DETROIT -- Hall of Fame broadcaster and Tigers icon Ernie Harwell will visit Comerica Park to meet with the team and thank fans for their support on Wednesday night, when the Tigers host the Royals.
Harwell, 91, who revealed earlier this month that he has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the bile duct, plans to visit with players, media members and friends before the 7:05 p.m. ET game. He'll take an opportunity to thank fans at some point during the game, though it will not come in a formal ceremony in accordance with his wishes, according to a Tigers spokesperson.
The team has had an open invitation for Harwell to visit ever since he retired from play-by-play broadcasting after the 2002 season, and he has visited several times. At least a couple players, Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago, were on the team during Harwell's final season as the Tigers' radio voice.
More recently, the club invited him to come out if he wished and felt up to it after his diagnosis. At this point in his battle with cancer, Harwell is strong and moving around well.
"He wants to thank the fans for their love and support and gratitude," Tigers vice president of communications Ron Colangelo said.
Harwell has received countless messages of support from fans since he went public with the diagnosis. The day the news came out, he said, his phone was ringing non-stop. His representative, S. Gary Spicer, also said he has received countless messages of support.
Harwell spent 55 seasons broadcasting in the Major Leagues, the last 42 of them in Detroit. He became known as the radio voice of the Tigers through generations of fans, from the 1968 team that won the World Series to the 1984 club that did the same. He was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, and he compiled what is now a renowned collection of baseball artifacts and memorabilia.
All the while, his conversational style and Southern accent from his days as the voice of the Minor League Atlanta Crackers on radio during World War II became part of the sound of Michigan summers. Through Harwell, fans came to know Tiger Stadium by its location on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, and recognized home runs as "looong gone!" For several years, even after Harwell's retirement, the scoreboard at Comerica Park would celebrate a called third strike with Harwell's phrase that the batter "stood there like a house by the side of the road."
Harwell broke into the big leagues in 1948 as part of a trade between the Crackers and Brooklyn Dodgers, who had to send Minor League catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta to get the Crackers to let Harwell out of his broadcasting contract with them. Harwell had the national radio play-by-play call when Bobby Thomson hit "The Shot Heard Round the World" in 1951 for the Giants to win their National League playoff against the Dodgers.
Harwell signed on to do radio play-by-play for the Tigers in 1960, and, with the exception of one year, called Tigers games through 2002. Though he never played a game in a Detroit uniform, his ability to bring the game to fans has made him one of the most beloved sports figures in the city.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.