DETROIT --- Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, a Washington, Ga., native beloved by generations of fans who grew up listening to his rich voice, Southern cadence and quirky phrases on the radio, died Tuesday after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 92.
Harwell died at his home in Novi, about 30 miles northwest of Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press .
Harwell, who was born Jan. 25, 1918, in Washington, called Tigers games for four-plus decades. He said in September that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the bile duct.
Shortly after his announcement, the Tigers honored Harwell during a game against Kansas City, showing a video tribute and giving him a chance to address the crowd at Comerica Park.
"In my almost 92 years on this Earth, the good Lord has blessed me with a great journey," Harwell said at a microphone behind home plate. "The blessed part of that journey is that it's going to end here in the great state of Michigan."
Harwell spent 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting with the Tigers. He missed two games outside of the '92 season: one for his brother's funeral in 1968, the other when he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1989.
Harwell's broadcast roots dug all the way to his hometown in Wilkes County, where as a 5-year-old boy he would sit on the counter at Doc Green's drug store on Main Street and entertain the local men with his tongue-tied rendition of the day's radio announcers.
In 2008, he returned to Washington where he was honored with Ernie Harwell Day on the eve of his induction in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. He spoke to a crowd of more than 150 at the Pope Center.
One of those in attendance was Tom Duggan, a Washington resident whose maternal grandmother was the first cousin of Harwell's mother.
"He didn't come in all big and special. It was like he never lost that connection, and he's been gone from the South for a long time," Duggan said.
Duggan learned the news of Harwell's death Tuesday night when it was delivered by Atlanta Braves announcers during a game.
"It's so sad to hear," he said. "I knew he'd been ill for awhile and I guess it's a blessing that his suffering is over."