3.2.2019 – My Phone Call with Ernie

rain is over, gone
flowers appear on the land,
the winter is past

Many people will recognize these words from the Bible, Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, Verse 11:

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (KJV)

The reason its recognized for many may be due to long time Detroit Tiger Radio Broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, who would quote these verses at the beginning of the first radio broadcast of the season. (I cannot recall if it was the 1st pre-season game from Florida or the season opener, or both.)

And I have an Ernie Harwell story to tell.

This was in 2004 I think, when I worked at WZZM in Grand Rapids, and the company that owned WZZM, GANNETT/USAToday also owned the Detroit News. I often worked with the web staff of the News on different online projects.

So the News contacts me and asks if I can help get an audio file of Ernie Harwell and his Bible reading online that the could be used on the Detroit News website (detnews.com).

I told them I was happy to help, but that I would need an audio file.

They said no problem, it was all set up. They gave me Ernie’s home phone number, he was waiting for my call and all I had to do was make a recording when I called.

The station, of course, had a ‘phone to digital recording’ all setup in an edit bay where it would be quiet. I checked with the newsroom and they said go ahead.

I got in the edit bay (a room a little bit bigger than an old phone booth), I sat down, adjusted my chair, looked at the machine and picked up the phone and dialed Ernie Harwell.

This, for a West Michigan kid, to call Ernie Harwell, was beyond belief. I kept telling myself, be professional, be professional, DON’T BABBLE.

The phone rand and I hears HELLO in my ear in the most famous radio voice ever. If you lived in Michigan in the 60’s and 70’s and it was summer time, you didn’t need a radio to follow the Tigers, because someone else would have the game on loud enough for you to hear anywhere you went.

And Ernie was not one of those in love with his own voice and there would be long pauses in the narrative that was punctuated by the sound of popping which you knew was the sound of kids stomping on paper cups in the bleachers at the real Tiger Stadium.

“Hello”, I say, “Mr Harwell, this is Mike Hoffman with the Detroit News …”

Ernie cuts me off and says the News had called him and he was all set to recite if I was ready.

I gave Ernie a countdown and there was that voice and those words and then it was over.

I thanked him very much. I might have got in that it was an honor to speak to him and we hung up.

I sat back in bliss, heart pounding, a gift of the sound of words in my head,

I looked down and saw that I have neglected to press record on the machine.

I went from bliss to panic in a heartbeat.

Now what to do.

I sat still for a second, then picked up the phone and called Ernie back and in a stumbling explanation said, “The ENGINEER did not get the recording started in time and we missed it.”

Ernie laughed and we did it all again with the recording running this time and we said goodbye.

I thought it was funny that Ernie did not question my story that an engineer had messed up.

Went from feeling bliss and warm and comforted to SUCH A DOPE, GEE WHIZ.

I uploaded the audio file for the Detroit News and went back to work.

Never told anyone and I am positive Ernie never thought about it again, but I cannot hear these words without thinking of my phone call with Ernie.

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