Ernie Harwell By the Numbers

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?

Remembering Ernie with a Fungo Flashback: “An E for the Day”

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.) BaseballCandlesXSmall.jpgIt 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.ErnieHarwellAutograph.jpg 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).

As Ernie turns 90 today, we’re hearing countless tales from around Detroit. (Read this one.) Do you have a brush-with-Ernie’s greatness story? Share it here.

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?

Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories

Tigers thoughts while listening to a pounding rain:
Caravan Logo_1.jpg

  • I attended the Tigers Winter Caravan one time, in 1991 when I was living in Kalamazoo and had some connections with the local paper. Back then, only the media was invited. Or so I thought. I walked into a Kalamazoo hotel and saw dozens of fans asking for autographs from the players and Sparky Anderson.

    If memory serves me, Cecil Fielder was there. Recently signed Tony Bernazard was too. This I remember because I asked Sparky during the Q&A how he’d work Bernazard into the lineup without Tony Phillips losing at bats. The answer was classic Sparky and basically amounted to: “I have no idea but Tony is Tony and we’ll be all right.” Uh, yeah. (Bernazard was released in April after playing in just six games and hitting .167).

    The real story that winter was the recent firing of Ernie Harwell and, lo and behold, new Tigers President Bo Schembechler was on hand to answer questions about it. As you might guess, Bo was not happy with the first round of reporters’ questions being about Ernie and not the team. After that, he said he wouldn’t answer other questions on the topic and though people tried, he wouldn’t bite — other than to bite their head off for even asking.

    It was a great experience. If you get an opportunity to attend a Winter Caravan event, do it.

    Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories”

Three for Thursday

3 fingers.jpgAs anticipation builds for the debut of Rick Porcello, here are three items for your Thursday consideration.

The Non Sequiturs Return: “Play Ball!” Edition

trash bin.jpgIf you’ve been a long-time Daily Fungo reader, you know that I’ve posted a semi-regular series called The Non Sequiturs. More recently I’ve posted similar items under the Wednesday Walewanders banner (or Friday Fungoes, Three for Thursday, etc.). You may ask: What’s the difference? Truth is, there isn’t any. Just thought I’d come clean on that.

Without further ado, here are the first Non Sequiturs of the 2009 season powered, as usual, by a fresh pot of Peet’s Coffee:

  • We have our first box score of 2009 for the Tigers. Enjoy it in all its linear glory.

  • Did you catch the MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” program focused on the Tigers on Monday? (If you missed, catch it here.) I caught the West Coast replay and, like so many things related to the fledgling network, I was underwhelmed. I enjoyed the interviews, seeing Gary Sheffield‘s beard, watching Al Kaline say absolutely nothing interesting, etc., but if you’ve followed the Tigers even in the most casual way this offseason, chances are you learned nothing new.

    Continue reading “The Non Sequiturs Return: “Play Ball!” Edition”

The Doug Report – Weak (sic) 1


I figured if this Drudge fellow can have his own report, why can’t I have mine? (Plus, during the school year, once a week is about all I can muster for blogging.)

Well, here I sit staring at this morning’s paper and an 0-6 record after six home games. I haven’t even found the time to read through the Free Press and News‘ preview issues (cleverly themed “Charged” and “Detroit Lumber Co.,” respectively) touting this high-powered offense and I can tell you from my first in-person viewing last night that those two sections couldn’t be further from the truth at the moment.

About the only charge emanating from the CoPa last night was the static electricity from all the fleece in the yard rubbing together as the folks tried to stay warm while a relatively balmy spring day reminded us how it can quickly turn into a dang chilling spring night in a hurry (especially when the wind picks up).

Continue reading “The Doug Report – Weak (sic) 1”