Ernie Harwell, voice of Tigers has incurable cancer

Longtime Detroit broadcaster Ernie Harwell, 91, who spent 42 of his 55 years as a broadcaster calling Tigers games, recently got the test results that has changed the remainder of his life.

Unfortunately, the news was not what all, including me, had hoped for. It was announced that he has been diagnosed with an incurable and inoperable cancer.

“We don’t know how long this lasts,” Harwell told reporters. “It could be a year, it could be much less than a year, much less than a half a year. Who knows? Whatever’s in store, I’m ready for a new adventure. That’s the way I look at it.”

Harwell also told reporters he has a tumor near a bile duct. He said he knows he may go through some painful days, but is in good spirits and appreciates the good wishes he’s received from hundreds of fans.

Harwell began feeling bad this summer.  He said he had surgery last month for an obstructed bile duct, but doctors later advised him against further surgery for the cancer they found.

I grew up in Detroit and was blessed to hear Ernie’s broadcasts for many years. He called Tigers games from 1960 to 2002.

My childhood memories include warm summer nights sitting outdoors in the backyard or fishing on a small boat on the Detroit River with my grandfather. He always had his radio with him and I would always ask to listen to music, he would say, “No son, we are going to listen to Ernie and the Tigers.”

And so this is how my summers went from age 3 to my teenage years.

Having the opportunity to cover the Tigers as a journalist was like icing on a cake, and getting to meet and talk with Harwell on a number of occasions.

Every time I saw him and got to shake his hand, I’d think about those wonderful days with my late grandpa.

As time went on Grandpa won me over and I became a huge Tigers’ devotee. I’d catch the bus to as many games my parents would pay for, and that was a lot.

I remember in Harwell’s recent years he became a strong proponent for keeping Tiger Stadium viable in some form.

Of course, it did not happen as the old building is coming down. No matter. His effort showed me the type of person he is and when he put his mind to something, he also put in the effort to make it happen.

It says a lot about the man. Without exception, every word written about him is about class and style and bringing nothing but fond memories.

Voices like Harwell’s, the L.A. Dodgers’ Vin Scully, the L.A. Lakers’ Chick Hearn, Monday Night Football’s Howard Cosell and the Chicago Cubs’ Harry Caray only come along once in a lifetime. We have been ble ssed with their “words eye view” of sports.

Harwell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1989.

My prayers are with you. God bless you, Ernie.

Leland Stein can be reached at

From the Web