To so many Tigers fans, Ernie Harwell's voice was the Detroit Tigers. And most everyone in the community felt as if they'd lost a family member when the broadcasting legend passed away in May. His life and career are certainly worthy of being recreated on a theater stage.
Last Thursday, Detroit Free Press columnist (and author) Mitch Albom announced that he intends to write that play. The show will be titled "Ernie" and is expected to debut in March 2011, just before the Tigers begin a new season. Keeping in that spirit, the play will be staged at the City Theatre, right near Comerica Park.
Apparently, this project is something Harwell and his longtime friend S. Gary Spicer had been discussing for years. And Albom is the person they had in mind to bring the idea to life. He has written three plays, one of which was a stage adaptation of his book, "Tuesdays With Morrie."
Albom says this is a play for Detroit, and doesn't intend to take the production around the country.
"I'm really writing this for Detroit," Albom said. "My eyes aren't on Broadway or taking this anywhere else. ... This is my tribute to somebody I really admired."
Casting for the production will begin in November. Good luck to the actor portraying Harwell for metro Detroit audiences.
And now, please indulge me for one editorial note:. I don't doubt that Albom genuinely wants to compose a tribute to Harwell as a way of honoring his friend and sharing that with fans throughout the region. Though I wince at the flowery author Albom has become (and my inner 16-year-old that idolized Albom weeps all the time), this might actually be a beautiful work.
But when Albom's Freep colleague John Lowe writes something like this, it's all I can do to keep from gagging:
"Sometimes in sports, we are blessed with a perfect pairing of writer and subject.
There was the New Yorker's A.J. Liebling on 1950s boxing.
There was John Updike on Ted Williams.
There was Ken Dryden peering through his goalie's mask and bringing unprecedented illumination to hockey in his book 'The Game.'
And now Mitch Albom is writing a play on Ernie Harwell."
I'm sorry, did I call Albom's writing flowery? Lowe went completely grandiloquent there.
Maybe the two are good friends after working together at the Freep for so long, and surely spending many evenings together in the Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park press boxes. But that's laying it on pretty thick.
Let's just hope Albom can live up to those comparisons and write the sort of play that everyone who loved Ernie Harwell can enjoy.