Tigers honor Harwell at Comerica Park

DETROIT -- Ernie Harwell thanked the Detroit Tigers' fans on Wednesday night for listening to him for more than 40 years.

The longtime radio play-by-play man drew a loud standing ovation as he walked to the batter's box after a 3-minute video tribute shown in the middle of the third inning of Detroit's game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.

Harwell humbly waved to the crowd of 25,400 after thanking them for their "devotion, support, loyalty and love," then left the field as fans chanted "Ernie! Ernie!"

The 91-year-old Hall of Fame announcer recently was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the bile duct. He came to Detroit in 1960 and retired from the broadcast booth after the 2002 season.

"I don't feel too good. I'm a little shaky," Harwell said before a brief chat with reporters, but quickly displayed his familiar sense of humor.

He joked that being a failed sportswriter drove him to seek a job in radio.

The team has said it hopes he takes part in a celebration of the 1984 world championship season later this month, but Wednesday felt like a farewell to fans and colleagues who grew to love his gentle drawl in the booth and his kind nature out of it.

Harwell also spoke to Tigers players and the game's umpiring crew before watching the first two innings with owner Mike Ilitch.

Harwell had not been feeling well all summer and had surgery in August for an obstructed bile duct. That's when doctors found a cancerous tumor and advised against further surgery.

Born Jan. 15, 1918 in Washington, Ga., Harwell's believed to be the only broadcaster ever involved in a baseball trade. The president of the Crackers allowed him to go to Brooklyn only if Dodgers management sent catcher Cliff Dapper to manage the minor league club.

Harwell relieved Red Barber in Brooklyn and later worked for the New York Giants and Baltimore before coming to Detroit in 1960.

He received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 and was honored by the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1989.

MLB Productions recently announced the studios in which "This Week in Baseball" and other shows are produced will be named after Harwell, Mel Allen and Vin Scully.