Ernie Harwell

Year of the Tiger '68

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With the United States in strife during the Vietnam War, and Detroit in particular ravaged physically and spiritually during the riots of 1967, the Detroit Tigers baseball team of 1968 was a unifying force in healing the city. After losing a heartbreaking American League pennant chase on the last day of 1967, the Tigers won the A.L. and the World Series in 1968 over the defending champions the St. Louis Cardinals in one of the greatest all-time sports comebacks, down three games-to-one, to win the championship in awe-inspiring style. Ernie Harwell was the voice of Tigers radio, broadcasting Tigers games on clear channel WJR-AM to at least 30 states nationwide, documenting the fortunes of the ball club, and in essence, the resurrection of that industrial heartland. This recording features select game calls -- mostly home runs -- of Harwell's and broadcast partner Ray Lane, as well as a few post-game interviews, with production music underneath added after the fact. You hear the theme song written by Artie Fields, "Go Get 'Em Tigers," an oompah-pah kind of bouncy Dixieland/polka, as well as a snippet of the waltz written for Denny McLain, the 31-game winning pitcher of 1968, the last pitcher in pro ball to do so. There are many moments capturing the victories of McLain, heroic efforts of team leader and Hall of Famer Al Kaline, the various daily heroes of the Tiger team, the slump they experienced as the New York Yankees made a charge toward the top, the Tigers fending them off, especially to win the pennant with a remarkable 11-game steak to the finish, where no relief pitchers (only starters) were used, unheard of in the modern era. During Harwell's call of the pennant-clinching game and final play, where he says "let's listen to the bedlam, here at Tiger Stadium" amidst fireworks going off, you hear a true testament to his immaculate timing and innate storytelling ability. The CD has ten more minutes than the original LP, chronicling the World Series run where the Tigers, like Detroit itself, were down and out, yet made a miraculous comeback. There are production gaffes left unedited, balance issues between the narrative and the music arranged by Robert Way on occasion, and the sound is dated considering the pre-digital era. Still, this is a precious document of a memorable season, and a testament to the simplistic, down-home, humble genius of Ernie Harwell, who died of cancer in May, 2010 at age 92. Having led a full life of music (he was a notable songwriter,) faith, and the game he truly loved, it's also reflective, per the consistently roaring crowd noise, of all who truly loved him and the Tigers.

Track Listing

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