Last Sept. 16, I sat on the set at the MLB Network with two former Tigers first basemen, Sean Casey and Tony Clark. Together we watched Ernie Harwell's farewell speech at Tiger Stadium. When Ernie was finished and our show resumed, we all had tears in our eyes.
Ernie touched everyone -- players, writers, broadcasters and, more than anyone, Tigers fans. The speech he gave that night -- at age 91, suffering from incurable cancer, standing with his head erect, his hands behind his back -- was classic Ernie. Concise. Dignified. Almost poetic. The perfect farewell.
Ernie is gone now. Harry Kalas passed last year. Bob Uecker is recovering from heart surgery. Marty Brennaman and Vin Scully remain behind their respective microphones, but a singular generation is fading. Few players are as beloved as these broadcasters. Few stand as such emblems of their franchises.
Ernie was a great announcer, of course, a voice of comfort and hope for millions of Michiganders. Yet, cliched as it may sound, he was a better person. Humble. Gracious. Kind to all. The word that comes to mind is, "gentleman." There are very few of them left, but Ernie Harwell was exactly that. A gentle man.