Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Friend Ernie

In 1981, I was working for Enterprise Radio situated in Avon, Connecticut, the nation's first all-sports radio network. Perhaps we were ahead of our time because, 9 months to the day we went on the air, we had gone bankrupt. But,luckily, before we did, I was successfuuly campaigned to cover the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. On that July Sunday, the great Ernie Harwell was ushered into the broadcast wing for his meritorious service to the game. That day began a wonderful friendship that would last almost 30 years. I have never met a kinder, gentler, more graceful and solicitous soul in my life. And he loved the love of that life, Lulu, through 68 years of marriage. Ernie was always there for me, never saying no to an interview request, ever upbeat, optimistic and funny with an infectious laugh. When I started Ed Randall's Talking Baseball on public access television (which, by the way, gives the First Amendment a bad name) in suburban New York, he rode with me to White Plains where we sat talking for a half hour in a studio with three cameras and no camera operators. But he never made that operation seem small, insignificant or beneath him. He ate in our home where my mom prepared a classic Italian dinner. I would take her to sit in the back of his radio booth when the Tigers visited Yankee Stadium. He made her feel what he made me feel:  important. I was with Ernie when he was honored at a Congressional luncheon hosted by the Michigan delegation on the final weekend of the 1992 season. After all, he was the most beloved figure in the state. A guy would close his gas station with these words: "It's five minutes to Ernie." Two days later, at the final game of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, he signed off on his final broadcast without fanfare but with his customary class and dignity, thanking the listeners for their friendship and loyalty. The reaction to his being fired for being 74 years old was fast and furious. Tigers Owner Mike Illitch restored order a year later. He delivered newspapers to Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone with the Wind," Babe Ruth signed his shoe because he had nothing else on him, he is the only announcer in the history of baseball to be traded for a player (catcher Cliff Dapper from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Atlanta Crackers), Jackie Robinson stole home in his first major league game in 1948, called Bobby Thomson's home run on the first coast-to-coast telecast of a major sporting event ("only Mrs. Harwell and I know I was on that afternoon") and was the guy who hired Jose Feliciano to sign the national anthem at the 1968 World Series. A few weeks ago, unable to get him on the phone, I sent him an email wishing him well. I told him I loved him. He response? "I love you, too." Proudly, that is our epitaph. He was not the broadcast voice of the Detroit Tigers. He was the Detroit Tigers. It was both an honor and joy to know him.


Brad said...

Dear Mr. Randall,
I am a big fan and 13. I write a sports blog and have trouble with good interview q's. WHat advice would you give me?

Ed Randall said...

Dear Brad:

Thanks so much for your note and I apologize for the tardy response.

You have started out on a career path far sooner than I ever did. Congratulations on your work.

My advice regarding formulating interview questions would be to keep it simple. Those are sometimes the best. What are you curious about that person? That should lead to many other questions.

It is about the five W's: who, what, when, where and why.

I wish you the best of luck!

Ed Randall

jeter3000 said...

Hey ED

I love listening to your show on Sunday on WFAN during the baseball season you and your show always start my day. I am an Avid baseball fan and Yankees die hard. I love amercian history and Baseball has lot of amercian history. I agree with U Baseball greatest moment was April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color Barrier. Without Jackie they would have not been no civil rights moment or this great country of ours not having an African Amercian President(Barack Oboma) I am waiting to see a movie on Jackie Life.
Take Care
please reply when not busy

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