Ernie Harwell was the voice of Detroit Tigers baseball.
He was the voice of spring, the voice of summer, the voice of the outdoor barbecue with a transistor radio, the voice of the little kid listening to baseball after bedtime and the voice of the little old lady with a thing for Alan Trammel.
If you listened to a radio broadcast Tiger game between 1960 and 1992, or again from 1994 to 2002 Harwell’s was the voice that you heard.
You either liked it, or you ... well, you just liked it.
No matter how you felt about the Tigers, everybody loved him. Everybody was glad to hear from him, everybody hung on his last word. Best of all, everybody prospered from spending time with him.
And 12 years after he left the air, nobody ever says anything bad about him.
Just like Santa Claus.
How would you have like to have been Rick Rizzs in 1992?
If you think hard, maybe you’ll remember Rick Rizzs. You can’t remember the guy who replaced “the guy” if you aren’t a hardcore baseball nut.
That’s right, Rick Rizzs is the unfortunate fellow that followed Ernie Harwell at the radio microphone calling Tigers baseball games.
From 1992 to 1994, he toiled as the Tigers play-by-play announcer. The first two years with the even-more-obscure Bob Rathbun and the third year he shared duties with Harwell.
Don’t feel bad for not remembering. Ask anybody for a list of Tiger announcers from the last 60 years, and the list probably contains Ernie Harwell and “whatevertheguysname” that does it now. (That would be Dan Dickerson, of course.)
My point being that, like Santa Claus, everybody remembers the one guy and anybody else who follows is relegated to “whatevertheguysname” status.
I recall one Christmas season I took a job as a shopping center Santa Claus. It was 1987, I needed a little extra cash so I answered an advertisement for Santa Claus at Logan’s Landing in Traverse City.