime and working-collar town that unified Detroit and Ernie Harwell. The game of baseball springs eternal each April with pennant dreams, and Ernie was there for us, calling each moment of our beloved Tigers on the field. With great fondness and admiration we know that a chapter of our city’s history is now behind us. We recognize that sometimes there IS crying in baseball.