Ernie Harwell Tries To Make Most Of Final Days

Courage is a term too often used in sports. Sure, trying to shut down the New York Yankees lineup, or trying to figure out a game plan to stop Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts offense is difficult. But courageous? No. That’s their job.

But facing an opponent that can’t be beaten? That’s real courage.

I saw a feature on former longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel yesterday. For those who hadn’t heard, Harwell was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

There’s an age-old question: If you could find out when you were going to die, would you want to know? Harwell doesn’t know a specific day, but he’s come to grips with the fact that he might not see another Opening Day.

Doctors told him that he has six months to live, maybe more, but maybe less. He said he has days where he tries to spend as much time with his family as he can. Some days are much better than others.

It was hard to ignore the lump in my throat watching him talk about what it’s like to have inoperable cancer. At 91 years old, he’s lived a long and full life. And for more than 40 years, he was the voice of the Detroit Tigers, leaving quite an impression on generations of baseball fans in the Motor City.

I was just struck by the dignity and grace he was handling it. If that was me, I imagine it would drive me crazy knowing that cancer is inside of you, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Harwell’s mark on the game of baseball will never be forgotten, but his legacy will extend far beyond the ballparks he broadcast in.