DETROIT -- In an emotional farewell, Ernie Harwell and his broadcast partner for the last 19 years, Paul Carey said goodbye to baseball fans here yesterday.
Tonight's game will be the last from Tiger Stadium for baseball's longest running radio combo. In special pre-game ceremonies the two were cited by WJR, the station that provoked a listener revolt by announcing last winter it was pulling the plug on Harwell.
Al Kaline, who left the Baltimore sandlots to carve a Hall of Fame career with the Tigers and now works as a TV analyst, gave a moving and eloquent testimonial to the retiring announcers. "They are the best in the business as far as I'm concerned," said Kaline. "I never heard a player, coach or manager say an unkind word about them."
Kaline could've mentioned umpires as well. The crew working the series between the Tigers and Orioles, headed by chief Richie Garcia, presented plaques on behalf of their contemporaries.
"About 65 years ago, I was a tongue-tied youngster in Georgia struggling to express myself," said Harwell, who overcame a speech impediment as a child.
"Standing here now, I feel tongue-tied as I struggle to express my appreciation and gratitude for the gifts and ovations given me today. God has given me a lot of blessings in my lifetime -- and one of them was spending 32 years at Michigan and Trumbull [Tiger Stadium].
"Most of all I appreciate you fans and thank you for your loyalty, friendship and love -- most of all your love," said Harwell.
Carey already had worked for WJR for 16 years before he entered the play-by-play booth, where Harwell was already a Detroit institution, in 1973. "This is very special, this moment and this day," said Carey. "In the booth we've broadcast many ceremonies like this, but never did I dream I'd be down here on the field."
Harwell was part of the Orioles' first broadcast team, the first announcer on the air in the first game ever played in Memorial Stadium in 1954. A quirk of the schedule, and fate, will have him doing his final broadcast for the Tigers Sunday afternoon -- in the last game to be played at Memorial Stadium.
* THIS 'N THAT: Luis Mercedes had two hits yesterday, breaking an 0-for-18 drought . . . Jeff Tackett's third-inning single was his first major-league hit.
The Orioles' bullpen has now pitched 529 2/3 innings, two more than the previous club record set in 1987.