Sen. Carl Levin delivered the following statement on the Senate floor on May 5, 2010:
“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
Mr. President, spring after spring, for four decades, a man named Ernie Harwell would recite those words. He would recite them at the beginning of the first baseball broadcast of spring training. And those are the words that would tell the people of Michigan that the long, cold winter was over.
Ernie was the radio voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years, and in that time, there may have been no Michiganian more universally beloved. Our state mourns today at his passing, yesterday evening, after a battle with cancer. He fought that battle with the grace, the good humor, and the wisdom that Michigan had come to expect, and even depend on, from a man we came to know and love.
This gentlemanly Georgian adopted our team, and our state, as his own. And his career would have been worthy had he done nothing more than bring us the sound of summer over the radio, recounting the Tigers’ ups and downs with professionalism and wit, as he did.
But without making a show of it, Ernie Harwell taught us. In his work and his life, he taught us the value of kindness and respect. He taught us that, in a city and a world too often divided, we could be united in joy at a great Al Kaline catch, or a Lou Whitaker home run, or a Mark Fidrych strikeout. He taught us not to let life pass us by “like the house by the side of the road.”
In 1981, when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ernie told the assembled fans what baseball meant to him. “In baseball democracy shines its clearest,” he said. “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.” That was a lesson he taught us so well.
Mr. President, I will miss Ernie Harwell. All of Michigan will miss the sound of his voice telling us that the winter is past, that the Tigers had won a big game, or that they’d get another chance to win one tomorrow. We will miss his Georgia drawl, his humor, his humility, his quiet faith in God and in the goodness of the people he encountered. But we will carry in our hearts always our love for him, our appreciation for his work, and the lessons he gave us and left us and that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Farewell to Ernie Harwell Speech Video from floor of Senate