We lost another great old guard sportscaster yesterday in Ernie Harwell. He called games for the Detroit Tigers on radio and TV for 42 years and has already been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame.
He'll be remembered for his trademark calls: "That one is LONG gone", "It's two for the price of one!", and his call of Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Round the World in the 1951 National League pennant.
But his most lasting achievement might be an essay he wrote in 1955, The Game for All America, that captured the spirit of baseball as well as any words ever could:
In baseball, democracy shines its clearest. Here the only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rule book. Color is something to distinguish one team's uniform from another.
Baseball is Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, asking his Brooklyn hosts to explain Dodger signals. It's Player Moe Berg speaking seven languages and working crossword puzzles in Sansrkit. It's a scramble in the box seats for a foul -- and a $125 suit ruined. A man barking into a hot microphone about a cool beer, that's baseball. So is the sports writer telling a .383 hitter how to stride, and a 20-victory pitcher trying to write his impressions of the World Series.
Baseball is ballet without music. Drama without words. A carnival without kewpie dolls.
A housewife in California couldn't tell you the color of her husband's eyes, but she knows that Yogi Berra is hitting .337, has brown eyes and used to love to eat bananas with mustard. That's baseball. So is the bright sanctity of Cooperstown's Hall of Fame. And the former big leaguer, who is playing out the string in a Class B loop.
Baseball is continuity. Pitch to pitch. Inning to inning. Game to game. Series to series. Season to season.
It's rain, rain, rain splattering on a puddled tarpaulin as thousands sit in damp disappointment. And the click of typewriters and telegraph keys in the press box -- like so many awakened crickets. Baseball is a cocky batboy. The old-timer, whose batting average increases every time he tells it. A lady celebrating a home team rally by mauling her husband with a rolled-up scorecard.
Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby, the flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an overaged pixie named Rabbit Maranville, and Jackie Robinson testifying before a Congressional hearing.
Baseball? It's just a game -- as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, business -- and sometimes even religion.
And srr50 wept!
I'm sure Harry Kalas will have a double Old Fashioned waiting for him.