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?

Blast from the Past: “One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story”

I can’t explain why I don’t: (a) Own a copy of Ron LeFlore‘s autobiography (with Jim Hawkins) or (b) Own the CBS TV movie on DVD.

Thanks to eBay, I can get the book. The movie is proving to be a tougher find — at least in tangible form. Thanks to YouTube we can enjoy clips from the 1978 epic.

A few things to point out: the bush-league replica Tigers jerseys worn by nearly afro’d “Mickey Stanley“, Jim Northrup‘s silver hair
(we’re supposed to believe he was a current-day player?), and Norm Cash’s un-sculpted build.

Also, check out the mix of old-school dark green paint with the blue that replaced it.

Tuesday Tananas: Feeling the Moment, Power Poll Respect and Steve Kemp’s Pain

bananas.jpgJust saw the news that Fernando Rodney has been suspended for three games for his inexplicable heave-ho of the ball after Friday night’s win. Well, it was inexplicable to me; Rodney says he was only “feeling the moment.” Still, a three-game suspension? Please.

Anyway, enjoy him, folks. He’ll be frustrating another team’s fans next year.

Continue reading “Tuesday Tananas: Feeling the Moment, Power Poll Respect and Steve Kemp’s Pain”

On This Date in 1969…

… Jim Northrup goes 6-for-6, the first six-hit game for the Tigers since June 24, 1962*, as the Tigers beat the A’s, 5-3.

Northrup’s sixth hit is a homer over the roof in the bottom of the 13th to win the game.

*In that game, left-fielder Rocky Colavito tagged seven hits in 10 at bats of a 22-inning game against the Yankees. New York won 9-7. The Rock had just one RBI and one extra-base hit, a triple, for his effort.