What I’m Thankful for #19: Baseball and the Legendary Ernie Harwell

This is one in a series of daily posts I conceived of writing many weeks ago while the election still raged on, as I looked for something to write about of more lasting value. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving seemed perfectly appropriate for it. Just in case you wondered, the topics introduced are not necessarily in any particular order. I hope the series is of some small encouragement to you, even as my site traffic takes a dive.

America’s pastime. Come November, the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd seem distant memories. But hope springs eternal in the heart of the baseball fan.

For the 19th and penultimate edition of this thankfulness series, I want to express my gratitude for a game – yes, but not just any game. And I want to do so by cheating, perhaps … quoting a couple excerpts from a column I penned for the Hillsdale Daily News on April 2, 2002, titled “Ernie Harwell reminds us what baseball is about”:

Despite all the tumult and uncertainty, the game of baseball lives on. And no one in my mind better embodies the quiet continuity of its meaning to our American heritage than Ernie Harwell….

For those who grew up near Detroit and remember the many spring and summer nights of youth listening to Harwell’s grandfatherly voice on the radio painting a vivid picture of the game like no one else could, we can vouch for his reliability….

Harwell is a modest man of faith and character with many other avocations, from being a published songwriter to one of the founders of the Baseball Chapel….

But in the end we will associate the legendary Tiger broadcaster with the institution he has been an endearing part of for so long. No one has a pristine grasp of the game like Harwell. No one is more reassuring in the face of looming lockouts or shutdowns.

We’re going to miss Ernie, but the game we all love–what he once penned as ‘The Game for All America’–will go on.

‘…Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex, a game of inches. Every skill is measured, every heroic action or failing is seen and cheered or booed and then becomes a statistic,’ Harwell wrote in 1955.

It rings as true today as ever.

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

I find it easy to get nostalgic about baseball this time of year….

If loving this game is a disease, I don’t want to be cured.

Baseball memories from childhood fill me with a kind of inexplicable nostalgia – my earliest trips to the old Tiger Stadium, watching Detroit win the World Series from my family room in 1984, playing baseball with my friends in a local league, or playing imaginary baseball games by myself in the backyard. From playing the old Sherco board game to trading and collecting sets of baseball cards.

In my alma mater days, my friend Chris and I organized a group outing to Tiger Stadium large enough to get “Hillsdale College” on the scoreboard during the game. Not only a proud moment, it also was truly a memorable collection of diehard baseball fans and excited baseball initiates, and it happened more than 10 years ago.

More recently, the back-to-back pennants of my two teams – the Tigers (2006) and the Rockies (2007) – have left special impressions. Getting to attend Game 3 of the World Series and watch it from the top row of the Rockpile is an unforgettable spectacle.

Sure, there are more important things. I’ve written about many of them in this series already. But I’m undeniably thankful for the special sort of enjoyment that God gives me through the game of baseball.

Comments

  1. says

    Ben,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your thanksgiving series. The posts have made me stop and ponder the things I am grateful for as well (except children, since I don’t have any yet).

    Every time you talk about baseball (either in a post or when we talk in person), you stir that little boy in me who just loves to watch America’s game. This post was moving.

Leave a Reply