Longtime radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell, known mostly for his Detroit Tigers work but no stranger to NFL games, died Tuesday at his Novi, Mich., home after a months-long battle with cancer, the Detroit Free Press reported. He was 92.
Harwell, who called Tigers games for four-plus decades and was acquired by the Brooklyn Dodgers for a catcher, announced in September that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the bile duct. Then 91, Harwell took the news with characteristic poise, saying he planned to continue working on a book and other projects.
"Whatever happens, I'm ready to face it," Harwell told The Associated Press on Sept. 4, 2009. "I have a great faith in God and Jesus."
"On behalf of the William Clay Ford family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Harwell, her family and Ernie's extended family with the Tigers and throughout baseball," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement released by the team Wednesday. "Detroit not only lost a legend, but Detroit Sports lost its voice. For those of us who grew up in Detroit, Ernie was as much a part of our childhood as grade school teachers and little league coaches."
Harwell's experience as an NFL broadcaster included stints with the New York Giants (1952) and Baltimore Colts (1956-1958). He was the Colts' play-by-play announcer in the famous 1958 NFL Championship game against the Giants. Baltimore won "The Greatest Game Ever Played" 23-17 in the first sudden-death overtime game in league history.
Harwell spent 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting with the Tigers. He was their play-by-play radio voice from 1960 to 1991 and 1993 to 2002.
Harwell's big break came in unorthodox fashion.
Dodgers radio broadcaster Red Barber fell ill in 1948, and general manager Branch Rickey needed a replacement. After learning the Atlanta Crackers needed a catcher, Rickey sent minor-leaguer Cliff Dapper to the team in exchange for Harwell.
Survivors include Harwell's wife of 68 years, Lulu, and four children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.