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The Voice of the Detroit Tigers Retires - 2002-08-21

After 55 years of broadcasting Major League Baseball games, Ernie Harwell is retiring at the end of this season at the age of 84. Barry Wood caught up with Mr. Harwell Friday in Baltimore where the visiting Detroit Tigers were playing the Orioles.

"A warm, humid night in crabtown... "

Ernie Harwell has been the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years. But his broadcasting career began much earlier, in 1948, the year that Jackie Robinson broke the color line becoming the first black to play in the major leagues.

Jim Price is Ernie Harwell's partner in the Tigers' radio booth. "It has been like a rock star on his last tour," he said. "Every place we go. I see signs for Ernie here from fans in the stands. And I listened to Ernie when I played little league ball in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania when he was doing the games here in Baltimore.

Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline says Ernie Harwell is the best known, most respected person in the midwest state of Michigan.

"He's probably the most beloved person who's ever worked for the Detroit Tigers," he said. "He is loved by everybody. A lot of people have fallen to sleep for good reason, listening to Ernie Harwell, because he's such a great announcer, that voice of his is impeccable.

"A little bit of daylight left..."

Ernie Harwell says he's calling it quits now because he'd rather leave voluntarily than be asked to retire at age 84.

"I'm going to miss the people in the game more than anything," Mr. Harwell said. "The players, the managers, the umpires, the coaches, the media people, the guys that work in the ball parks that I've known over the years that I've gotten to be friends with."

Baseball is less popular in America than it was 55 years ago. That's not surprising to Ernie Harwell.

"Baseball has a lot more competition than it used to have. Not only from other sports but from MTV, the video games, from the computers. You know all those things take you away from the sandlots and the ballparks. But baseball is a great survivor and it seems to bounce back all the time and we hope it can keep doing it."

Baseball which bears some resemblance to cricket has been played since the 1860s.

Ernie Harwell will continue to broadcast Detroit Tigers games until the current season ends in October.