What Ernie Harwell Meant To Torey Lovullo
In 1989 after Torey Lovullo excelled in spring training with the Detroit Tigers, Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson called him “the finest young player I’ve seen since Johnny Bench.”
Anderson made Lovullo his starting first baseman on Opening Day and told reporters that “I’ll die before he comes out of the lineup.”
Lovullo began the season 0-for-20.
By the middle of May, Torey was hitting .115 when he was finally pulled from the starting lineup. Sparky Anderson didn’t die, but the ordeal was killing Lovullo.
One of the reasons he got through it was Tigers radio announcer Ernie Harwell.
“I was a young player on a very veteran team with a veteran manager in Sparky Anderson and Ernie sensed that I was kind of by myself as a young rookie,” Lovullo told me. “So he would invite me out to dinner on the road and invite me up to his home to have dinner with his wife Lulu. I took him up on it. I didn’t realize just how special that was until I was out of Detroit and people would ask, ‘What do you think of Ernie Harwell, is he a good guy?’ and I would say, ‘He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met.’ He was like my baseball dad. I’ll never forget that.
“He was probably in his late 60′s or early 70′s and I was a 23-year-old rookie, but he could talk enough about my generation to make me feel comfortable. I went over to his house for dinner and felt comfortable doing it. In most instances at that age, if an older man asked you to dinner you might feel intimidated, but that was not the case with Ernie. My appreciation for him has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. At the time I just needed a friend and that’s all that mattered.”
Ernie Harwell died on Tuesday at the age of 92.
“There was warmth in this man’s heart and you felt it as a player,” Lovullo said. “I’m really going to miss him.”
* * * * *
Perhaps it’s not saying too much since the PawSox have only won 10 games so far, but Tuesday’s victory at Gwinnett was the most enjoyable of the season to date.
It looked like the PawSox were going to drop all four games at Coolray Field for the second straight year when they entered the 9th inning trailing 5-4.
But Aaron Bates and Lars Anderson ignited a comeback when they began the ninth with back-to-back walks.
After a bunt by Dusty Brown advanced the runners. Bubba Bell drove in the tying run with a sac fly, and Josh Reddick knocked in the winning run with a clutch two-out single.
It certainly made the 4-hour bus ride to Charlotte more enjoyable.
In addition to the 9th inning rally, it was a treat to see Lars Anderson’s first Triple-A homer – a majestic blast that landed 20 to 30 feet beyond the wall in right field.
Lars has a hit, walk, or HBP in all 5 starts for Pawtucket, and a .500 OBP since being promoted to Triple-A.
* * * * *
On Wednesday, the PawSox will enjoy their first scheduled off day of the season.
It’s about time!
Since the team is on the road and the guys won’t be able to spend the day with their wives and girlfriends, PawSox owner Ben Mondor is determined to make sure that everybody has a great time. He is footing the bill for a team dinner at a local steakhouse beginning at 7:00 pm.
I can’t tell you how many times he’s done something like that since I’ve worked for the team. You couldn’t work for a better boss.
I won’t be able to attend the party because I am heading back to Boston for the day for a belated birthday celebration for my son Sam.
I love a free steak, but I can’t wait to see the handsome lad.
* * * * *
Pawtucket opens a 4-game series on Thursday night at Charlotte beginning at 7:15.
I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard