Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell has watched some of baseball's greatest players in history and witnessed so many historic moments that two books could be written about his life & times. From his seat in the broadcast booth, Harwell offered the following big ten list to sportswriter Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press based on fifty-five years of calling Major League Baseball.
Detroit Free Press : September 13, 2002
Best of the Best by Ernie Harwell
1. Best Player : " Willie Mays . I saw him make his debut with the Giants in 1951 . Mays had the complete tool chest: He could throw, hit and run. He played with spirit and verve. Hank Aaron , Joe DiMaggio and Roberto Clemente were probably the best of the rest."
3. Best Pitcher : "I like Warren Spahn over the long haul. I place him just in front of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson . Spahn is the all-time winningest left-hand pitcher in the majors with three-hundred sixty-three victories. That's some record."
4. Best Outfielder : "Tiger Al Kaline , who had great instincts in the outfield. He was smooth and graceful. Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners is a very good rightfielder today. He can catch and throw."
5. Best Guy : " Frank Tanana . I enjoyed being around him a lot. He played for the California Angels, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. He was always fun. Of course, so were Kaline and former Tiger reliever Todd Jones ."
6. Best Team : "I can't pick between the 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers , who had Don Newcombe , Roy Campanella , Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson , and the 1961 New York Yankees , with Mickey Mantle , Roger Maris , Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford . Both were great teams, with pitching and hitting depth."
7. Best Moment : "I was at the microphone when New York Giant Bobby Thomson hit his playoff home run The Shot Heard 'Round the World off Ralph Branca against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 3, 1951 . It was a truly historic moment. Kirk Gibson's two upper-deck home runs against the Padres in the 1984 World Series come close."
8. Best Restaurant Lunch : "I always liked Murray's restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. I had lunch there earlier this week. It serves up a great steak. It's just ahead of the lamb at the English Room in Milwaukee and the Maine lobster and tenderloin at Moose's in San Francisco."
9. Best Ballpark : " Tiger Stadium . It had so much history and lore. Seattle's new ballpark, Safeco Field, is very good, too."
10. Best Era : "Overall, I think baseball then and now is just as good as it has always been. I was broadcasting in New York, however, in 1949-51. There were probably more good teams during that period than any other time."
Ernie Harwell's Big Ten List
Baseball Almanac has an unprecendented collection of quotations ( click here to read them now ) spoken by Ernie Harwell and about Ernie Harwell.
Did you know that Ernie Harwell won the Ford C. Frick Award in 1981? The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown described the award winner with the following excerpt:
Harwell made his major league debut in 1948 after becoming the only broadcaster who ever figured in a baseball trade. Earl Mann, President of the Atlanta Crackers, agreed to let him go to Brooklyn if Branch Rickey would send Montreal catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta to manage the club. Harwell also worked for the New York Giants and for the Baltimore Orioles before coming to Detroit in 1960.
Harwell places "wearability" at the top of his list of requisites for broadcasting success. "You're visiting so many homes for three hours every day or night that you have to be yourself."
Source : National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
Remember those books we mentioned in the introduction? Serious Ernie Harwell fans, Tiger fans, or fans of baseball history should not miss Ernie Harwell : Stories from My Life in Baseball .