MLB: Tigers pay tribute to late announcer Ernie Harwell
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers honored late broadcaster Ernie Harwell by raising a flag with his initials at Comerica Park.
The team paid tribute to Harwell on Monday night before playing the New York Yankees, its first home game since Harwell died last Tuesday from cancer. He was 92.
Detroit's uniforms include a circle patch with the initials "EH" on the right sleeve. The white flag with black lettering that was raised Monday will fly just under the United States flag for the rest of the season.
Grammy-winner Jose Feliciano sang the national anthem after a long moment of silence.
Harwell invited Feliciano to perform the anthem before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series — after booking Marvin Gaye and Margaret Whiting — and Feliciano created a stir with a folk-tinged interpretation of the song, leading to calls for Harwell to be fired.
"My only regret is that Ernie almost lost his job because of me," Feliciano said. "I'm glad that someone else eventually fired him, not me."
The Tigers let Harwell's contract expire after the 1991 season in what became a public relations nightmare, but new ownership put him back in the booth in 1993.
Paul Carey, Harwell's famed broadcast partner from 1973-91, threw out the ceremonial first pitch — to Tigers manager Jim Leyland — after the baseball was brought to the mound by Ray Lane, who worked with Harwell from 1967-72.
"My job on the broadcast was easy," Carey said. "All I had to do was not destroy everything that Ernie had set up in the first three innings."
The Tigers set up a pregame ceremony in which Harwell's daughters, Julie Harwell and Carolyn Raley, took the flag with "EH" on it to the pole in the bullpen along with the play-by-play radio team of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price, third baseman Brandon Inge, first base coach Tom Brookens, Hall of Famer Al Kaline and former Tigers great Willie Horton.
The Baseball Hall of Fame honored Harwell in 1981 with the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually to a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball.
Johnny Damon, a first-year Tiger, said he had about four memorable chats with Harwell.
"He's one of those guys you say, `Wow, you're talking to a baseball legend,"' Damon said.