â†µIf you grew up in the Detroit area, you could be forgiven for thinking â†µthat AM radio and maybe even baseball itself were merely vessels via â†µwhich to experience Harwell. He was and is such a beloved figure in the â†µstate of Michigan that when Michigan State fans are really looking to â†µtwist the knife in a Michigan fan, they bring up the 1990 fiasco during â†µwhich Bo Schembechler, then the team president, and various other Tigers â†µand WJR folk replaced Harwell to the outrage of all. Here's a â†µspittle-flecked Mitch Albom column on the â†µdecision that's as righteous 20 years later as it was back then. â†µ(Michigan fans will insist that Schembechler was just the fall guy for â†µthe owner's insane decision. Since I am a Michigan fan, I will vouch for â†µthis take 100%. That and Rose Bowls are about the only flecks on â†µSchembechler's resume.) With the outrage palpable, Harwell idled a few years â†µbefore being restored by new owner Mike Ilitch; he remained the Tigers â†µplay-by-play guy until his voluntary retirement in 2002, when he was 84. â†µ
â†µHarwell is 91 now, and has terminal cancer. â†µâ†µ
â†µThis may be a thing peculiar to myself, but the aging and passing of â†µsports announcers are amongst the most harrowing ways to experience â†µmortality. I remember sitting in a dorm room watching John Cooper pull â†µoff his second and last victory over Michigan amongst a crowd of â†µMichigan undergraduates. We listened to Keith Jackson stumble his way â†µthrough the broadcast, confused about what down it was, where the ball â†µwas, and who was doing what with it. For me, it was Johnny Cash's cover â†µof "Hurt": the devastating â†µassurance that you will wilt someday sooner than you'd like to. The â†µpainful experience was made worse by one particular kid who kept â†µsneering at the old, old Jackson as if he were worthy of nothing but â†µcontempt. I still hate that guy. â†µâ†µ
â†µHarwell never fell so hard. He had the good fortune to work in a more â†µleisurely sport, one concerned less with drama and instant accuracy than â†µthe slow winding of time through summers that seemed endless when â†µyou were a kid and still do, sometimes, in the third inning of a sleepy â†µweekday game. When he retired he still had it, mostly. Given his â†µprevious Lazarus deal, the possibility he might drop in from time time â†µtime wasn't out of the question. â†µâ†µ
â†µI don't actually like the Tigers much -- I like baseball in the abstract â†µand am usually happier at a minor league game -- and Harwell's been retired â†µfor seven years. But this summer, like every summer, I was periodically â†µstruck by the desire to flip on the radio and hear a Tigers game. When I â†µremembered Harwell was no longer the voice I'd here, desire was replaced â†µby disappointment. In six months or a year, the door that was left open a â†µcrack will close; I hope I get a chance to sneak through it a final time â†µbefore it does. â†µâ†µ
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