West puts Harwell's story to music
Longtime umpire pens tribute to late broadcaster
Longtime umpire Joe West paid tribute to legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell in the most heartfelt way he knows how: The "Cowboy" wrote Ernie a song.
West, known as Cowboy Joe for his love of country music and the fact that he's released several albums, co-wrote "A Tribute to Ernie Harwell" with Bill Slayback and Fred Rodgers and sang the song, which tracks the life and times of Harwell, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 92, while tracing his own upbringing in North Carolina with parents who fell in love with baseball through Harwell's broadcasts.
"When the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and the little boys dreamed," West sings, "Ernie Harwell told their story long before the TV screens. Mom and Dad watched the radio as if they could see a ballpark in their minds where the grass was always green."
Through the up-tempo, twangy country number, West mentions when the New York Giants played in the Polo Grounds and Harwell called Bobby Thomson's famed "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run that beat the Dodgers and sent the Giants to the 1951 World Series.
He also mentions former Tigers great Al Kaline and how Harwell became a Detroit icon as the world became more advanced and his parents were suddenly able to see Harwell's spoken pictures come to life in front of them on television.
West began playing and singing songs as a young man and has grown in his hobby to play at Texas nightclubs, in Nashville honky-tonks, and even alongside personal heroes such as Mickey Gilley, Merle Haggard, Box Car Willie, George Jones and Tanya Tucker.
"A Tribute to Ernie Harwell" is a clear labor of love from West to the memory of an iconic man who helped spark a family's -- and several generations of devoted fans' -- passion for America's pastime.
And as he often does, West takes the tribute to Harwell and infuses it with imagery of little boys dreaming of one day becoming big league stars, taking the listener back to the purity of baseball -- a kid's game.
"That's what it's all about," West told MLB.com in 2008. "I'm telling you, if you don't think those baseballs are made of gold, just bring a kid to a game."
Here are the full lyrics to "A Tribute to Ernie Harwell."
I talked to my Daddy last night about 1952. I'd heard about the good old days and I was wondering if it was true. Well, it must have been how he smiled, and his eyes looked into mine, I could tell he touched a memory as he told me of a time.
When the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and the little boys dreamed. Ernie Harwell told their story long before the TV screens, Mom and Dad watched the radio as if they could see, A ballpark in their minds where the grass was always green.
I talked to my mama last night about the way things used to be. She showed me a picture of her and some guy who looked like me. They were spellbound 'round the radio, it was there that was there in the den, And I wish that we could go back to those innocent times again.
Like when the Giants roamed the Polo Grounds and little boys dreamed, Ernie Harwell called the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" that we've all seen. Mom and Dad watched the radio as if they could see, A ballpark in their minds where the grass was always green.
Now, I know that time will change things, Then and now are day and night But memories are always larger than life, And it's all right here in black and white.
When Kaline roamed right field and the little boys dreamed, Ernie Harwell told their stories as they played on TV screens, Mom and Dad hung on every word 'cause now they could see That special place in Ernie's heart where the grass is always green. On the other side of memory's fence where the grass is always green.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.