Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For Ernie

William Ernest "Ernie" Harwell died at age 92 after a year-long battle with cancer. Everyone from Michigan -- and baseball fans from around the country -- knows (and most likely loves) Ernie. He was a Hall of Fame broadcaster, a giant in his field.

Bloggers are blogging. Facebookers are posting memorials. Email reminiscence are spreading. Message boards are lit up. Thousands are paying tribute to Ernie on this sad day.

The theme I keep seeing over and over is how Ernie is and was so much a part of our memories, often of simpler, happier times. A lot of us connect Ernie's golden voice to lovely Michigan summer days spent in the backyard, at the park or on the boat with our fathers, uncles or friends.

I'll always link Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey's radio call of Detroit Tigers games to days spent with my Pop. I see him in the backyard, working on some new project, fixing up the boat, cleaning fish, digging a well, working on one of the cars or even gardening. Pop, who passed away in 1997, liked me to believe that he wasn't a Tigers fan, but he always had the game on the radio if he wasn't watching it on TV. In some way that is hard to describe, Ernie connected me to Pop and for that I will forever have great feelings for Ernie.

But those feelings, which a lot of us Detroiters share, are not the measure of Ernie's greatness. I prefer to think of Ernie as a great human being who happened to be a very gifted broadcaster. I'm convinced that you'll not find a single person on this planet that would have a bad thing to say about Ernie. He oozed kindness, humility, warmth, friendliness and a genuine love of people. You didn't even have to know him to know that about him. He was one of those people that you could just tell was not faking it. He was genuinely a person of tremendous character, as evidenced by his involvement in our community.

More than that, he professed Jesus as his savior and, unlike a lot of us, actually demonstrated that by his actions and deeds. He was one of the few public Christian figures I've followed in my life that appeared to actually have Christ-like qualities. I'm not deifying him, but only suggesting he had what Christians refer to as the "fruits of the spirit."

We all knew this day would come and we knew it would come sooner rather than later. It is, in a way, sad that it is now here and he has now passed. But I'd like to believe he is rejoicing in heaven and God has said to him, "Well done thy good and faithful servant."

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