By Denny McLain
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"LOOONG GONE"!! Can’t you hear Ernie hollering his famous "LOOONG GONE" as the good Lord took him to heaven?
Can’t you see him looking back and smiling and then hollering as he was heading to the Lord, "LOOONG GONE"?
I can and knowing Ernie the way I knew the grand gentleman I am sure he uttered that famous phrase as he left us all behind.
I can also see him going through the "Heavenly Gates" of our Lord and seeing a couple of fans who got there ahead of Ernie and saying to the fans, aren't you the O’Malley’s from Traverse City? Remember when you caught that foul ball?
Yep, I have one fond memory after another of Ernie.
Sharon and I visited with Ernie a couple months ago and while he put on a brave front, I could tell he was suffering and doing all that he could to be kind to us as we sat around and chatted about the “GOOD OLD TIMES”, he still had that sharp memory and recall, and I could tell he was also prepared to meet his Lord and God.
See that is the way Ernie always was at anytime, he was always ready for the next inning.
I also share lots of good music times with Ernie, as some of you know he wrote the song “Denny McLain, Denny McLain, there never has been any like Denny McLain”.
I would play the piano and organ when we were on the road when I was playing. We would from time to time spend afternoons writing and playing music trying to come up with the “Big Hit”, but we never did, but we sure had lots of great hours and times playing and joking especially with the lyrics of songs.
I would use some profanity to fill in a lyric and Ernie would give me a deep sigh and smile, but never would he use the same kind of language, God we laughed and laughed, he had a great deep laugh and enjoyed great humor. His favorite though as most of us know was the great and kooky Norm Cash, he too tried to make music with Ernie.
But I think the one event that remains the best definition of who Ernie really was is when Tigers owner Mike Illitch made the worst PR move in professional sports by firing Ernie.
The fans erupted over this but Ernie just kept going, maintaining his class and character, doing ESPN. Mike never has figured out the maintaining one’s class and dignity is worth more than a billion dollars. And after the “Pizza King” was beaten up by everyone in town…uh oh, Ernie came back one more time.
We will miss Ernie, but you are in a much better place now, with God and at peace from all of the misery and suffering this past year.
He is still pulling for our Tigers and still yelling after every homerun, “LOOONG GONE”.
Yes he will be missed but he will never be gone!
He is, Ernie Harwell, the first radio broadcaster in the Hall of Fame and in plain old fashioned talk, just one hell of a man and a gentleman, he never compromised his integrity, that is really saying something in these days and times.
God Bless and take care of our Ernie Harwell…