Baseball lost a legend yesterday with the passing of former Tigers play-by-play man Ernie Harwell, who died at 92 from cancer.
Harwell, who was originally from Washington, Ga., got his break when he was traded to the Dodgers for a catcher. Yup, a team traded a player for a radio guy.
For the next few decades, Harwell distinguished himself as one of the great voices of the game, along with the likes of Mel Allen, Vin Scully, Harry Kalas and others.
When former University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler became team president of the Tigers in the early '90s, he tried to force Harwell out, claiming that the team needed a younger voice. The outrage was so great that Harwell was brought back the next season and it was Schembechler that was soon gone (and good riddance).
Though college football, pro football and pro basketball teams have had their share of well-known announcers, baseball seems to be the one that identifies itself the most by its voices. People aren't just fans of teams, they're fans of the guys in the booth.
Sadly, that era is coming to an end. Many of the great voices have shuffled off the mortal coil, while others are retired or semi-retired. Braves great Skip Caray died last year, soon after he put his microphone away for good.
Still, baseball fans will often identify with the hometown guys, even when a game is broadcast nationally. I know of Braves fans who may watch a game on ESPN but listen to the Braves' radio feed instead of the ESPN announcers.
A couple of years ago, ESPN celebrated the legendary voices by having one game a week that was called by Harwell, Scully, etc. It's a great way for the game to celebrate its rich history, and a tradition that I hope returns sooner rather than later.
'LOST' FOLLOW: Because last night's episode had so many game-changing moments, I'm going to wait to post something since I'm sure there are people who haven't had the chance to see it yet. But boy, did it ever put me on an emotional roller-coaster.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: TV's best new show, "Modern Family" (ABC, 9 p.m.) kicks off its final few episodes of the season as the whole gang heads to Hawaii for the finale. Tonight, they try to get ready for the trip -- assuming Mitchell and Phil can make it to the airport before the plane leaves. It follows a new "The Middle," and precedes a new "Cougar Town," followed by the new series "Happy Town." (Hmm, "Cougar Town" and "Happy Town"...sounds like a perfect crossover!)
"American Idol" (Fox, 9 p.m.) knocks off another contender tonight. NBC airs a new "Mercy" at the same time.
CBS is mostly all-new with "Old Christine" at 8 p.m., followed by "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m. and "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m.
On cable, USA has a new "In Plain Sight" at 10 p.m.