photo by Samara Pearlstein
“My idea was, I’m gonna tell these people what I would like to hear if I were a listener, and I just did it that way, and it seemed to work OK.” -Ernie Harwell
I recently had the opportunity to check out Ernie Harwell’s Audio Scrapbook, which is a 4-CD collection of various Ernie Harwell things, mostly consisting of a long interview of Mr. Harwell by Bob Harris, sprinkled throughout with old clips and the like. You can find it here if you’d like to check it out for yourself, but since I listened to it, I figured I might as well give you guys a taste.
The very best way to interview Ernie Harwell is to sit him down with a lot of recording equipment around him, ask him some very open-ended questions, and just let him go. Seriously. I guess when you spend much of your life talking for all you’re worth and trying to make every word interesting for your listeners, it’s an easy habit to keep up. And when you’ve got the vast repository of baseball memories to draw upon that Mr. Harwell has, I suppose that just makes it even easier.
There’s A LOT packed into this audiobookmajig– like I said, it’s 4 CDs– and it covers everything from Mr. Harwell’s early life to his start in broadcasting and his career, to his most memorable moments and his thoughts on any number of players, managers, owners, and particular games. Pretty much all of this is worth listening to if you’re a Tigers fan, or even just a general baseball fan with a proper appreciation for the finer things in life. If the mere volume of information isn’t enough, I’d say it’s worth getting this just to have the opportunity to listen to that honeyed familiar voice coming out of your computer for about 4 hours straight.
A side yet vital note: a theme that ran constant throughout Ernie Harwell’s early life was his excellent and persistent dislike of the Yankees. Obviously this is right and proper and shows that he was a thoughtful and intelligent person even in his childhood. The first baseball game he remembered hearing broadcast on the radio was a World Series game between the Yankees and the Cardinals (so I guess it must have been 1934? Mr. Harwell would have been 16 then), and he talked about how he was a very great Cardinals fan then, because he was rooting so hard against the Yankees. Brings a tear of joy to your eye, doesn’t it?
Of course later in his career Mr. Harwell would go on to be friends with people like Joe Torre and Derek Jeter (who actually probably listened to some Ernie Harwell broadcasting when he was a wee Jeter), just in the natural course of his job, but the early indications of a properly inclined fan were all there. It is comforting knowledge.
The whole thing is like this, just filled with recorded reminiscences of who was where and who did what and, more importantly, what people were LIKE. Because that’s part of the genius of Ernie Harwell: the human element he consciously and unconsciously injected into the game. It’s a joy to listen to.
“Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. It’s a game of inches, every skill is measured, every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed, and then becomes a statistic.” –Ernie Harwell