Ernie Harwell died tonight. He was 92.
I was fortunate enough to be able to call Ernie a friend for the past 30 years or so. I was introduced to him by longtime Baltimore broadcaster Vince Bagli, who'd known Ernie since the 1950's when Harwell was the Orioles' radio play-by-play man. He was always in a good mood, and always completely honest.
In 1983, I was offered a gig at WJR Radio in Detroit, the Tigers' flagship station. I was to host the Tigers' postgame call-in show, the Lions' halftime-and-postgame radio show, and other miscellaneous assignments. I'd met with the station's management at the airport in Pittsburgh - a story in itself - and wasn't entirely comfortable with the gentleman who would have been my immediate supervisor. I had a week to respond to the offer, and when I got home I called Ernie.
"Ernie, what can you tell me about (blank)?"
"A complete (blank)," he said. "A total blowhard. But don't let that influence your decision."
Too late for that.
Whenever Ernie came to Baltimore over the years, we'd sit together in the press lounge and talk, mostly about baseball, but he was always interested in hearing about my family. We talked about music quite a bit, too.
Ernie shared my joy when baseball returned to Washington. He'd been pulling or DC to get back in the league since the Senators left in 1971.
He really was one-of-a-kind, and how lucky we all were to have him on the planet for as long as we did.