Legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell defines “baseball” as Tigers look to Home Opener [VIDEO]

The home opener for the Detroit Tigers is a day like none other. It’s a holiday, a special occasion, as the boys in the Old English D take the field in downtown Detroit. The day is made special because of the best fans in the world. Those fans have been graced by some of the best voices ever to grace the microphone, notably Ernie Harwell. As we look toward the home opener, part of Ernie’s famous speech from his Hall of Fame induction should remind us of the purity of our game, the greatest on earth.

Why it matters

It’s been a while since we’ve heard that beautiful and relaxing voice of Ernie’s grace our airwaves. But, as legends do, his words are entirely timeless. As he defines baseball, you can’t help but reminisce about your childhood, those days growing farther away that reminds you of a simpler time. And as the Tigers take the field today, it’s a suspension of reality for just a few hours. We’ll cheer, we’ll laugh, and we may even shed some tears because baseball is back in Motown and all is right with the world again.

Transcript of “Baseball” by Ernie Harwell

Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That’s baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his (Babe Ruth’s) 714 home runs.

There’s a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That’s baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen-year-old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

In baseball, democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another.

Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over-aged pixie named Rabbit Maranville.

Baseball is just a game, as simple as a ball and bat, yet as complex as the American spirit, it symbolizes. A sport, a business, and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World Series catch. And then dashing off to play stickball in the street with his teenage pals. That’s baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gehrig saying “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies’ day, “Down in Front”, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.

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!

Written by AJ Reilly

A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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