Did you know: That the Detroit Tigers flagship station was once WKNR’s predecessor, WKMH? Station owner, Fred Knorr was also part owner of the Tigers and during the last years of his life Keener was the Motor City home for Tiger Baseball.
Who among us who grew up in Detroit in the Keener era can forget Tiger Stadium? For many, it’s etched into the screenplay of our youth, the sun beating down on our bleacher seats, the smell of Hygrade Ballpark Franks and Stroh’s Beer, the green grass mixed with the rich brown infield earth, and the pitcher’s mound, only 10 inches above grade but seeming to tower over the proceedings as the batter at home plate stared down the men whose rocket arms and ice water nerves could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
That Hemingway sentence only scratches the surface of what comes to mind when we think about baseball in The Motor City. Depending on the decade, our heroes had names like Kaline, Cash, Freehan, Lolich, Horton, Brown, McLain, Trammel, Gibson, Morris, Fidrych, Smith and Anderson. And of course, there was always Ernie. He was the voice of Spring, a unique, comforting presence that could be heard in the air on warm summer evenings, painting word pictures that flowed out of transistor radios on pontoon boats coursing across Houghton Lake, describing the highs and lows as we watched the ebb and flow of a baseball team that was as much a part of who we were then as was the radio stations that provided the soundtrack of our lives.
The Tiger’s hall of fame play-by-play announcer may have cut his teeth in Atlanta and New York, but Ernie Harwell will forever be remembered as the voice of Detroit. In fact, it wouldn’t be opening day without a recitation of the poem Ernie intoned at the start of every season. Our Tigers play, today in the friendly confines of the beautiful Comerica Park. Tiger Stadium was razed nearly ten years to the day after the last out was called in September of 1999. But for the Keener generation, the edifice at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull lives on in our memories. And wherever you may be on opening day, you can be certain that “the voice of the turtle” will be heard again, wherever the Tigers call home.
And here’s an additional treat, the final inning of Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, followed by Ernie’s post game locker room interviews. Where were you when the Tigers earned the World Championship?