Ernie Harwell is to many ears the greatest baseball broadcaster ever. He is 91 years old and dying of cancer, and tonight he will be honored on the field at a Detroit Tigers game. One small anecdote in honor of the occasion: In October, 1999, I took a seat in the visiting-team dugout at Fenway Park before a Yankees–Red Sox playoff game and was startled to find Harwell next to me. I was nervous as I introduced myself and told Harwell what a pleasure it had been to listen to him the few times I'd heard him on national broadcasts. He thanked me, quickly, but wasn't at all interested in talking about himself. "New York Magazine?" he said. "I hired [New York founder] Clay Felker as my intern in Atlanta in 1947. Wonderful young man." Harwell then went on to quiz me about how the magazine was doing and what I thought of the series so far. The conversation was no more than five minutes, but it proved to me a couple of things: Clay Felker really did know everyone in the world, and Ernie Harwell's reputation for being a complete gentleman was entirely accurate. But mostly I remember the thrill of listening to that voice up close.
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