I knew going in that I would enjoy this play. I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell on the radio, was horrified when he was fired by the Tigers, relieved when he was re-hired, and sad at his eventual passing.
But I surprised at how truly enjoyable it was.
“Ernie” is set on Ernie Harwell’s last night at Comerica, when the Hall of Fame broadcaster is about to give a moving thank you to a grateful city. Just before he walks onto the grassy field, he encounters an unusual boy who is eager to know all about him, coaxing Harwell into giving one final broadcast – the “broadcast of his life.”
The play, written by long time Detroit sport columnist Mitch Albom, recounts Harwell’s life, the highs (many), the lows (few) and his amazing journey through the game of baseball from the minor leagues in Atlanta, to the majors in New York, and finally to his adopted home Detroit.
Recounting his meetings with baseball greats Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams, to regional stars like Mark “the Bird” Fidrich and Sparky Andersen, the play reveals Harwell’s love of baseball and people he met during his journey including the players and fans who loyally listened to his broadcasts.
Ernie is played by local actor Will David Young who embodies not only Ernie’s distinctive speech patterns but his mannerisms as well. The portrayal is simply amazing.
I have no problem admitting that I was moved to tears during the performance. Any fan of Ernie Harwell and Tiger baseball owe it to themselves to see this play while they can.