For, lo, the winter is past,It is one of the best times of the year for a baseball fan, as today marked the start of Spring Training games. Longtime time radio announcer Ernie Harwell once uttered a bible excerpt that become synonymous with the start of Tigers baseball. You could say that Harwell was the "Voice of The Turtle" heard on the radio throughout Michigan for nearly 50 years. Ernie announced the last two World Series titles for the Detroit Tigers, and called numerous playoff games nationally for CBS Radio and ESPN Radio. Nowadays commentators mostly receive negative attention, but the great ones make the games even better than they are.
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.
-Song Of Solomon 2:11-12
From Harwell's era, only Vin Scully of the Dodgers, at 88, is still calling games. Ernie was known for his homerun call, "That one is long gone," among other catchphrases. Tigers fans were outraged when he was removed from broadcasts in 1993, and due to popular demand, he was brought back in 1995. Harwell retired in 2002, and returned as a guest announcer through 2007. In September 2009, Ernie Harwell was diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer, and passed away the following May, aged 92. Harwell showed his wherewithal, up until shortly before his death he was still exercising regularly. He may be before my time, but I think it is important to recognize the career of the great Mr. Ernie Harwell.