Earlier this year, baseball lost a broadcasting icon as Harry Kalas died of a heart attack suffered as he prepared for a broadcast of a Phillies game. Unfortunately, it appears as though another legendary announcer is struggling with health troubles, as the DETROIT FREE-PRESS reports that Hall of Fame Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell is resting at home after spending most of last week in the hospital after dealing with an obstructed bile duct.
Of course, it should be noted that at 91, this is the first serious medical issue that Harwell has had to deal with. In fact, in his 55-year career as a broadcaster, he missed a total of two games: one for his brother’s funeral and a second for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1989. And he’s a ridiculously active 91-year-old, penning a weekly column for the Free Press while making frequent appearances as a health advocate for Blue Cross.
The good news is that Harwell told MLB.COM that he is not in any pain or discomfort, and his friend and attorney Gary Spicer said that he’s looking forward to celebrating his 68th wedding anniversary (!) to his wife Lulu on August 30. He hopes to get back to work soon, including the activities we mentioned plus contributing a weekly segment for the “Tigers Weekly” show on FSN Detroit. Clearly, staying active has helped Harwell stay healthy.
Living in Los Angeles, it’s easy to take broadcasters for granted. I just assume that Vin Scully is going to live forever, and will be broadcasting games when my grandchildren are watching Dodgers games. Of course, unless his head is kept permanently alive like on “Futurama,” that’s not going to happen. Here is La La Land, we learned the reality of life and death a few years ago when Chick Hearn died.
Scully and Harwell are two of a shrinking generation of broadcasters still on the air who taught people in our generation about baseball. People like them, Jerry Coleman and Milo Hamilton are the last of the announcers who serve as a link to past generations of the game, and each one who leaves takes a broadcast booth worth of memories with them.