This appeared on ESPN.com.
Listen to Ernie Harwell’s call of the Tigers clinching the American League East title in 1984.
A year ago, we were still stinging from Game 163 and not certain how the Tigers would respond to a crushing end to the 2009 season. Would they regress to 2008’s disappointment or regroup to erase the memory of the ’09 collapse?
The answer was: they’d be relevant. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the extent of the analysis in this post. Instead of a deep dive into 2010, let’s look at the year in the form of randomly selected lists:
2010 At A Glance*
- Record: 81-81, 3rd in American League Central, 13 games back of Minnesota
- Days in First: 13, the last on July 10
- Biggest Lead: 1, last on July 7
- Farthest Behind: 15.5 on Sept. 15
- Most Games over .500: 11, last on July 10
- Most Games under .500: 5, last on Aug. 19
- Longest Winning Streak: 7, June 11-18
- Longest Losing Streak: 7, July 11-20
- Most Runs Allowed: 15, June 9
- Most Runs Scored: 13, Aug. 15
- Longest Game (innings): 14, July 19
- Times Shutout by Opponent: 10
- Times Opponent Shutout: 5
Here’s a photo from a reader in the Grand Rapids area. Nice.
I’ve been thinking about Ernie Harwell‘s 42-year career in Detroit and began wondering how the Tigers fared over that time. Here’s a look at the numbers behind a Hall of Fame broadcasting career:
- Total games played during Ernie’s career in Detroit: 6,663
- Tigers’ record: 3,337-3,326 — a .501 winning percentage
- Tigers’ record in his first season, 1960: 71-83, 4th place (of 8 teams)
- Tigers’ record in his last season, 2002: 55-106, 5th place (of 5 teams)
- Tigers’ best one-season record: 104-58 in 1984 (one game better than 1968)
- Tigers’ worst one-season record: 55-105 in 2002
I expected a much worse overall Tigers record during Ernie’s time in Detroit. And I feel worse today remembering that they were such an awful team in his final season.
Do these numbers surprise you?
Like so many others, I started to write a post tonight about Ernie Harwell. Then I realized I’d already written everything I possibly could about him in a post on January 25, 2008 — Ernie’s 90th birthday. I wrote the following post in much better spirits than the ones in which I find myself tonight.
Opening Day 1979 was, like so many in Detroit, bitter cold. (How cold was it? Neither team held batting practice.) It was the first Opener I’d ever attended but I remember it like it was the day before yesterday.
Not because the game was on a Saturday. Not because it was a blowout, 8-2 loss to the Rangers behind Ferguson Jenkins‘ complete game. (Johnny Grubb went 2 for 5 with a first-inning homer off starter and losing pitcher Dave Rozema.)
And not because Dan Gonzalez pinch hit for Alan Trammell (!!) in the bottom of the ninth, one of only 25 big-league at bats Gonzalez would ever get. (He flied out to right to end the game.) No, what I’ll always remember about that day was that I met today’s birthday boy, Ernie Harwell.
My brother, his friend Freddie and I were walking around the field in the lower deck when my brother spotted Ernie chatting it up with fans behind the Tigers dugout. We took our place in the makeshift line and Ernie signed my program.
(I have no idea where that signature ended up, but I take solace in the fact I have the one shown here from a signed copy of Ernie’s 1985 book Tuned to Baseball.)
I had the chance to ask a question and here’s what my nine-year-old bean came up with: Is Paul up in the booth?
Ernie replied that Paul Carey was, in fact, up in the booth preparing for the game and that he hoped I had fun at the ballpark that day. Talk about a thrill — even more thrilling than getting Jim Northrup‘s autograph at my annual baseball banquet later that year. And every year on Opening Day I think of it (Ernie’s signature, not Northrup’s).
Even if you didn’t get a chance to meet him in person, given the number of games he called for us on the radio, doesn’t it feel like you did?