Friday, April 9, 2010

The Voice of Summer: Ernie Harwell Tribute

Tivoli Audio Model One AM / FM Table Radio, Classic / WalnutThe radio. For me, it's more than just background noise, and during baseball season, it's a constant companion who's always there for me seven months out of every year (eight if you include spring training games). In the days before the Internet and cell phones, listening to baseball on the radio was the only way to keep up with your team.

Whether you were at home, in the car, with a hidden earpiece connected to a transistor radio during school, at work, or in bed late at night listening to West coast games, the crackling of distant lightning strikes making it only that much more authentic and real, baseball on the radio was always by my side.

I recently read about a Detroit Tigers fan who had the same appreciation for radio and baseball and his team's announcer.

Twenty years ago, Lansing, Michigan native Ben Hassenger put his musical talents to use in writing a terrific song about the legendary and Hall of Fame announcer of the Detroit Tigers; Ernie Harwell.

The song "The Voice of Summer" by Ben Hassenger is a sweet sounding tune which instantly warms one's heart and tells about the singer's best friend who was always with him through all the important moments in his life.
Hassenger sings.."The voice of Summer, is calling on my radio, what I'd ever do without him, I don't want to know."
Sounding to me like it would fit snugly into any Subdudes album, "The Voice of Summer" frolicks along like its dancing through a lifetime of memories and steps together lightly with harmonica stylings and sweet guitar strumming. A perfect song for a warm Summer night on the back porch highlighted by some tea lights.

>> Download the song, "The Voice of Summer" for free <<

Hassenger states in a recent column at The ...

Growing up a Tigers fan and listening to Harwell call Tigers games his whole life, Hassenger said he always saw Harwell as a special person.

“He’s one of those guys that seems like your favorite uncle or grandfather,” Hassenger said. “And he’s like that when you meet him. He’s genuine and he won’t let you down.”

After originally writing “Voice of Summer” during his summer off in the ’80s, Hassenger and his band Mystic Shake redid the song in 2002 — the year Harwell retired.

Toward the end of the 2002 baseball season, Hassenger tried to gain exposure for the song by sending it to radio stations and other media outlets in Detroit. He also dropped a CD off at the broadcast booth in Comerica Park for Harwell, not thinking anything would come of it, until one day he received a call from the Tigers legend.

“He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate you writing that song about me. I’m honored,’” Hassenger said. “I’m going ‘Geez, I listened to you my whole life, I’m honored that you called.’ Obviously it made my day.”

BSOD 4/9/2010: The Voice Of Summer
Artist: Ben Hassenger
Released: 1980?? (to be determined)

Voice of Summer Lyrics
Words and music by Ben Hassenger

The first voices I remember
Were those of my mom & dad
The second voice turned out to be
The best friend I ever had
Everywhere I'd go
And everything I'd do
I was never far from my radio
Listening to the orange & blue

And the voice of summer
He’s calling on my radio
What I'd ever do without him
I don't want to know
I guess that I'd be left there standing like a house by the side of the road
Without the voice of summer on my radio

He followed me through high school
And on to college too
And that night I cried when my grandfather died
He was there to fill his shoes
I learned so much about the game
From the stories he would share
When I couldn't make it to the park
He'd make me feel like I was there

He's the voice of summer
Calling on my radio
What I'd ever do without him
I don't want to know
I guess that I'd be left there standing
Like a house by the side of the road
Without the voice of summer on my radio

Staying up past my bedtime
Praying for some instant runs
Wondering how he ever knew
Where all the people in the park were from

The time's they are a'changin
Nothing seems to be the same
No more crowds at Michigan and Trumbull
And only millionaires play the game
But some things should last forever
At least that how I'd like them to stay
I'll hear Ernie inside my head
Every time I watch the Tigers play

He's the voice of summer
Calling on my radio
What I'd ever do without him
I don't want to know
I guess that I'd be left there standing like a house by the side of the road
Without the voice of summer on my radio

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Note: BSOD got in contact with Ben about his wonderful songs and he was kind enough to send the lyrics along right before heading out for Opening Day at Comerica Park.  (Tigers won 5-2).  Ben has also written another "Tiger tune" called "The Corner", which is a tribute to old Tiger Stadium.  I'm sure we'll catch up with Ben again to find out more about that song, and to answer a few baseball related questions that we had for him.  As they say in baseball, it's a marathon, not a sprint, so the season is still young.

As Mel Allen used to say, "How 'bout that?"  Ben quickly responded to us not long after the Tiger's Opening Day victory with answers to our questions:

1.  What's your favorite baseball song (besides your own of course)?

The first one that comes to mind is Chuck Brodsky's "Letters in the Dirt" ; he grew up a Phillies fan and wrote this amazing song about Ritchie Allen and the prejudice he faced (  He's written a bunch of great baseball tunes, but this is probably my favorite of his. Of course "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (check out my uke version at: and "Centerfield", but there are a whole bunch more great baseball tunes. Jeff Campbell and his "Hungry for Music" organization has put together some nice collections called "Diamond Cuts":

Detroit Tigers - Great - Gibson - 1984 World Series - Wood Mounted Poster Print 2.  Would the 1984 Tigers have won if they played the 1984 Cubs instead of the Padres?  (Yes, as a cub fan the '84 season still hurts).

I love the Cubbies too and wanted to see an I-94 World Series, but the Tigers would have killed them. The Cubs lost to the Padres, who were then swept by Detroit. The World Series title was their destiny in '84. that 35-5 start was amazing.  

3.  Trammel and Whitaker, should either be in the Hall of Fame?

Maybe Trammell. Jack Morris should probably be in there too, both have statistics that are better than some of the players enshrined. I'll see if I can use my newfound clout to get them in :)

4.  Since you wrote another song about Old Tiger's Stadium, what do you miss most about it?

Tiger Stadium (there's only one, not an old or new) was a special place for me and many other fans. Things I'll remember most include:

* Walking up that long dark tunnel to the bleacher entrance where the bright blue sky and emerald green field greeted you

* The many friends I met there in the bleachers

* The 1-0 win over the Blue Jays in the last game of the regular season in 1987 that clinched the pennant for Detroit

* The walk through the old neighborhood of Corktown on my way to the park

* The final game in 1999, I sat in the stands with many other fans long after the game was over, we didn't want to say goodbye

BSOD Editor's Note: "I went to a game at Detroit in the early 1990's and a memory I have of the game is Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's politely giving the fans the middle finger.  I state politely because first of all, the Tigers' fans were heckling him to no end, and this included many curse words.  Rickey didn't respond for the first few innings, and then at one point, bent over with his glove and throwing hand on each knee, and looked intently towards home plate, and then put his hand behind his back and flipped the bird to the left field hecklers."

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