vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Celebrating baseball...and Ernie Harwell

If it's spring, and we're running a photo like that, you can be pretty darn sure that the topic of today's entry is baseball. Carole Lombard loved the game, playing it with the boys in her youth and then regularly going to the ballpark as a fan (seeing plenty of Pacific Coast League games in the era when the majors were no further west than St. Louis).

The 2010 season officially starts tomorrow night, when the New York Yankees open defense of their World Series title in Boston against the Red Sox in the battle of the American League East's two "evil empires," but most of the other teams commence play on Monday...including the team I follow, the Washington Nationals, who are at home against defending National League champion Philadelphia.

It's the 100th anniversary of the president throwing out the first ball in Washington, and President Obama will follow tradition and do the honors. Alas, Washington also has a tradition of bad baseball, not having won a pennant since 1933 or contended for one since 1945; heck, for 33 years there wasn't even a team in town. But hope springs eternal, and the hope is that in a few years, with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continuing to improve and phenom Stephen Strasburg becoming the ace most believe he will be, that August and September in D.C. will stand for more than the beginning of Redskins football.

If you read the obituaries for John Forsythe, the fine TV and film actor who passed away this week at age 92, you may have been surprised to learn that at one time he was the public address announcer for Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. Well, this year's baseball salute at "Carole & Co." honors a man who's also 92 and spent some time in Brooklyn. I'm referring to Ernie Harwell, best known for several decades' work with the Detroit Tigers.

Harwell, a Georgia native, began doing major-league games in 1948 with Brooklyn after several years with the minor-league Atlanta team. He later moved to the New York Giants (and did the TV call of Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning home run in 1951), spent six seasons in Baltimore and moved to Detroit in 1960. His warmth and enthusiasm became beloved among Tigers fans, so much that there's a statue of Ernie at Comerica Park:

One of the game's great gentlemen, Harwell was diagnosed with inoperable cancer last year. He bid a public farewell in September at Comerica Park, saying he wasn't sure he would make it to the start of the 2010 season. But he has, and millions of fans hope he'll be around to see all of it.

In 1955, Harwell -- who has also written more than 60 songs -- wrote an essay saluting baseball, "The Game For All America." Some of the names and references may not be recognizable to younger generations, but so much of it is still applicable 55 years later. Hear Ernie read it at http://www.thedeadballera.com/Audio/ErnieHarwell.mp3.

Play ball.

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