Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Boys (and Girl) of Summer

Such sad news from Detroit. George Kell, former third baseman for the Tigers and broadcast partner of Ernie Harwell, died today at the age of 86.

I grew up listening to George and Ernie broadcast Tiger games on the radio. You could take the radio with you anywhere -- the garage, the car, the park, and thanks to WJR ("The Great Voice of the Great Lakes") you could even pick up the signal at the lake or up north. Especially after sunset in the summer, which was fine because you could get the night games. The trouble with television is you had to sit there and watch -- you really couldn't do anything else. George and Ernie were the voices I heard in my room at night, in the dark with the windows open and the still summer air barely rippling the curtains.

I can remember the first game I went to at Tiger Stadium. It was with the Safety Patrol boys and Service Squad girls. (My Lord -- do they still have such things?) We got a free trip downtown on a Saturday in the schoolbus, courtesy of the local police. I remember one of them even boarded the bus before we left to see who brought a glove to catch those homers that were sure to come flying our way in the stands. We had seats in the upper deck, left field, where we had a great view of Willie Horton.

What I remember most was how incredibly green the field was, and how bright the contrast of the white lines and the home team's uniforms. To this day I have never seen a green that compares to that deep, perfect shade. And the white! So brilliant it almost hurt your eyes to look at it.

After that trip I always saw the green field the same way whenever I listened to George and Ernie, even if it was a night game.

Now George is gone, and Ernie's no spring chicken. Tiger Stadium is gone, too, replaced by Comerica Park. It's a nice place and a fine stadium and all things must pass. But I still listen to baseball on the radio, thanks to XM. I prefer it to the jazzed up, graphic-for-every-pitch television version with announcers who are in love with the sound of their own voices. The Tigers' home opener is April 10, against Texas.

I'll be listening.


Blogger SeattleDan said...

One of the first baseball cards I owned was of George Kell, in an Orioles uniform. So I'll always have affection for the man, though I never saw him play. RIP, Mr. Kell, and thank you.

2:40 PM  

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