Q&A: Ernie Harwell
Interview by Eric Nelson and Thomas Tuttle
Summer 2002

"Contraction reminds me a little bit of Aesop's Fable..."
Broadcasting Major League Baseball for 55 years has given Detroit Tigers play by play man Ernie Harwell a prospective on America's pastime like no other. During one of the Tigers' trips to the Metrodome this Spring, we spoke with the Hall of Fame broadcaster about the state of the game and the Minnesota Twins.

MS: Comerica Park opened three years ago replacing Tiger Stadium. How important do you think it is for the Twin Cities to get a new ballpark, something similar to Comerica?
EH: I think it's important. I think the real answer though, is in winning.If the Twins won and played there at the Metrodome they would still continue to draw. You1ve got an economic problem where you don1t have a lot of sky-view boxes and all those amenities that come with a new ballpark, and I can understand the economics of that is much better. But, I think the basic in baseball is winning. The Twins have proven previously that if they win, people are going to come out there and pay the money. But, it would be nice to have a new ballpark.

MS: What are your reactions to contraction and the possibility that the Minnesota Twins might not be around?
EH: The part I didn't like about the contraction situation was the unsettled feeling that everybody got. You didn't know whether you were coming or going. Baseball couldn't tell anybody in any definite terms what would happen. Contraction reminds me a little bit of the Aesop's Fable where the rats were going to put a bell on the cat's tale. It's a great idea to do it, but nobody wants to do it! Contraction might be a pretty good idea, but what team are you going to pick to contract? That1s the tough part.

MS: You've said that what you like about (Twins broadcaster) Herb Carneal is his steadiness.
EH: Absolutely. He1s a wonderful performer. He has a high degree of consistency. He's always right on the game. He's got a passion and a love for it and he1s got a very fine voice. And, I think his descriptive powers are excellent. All that put together makes Herb Carneal a top announcer in my book.

MS: Do you have any Halsey Hall (former Twins broadcaster) stories?
EH: Halsey had a little bag that he would carry with him that had the little whiskey miniatures in it. He said "Well, you gotta be careful cause you might run into an election day somewhere where you can't get whiskey." He was a beauty.

MS: Talk about the Twins-Tigers rivalry and what you remember about the 1987 playoff series where the Twins upset the Tigers and eventually went on to win the World Series.
EH: That was a black mark on the Tigers' history. The Twins were the underdogs in that playoff series. I think [the Tigers] were sacheting into the playoffs thinking they would beat the Twins. The Twins had a much better series. They played very good ball and certainly deserved to beat the Tigers. And, then they went on to have a great World Series. That's what I remember about the rivalry. Gaetti was poison to the Tigers. Gagne did his job too. It was a good all around team that fought and scratched and deserved everything that they got.

MS: What does major league baseball need to do to get back to being America's true past time?
EH: I think the most important thing is to try to get harmony between the players union and the owners. Even when you don't have a strike, there seems to be always a threat of one. There's always talk about a lock-out or strike and people have an uneasiness about the game as long as that happens. If we could get together and let each side say 'we've got a great game, let's move forward by compromising a little bit', making a sacrifice on one side or the other and get it going. That worries me a lot more than the small market, big market and so forth or the haves and the have-nots. The haves and the have nots, that's existed forever. I remember back in the '30s when the season started in those 8-club leagues. We knew for instance in the American League that Washington, the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Athletics and the St.Louis Browns didn't have a chance. Probably wouldn't even have a team that finished .500. Everybody accepted that then. Nobody worried about it. But, now because the money is so big and people concentrate on writing and talking about the money of the game and the financial side, I think it's been emphasized so much its become important. Probably too important.