Mitch Albom has an interesting column on his play “Ernie” and Harwell’s broadcasting style that re-opens for its second season at the City Theatre in Detroit. Mitch wrote the play at legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell’s request, and last year the play was able to donate $30,000 to Harwell’s favorite charities. Mitch’s column begins:
There’s a scene in the play “Ernie” in which the actor playing Ernie Harwell re-enacts the way he broadcast minor-league baseball games in the 1940s, when there was no money to send him on the road.
“We stayed in the studio and waited for the play-by-play ticker to come through,” he says, taking a strip of ticker tape and reading it. “Johnson, B-1-0. That meant Johnson took ball one, outside. Of course that’s pretty dry, so we’d have to embellish it.”
He then demonstrates his embellishment: “There’s a high loping curveball, way outside, Johnson looks at it, doesn’t move his bat, and it’s ball one!”
When asked what he did if the ticker-tape machine broke, Ernie replies that sometimes he’d make up a distraction, like a dog running on the field. And he’d have that dog racing back and forth, eluding escape, until the machine was fixed.
Of course, when the ballplayers came home, their wives would ask, “What happened to that poor dog?” And they’d say, “What dog?”
Read on for more and visit Ernie at Olympia Entertainment for more on the play and to order tickets. Harwell passed away two years ago tomorrow. You can read more about him on Michigan in Pictures and here’s a great interview that Albom did with Harwell at the Fox Theatre in 2009 that will probably make you tear up.