September 26, 2021

So Long Mr. Harwell, you will be missed

May 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


It was late September, 2002.  I had a busy week scheduled.  Fly out to Kansas City, MO to do a broadcast with the Kansas City Royals and return home and get married on that Saturday.  My first big league broadcast. 

The Royals invited the announcers from some of their minor league affiliates to come out and appear on broadcasts and do a few innings of play-by-play.  The Royals were not in contention and were playing the Tigers.  Yes, it was great to be in the booth with Ryan Lefebvre and Denny Matthews, but with the Tigers in town, I was also pretty sure that I’d be able to meet Ernie Harwell. 

We were in the Royals radio booth and after entering the booth to our right and dropping his bags down, he entered to say hello.  

Ryan made the introduction.  We shook hands and he wished me all the best in my broadcasting endeavors.  A two-minute conversation and a few minutes more of watching him engage in conversation with others and I quickly realized that everything I had heard and read about Mr. Harwell was true.  He was a gentleman.  Gracious and genuine with everyone that he spoke with, as if we had been friends for years. 

Hard to say that doing a big league broadcast and meeting Mr. Harwell in the same day was the highlight of the week when you consider I got married a few days later, but to this day, I can say what a week!

A few years later when I was hosting a baseball radio show in Wilmington, DE, I called the Tigers PR department to see if they could help me in getting a hold of Mr. Harwell for a phone interview.  The person that I spoke to said he’d take care of it and that I should expect a call in the next day or two.  I was told that “Ernie” didn’t turn down too many requests.  The call came and I immediately knew the voice on the other end of the phone.  We chatted for a few minutes, I asked about his wife’s health and he said he was looking forward to our chat on the show.     

We did the interview live and at the end I asked him to recite the poem that he did on the day he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. 

He did it like he had done hundreds of times before.  Perfect.  In case you have not read it prior, here are the final two sentences.  “Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball! Thank you.”

Thank you, Mr. Harwell.  Thank you.     

Mr. Darvish may be on his way…where will the spending insanity take us this time?

Tom Verducci wrote recently (April 23) on that Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish might be in the big leagues as early as next season.  The 23-year-old plays for the Nippon Ham Fighters and the club may put him through the posting process during the offseason.  He’s still a few years away from free agency.   

Remember a few years ago when the Red Sox paid $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka and agent Scott Boras?  Could a club possibly put up that kind of money again? 

I emailed Wayne Graczyk, who covers Japanese baseball for several outlets, including The Japan Times, and he shared his thoughts on Darvish. 

“There are rumors this might be the year Darvish gets posted, as the Fighters are not doing well and might need the money,” said Graczyk. “At this point, I think he is better than Matsuzaka but have no idea how much a MLB team would pay for his posting. His former manager, Trey Hillman, said in 2007, “Darvish has a chance to be the best pitcher in the world in a few years.”       

It could be interesting to see if some clubs hold back on spending big in this year’s draft in order to have the monetary funds available to get involved if Darvish is made available during the 2010-11 offseason.

Matsuzaka has not completely performed up to expectations, but perhaps those expectations were unrealistic.  I wonder if the Red Sox have recouped that money based on their business opportunities within the Japanese market. 

Sugar’s Observations…

Former prospect Joe Borchard went 5-for-6 with 6 RBIs and hit for the cycle on Monday in the Fresno Grizzlies’ (PCL) 14-4 win over Colorado Springs.  In recent conversation with Grizzlies play-by-play man, Doug Greenwald (one of the truly great guys in the game), I asked about Borchard and what type of attitude Borchard has as he begins another season in the minors.  Borchard has gone from one-time top prospect to a guy who has been at the Triple-A level every year since 2002, with the exception of 2006 when he combined to appear in 114 games at the big league level with the Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners. 

Here’s what Doug had to say about Borchard…

“I think he’s a guy that a lot of people look up to.  He’s a team guy and is willing to offer advice on how to get there and on working your way up.  You know he’s been around for a while and the guys respect him.  For Triple-A, he’s still young for a veteran guy at this level.   Scott McClain was with Grizzlies for the past couple of seasons.  I don’t think they would be playing if they did not have that goal to get back to the big leagues.  The Giants signed a guy they like both on and off the field.”     

One of Borchard’s teammates with Fresno is top prospect, Buster Posey, who could be in the big leagues very soon.  Doug also offered his thoughts on the Giants potential backstop of the future.

“He’s here primarily as a catcher, but he’s also played a lot of first base and did in spring training.  There was a lot of talk that he would make the club out of spring training.  He looked really good at first base.  He needs work on catching pop ups, turning 3-6-3 and knowing where to be on cutoffs.  He still needs to learn about catching.  This is a very good level to learn because the hitters are advanced.  A lot of them have been to the big leagues or big league camp.  He has to know that at the big league level that if something does not go the way it’s supposed to, that he’s going to the pitching coach and manager.   He only caught his last year at Florida State.  They drafted him No. 5 in the country as a catcher.” 

Posey will be expected to produce offensively once at the big league level, but as Doug pointed out to me, the starting staff is not the easiest to handle as a catcher with Lincecum, Zito, Cain and Sanchez. 

Great to see Darnell McDonald make the most of his opportunity after being called up from the minors by the Red Sox recently.  McDonald was a first-round pick (26th overall) by the Orioles in 1997.  The Orioles took Jayson Werth four picks earlier at No. 22.  At pick No. 36, Baltimore selected Ntema Ndungidi.  I have got nothing on Ndungidi except in seeing him in the minors, his name was pronounced differently every series and his nickname was Pappi.

Currently reading Peter Golenbock’s book on George Steinbrenner and found a terrible error.  The book states on page 199 that the “teams fate was sealed on September 1,when Thurman Munson crashed his plane and died as he was practicing touch-and-gos at a small airport in Canton, OH, his hometown”.  Mr. Munson died on August 2, 1979.  Hard to believe that would happen with the author having written several books on the Yankees.   

 Monday will be the debut of our “What’s on 2nd… Podcast Radio Show”.  Mike Lynch, the mastermind behind, and I will co-host.  Show debuts on Monday, May 10 at 9:00 p.m. EST.   


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