Ernie Harwell, longtime announcer for the Detroit Tigers, was the 1981 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
Harwell made his major league debut in 1948 after becoming the only broadcaster who ever figured in a baseball trade. Earl Mann, President of the Atlanta Crackers, agreed to let him go to Brooklyn if Branch Rickey would send Montreal catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta to manage the club. Harwell also worked for the New York Giants and for the Baltimore Orioles before coming to Detroit in 1960.
Harwell's two biggest thrills as an announcer were Bobby Thomson's playoff homer in 1951 and Hoyt Wilhelm's 1958 no-hitter against the Yankees. Harwell was doing the first coast-to-coast telecast of a major sporting event when Thomson connected. Ernie remembers blurting "It's gone" as Thomson swung, and then sweating it out as he waited for the ball to clear the fence. His excellent account of Wilhelm's no-hitter is in the Hall of Fame's library, as is his well-known essay, "Baseball—A Game for All America," a tribute to baseball.
Harwell places "wearability" at the top of his list of requisites for broadcasting success. "You're visiting so many homes for three hours every day or night that you have to be yourself."
1981 Ford C. Frick Award Winner Ernie Harwell - BL-4594-2000 (Eisner/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)