DETROIT — Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, beloved by generations of fans who grew up listening to his rich voice, Southern cadence and quirky phrases on the radio, has died after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 92.
Mr. Harwell, who called Tigers games for four-plus decades, announced in September that he had inoperable cancer of the bile duct.
"Whatever happens, I'm ready to face it," the Hall of Fame announcer told The Associated Press on Sept. 4, 2009. "I have a great faith in God and Jesus."
Mr. Harwell died Tuesday at his home in Novi, 30 miles northwest of Detroit.
"Ernie Harwell, it goes without saying, was one of the greatest in the history of our profession," said longtime Reds announcer Marty Brennaman, himself a Hall of Famer. "More important than that, however, he was one of the finest people I've ever known."
Mr. Harwell was the Tigers' play-by-play voice from 1960-1991 and 1993-2002.
The team and its flagship radio station, WJR, allowed his contract to expire after the 1991 season in what became a public relations nightmare. Then-Tigers president Bo Schembechler, the former Michigan football coach, took the blame. When Mike Ilitch bought the franchise, he put Mr. Harwell back in the booth in 1993. Mr. Harwell chose to retire after the 2002 season.
His big break came in 1948, when Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber fell ill, and GM Branch Rickey needed a replacement. After learning the Atlanta Crackers needed a catcher, Rickey sent a minor-leaguer to the team and Mr. Harwell joined the Dodgers.