As I mention in my profile, I went to my first Tigers game in the summer of 1983. It was love at first sight for me, who had never really taken an interest in baseball before. I can't explain how or why, but I loved baseball and the Tigers from that day forward. If you remember your first trip to the ballpark, maybe you can relate. There's just something about spending an afternoon in the sun-soaked stands watching the Boys of Summer.
Anyway, I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and not just in the Upper Peninsula, but out in the sticks. We could not even get cable where we lived. Our TV reception included about four stations in total. So, not too many Tigers games on the Tube, capiche? I started listening to radio broadcasts right away. I didn't know at the time how singular Ernie Harwell was, I just enjoyed listening to him and Paul Carey bring the games to life for me. Baseball is a great radio game.
Many a night, I would fall asleep to their voices, as the west coast road games went into the wee hours. Some summer nights I would sit in the living room by myself, after everyone else had gone to bed, and listen in the dark with the stereo on. Those nights were just about perfect. The windows were open, letting in cool, breezy night air, and a few night sounds filtered in to mingle with Ernie and Paul's voices. I could just about see the action.
In 1984, Ernie and Paul were my lifeline to that amazing season. I think I only went to one game at the ballpark that year (again, think of me pining away in the sticks up north). It didn't matter much, because the games were just as riveting over the airwaves. At the beginning of the season, I had created a little hand-made tally sheet to record each win and loss in blue and orange marker. Imagine my glee when we started off 35-5, and never lost the lead the whole season. We emerged World Series victors, and I'm grateful that so many of the moments from that season came to me from Ernie and Paul.
When I was in college, the unthinkable happened: some idiot decided it was time for a change, and Ernie and Paul were shown the door. I was ranting and raving (much like I do here in these posts) about the lunacy of this move, when my new husband walked in the door of our apartment. He is from Wisconsin, and decidedly not a baseball fan, so he was a little more than mystified at all the hubub over a broadcaster's firing. I tried to explain, but I think it was all lost on him.
Thankfully, our own Mr. Illich had sense enough to bring Ernie back so he could retire on his own terms when the time was right after the 2002 season. If you have not heard Ernie broadcast a game, you must check out some of the audio archives here.