1954: Harwell Broadcasts First Game From Detroit, Not For Tigers
For a generation or two of Detroit Tiger fans, Ernie Harwell was synonymous with summer afternoons and evenings, and Tiger baseball. But it wasn't always that way.
The Hall of Fame broadcaster, who died in 2010, wasn't always the voice of the Tigers. The Tigers weren't even his second Major League job. But folks must've known he was special early on. In 1948, Harwell was the announcer for the Atlanta Crackers, and the Brooklyn Dodgers and their general manager Branch Rickey, needed a fill-in for another Hall of Famer, Red Barber, who was dealing with a bleeding ulcer. So Rickey traded a promising catching prospect, Cliff Dapper, to get him to New York. This is probably the only time a player was traded for an announcer.
Harwell stuck around a couple of season, then moved to the next borough, to call New York Giants games. But these were both National League teams, so Harwell had yet to make a trip to Detroit. That came in 1954. The St. Louis Browns had moved to Baltimore, and became the Baltimore Orioles, and needing a play by play man hired Harwell. He stayed for five seasons. And on April 13th, 1954, the Orioles opened their first series at Briggs Stadium (the ballpark was renamed when Fred Knorr and John Fetzer bought the team), and Ernie Harwell called his first game at "The Corner" of Michigan and Trumbull.
It was another former Oriole, George Kell, who got Ernie to Detroit, in 1960. And from that point on, until Bo Schembechler fired him in 1991, he called Tigers games. Then,, when Mike Ilitch bought the team from Tom Monaghan, Harwell triumphantly returned until his retirement in 2002.