DETROIT, Mich. - He was Detroit's voice of summer for more than 40 years, but Ernie Harwell also holds a special place in the hearts of Lions fans.
The Lions honored Harwell before Sunday's game with Minnesota by naming him an honorary captain. The 91-year-old Harwell participated in the pre-game coin toss, and received a warm ovation from the sellout crowd at Detroit's home opener.
Harwell was a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, working for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, but early in his career, he was no stranger to football broadcasting booths.
Harwell did radio color commentary for Georgia Tech in 1940 and 1941, then after returning from military service, he did the play-by-play for the Ramblin' Wreck.
In 1948, Harwell broadcast the games for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the old All-American Football Conference. The football Dodgers were owned by another baseball Hall of Famer, Branch Rickey.
After one season of doing the AAFC team's broadcasts, Harwell moved back into broadcasting college football doing games for Fordham, Boston College and Yale. He was Marty Glickman's partner for New York Giants games in 1952.
When the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954, Harwell started doing the Orioles games. When the baseball season ended, Harwell did the radio play-by-play for the Baltimore Colts from 1956 through 1958, including the famous NFL Championship game with the Giants in 1958.
Harwell replaced Van Patrick, the long-time Lions announcer, as the radio voice of the Tigers in 1960. His only football work since moving to Michigan was doing Michigan State football in 1963.
Harwell announced recently that he was suffering from inoperable cancer.