ALL'S WELL, ENDS WELL FOR HARWELL.
Before Ernie Harwell calls it a career - and he's making the call this time instead of Bo Schembechler - please find a way to listen to him do a Detroit Tigers' game on their radio network, even if it means getting it over the Internet via tin can and string.
Wouldn't hurt to pick up his new biography, either.
The 84-year-old Hall of Fame play-by-play man, who started his major-league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and two years later created a vacancy that was filled by Vin Scully, decided before this season that this would be his last in the booth.
And baseball loses another treasured voice.
In Southern California this week for the Tigers' series with the Angels, Harwell doesn't have second thoughts about making that choice.
``I feel I could go another five years because I love my job, but you have to stop somewhere, and it's better to do it too soon than too late,'' said Harwell, in his sweet Georgia sound. ``There's the old saying, 'I heard your last broadcast and it shoulda been.' I don't want people saying that.''
You might remember that after the 1991 season, though, the Tigers management decided it was time to force Harwell's retirement. Schembechler, the former Michigan football coach who became the team's president in a somewhat quirky career change, was the one ultimately who had to tell Harwell of the move.
That chapter in Harwell's career is the first in his book ``Ernie Harwell, My 60 Years in Baseball'' (Triumph Books, $24.95, 290 pages) co-authored with former Orange County Register baseball writer Tom Keegan. The title of the chapter: ``A Gentleman Wronged.''
``I've always felt most things happen for the good, and it was a traumatic time for me, but it helped my career in a lot of ways,'' said Harwell, who did some Angels radio games during the one season he was ``unemployed'' - the Tigers rehired him in '93. ``I wasn't just 'that old guy who used to do Tigers games,' but it was sort of humbling and exhilarating anyone cared that much.
``What it shows is that no matter who the person, after you've been in a region of the country, people get to know you and feel like you're part of the family and the conduit. Just like Vinny does out here. It's sort of like the office that the guy holds when he's a broadcaster.''
--Take that back: One of the chapters in Harwell's book is about all the broadcasters he's mentored over the years. One of them happened to be a Central Michigan graduate who was working in the San Fernando Valley as a college professor and baseball coach.
Dick Enberg contacted Harwell in the early '60s and asked for a visit when he was in town. Harwell invited him to Dodger Stadium to sit in the booth for a Tigers-Angels game.
``I can do a better job than a lot of the announcers I hear today,'' Enberg told Harwell. ``I'm teaching now and helping coach our Northridge baseball team, but I still believe I can be a competent announcer.''
Within a few years, Enberg was on the Rams telecasts for KTLA Channel 5. A few years later, he was offered the job as the Angels play-by-play man and consulted again with Harwell.
``I'm not sure I want to try it,'' Enberg told him. ``With football, I haven't been away from home very much, but the baseball schedule demands a lot of traveling. I have a good marriage and I don't know what effect travel might have on it.''
Replied Harwell: ``I certainly wouldn't worry about travel. A good marriage can certainly withstand those difficulties. ... Doing baseball day-to-day will be a great showcase for you. And it can lead to all kinds of success.''
Enberg's career took off, but his marriage ended before that first baseball season was over.
``So much for my marital advice,'' writes Harwell, who's been hitched to his college sweetheart, Lulu, coming up on 62 years.
--``Apple Pie,'' an ESPN Original Production saluting the moms of star athletes. Included in the 90-minute tribute that airs Sunday (ESPN Classic, 4:30 p.m.) is a piece on the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal and his mother, Lucille Harrison, who gave birth to her son when she was 17 (O'Neal is her maiden name). She's a ``quiet spectator'' when she watches him play, but she didn't used to be. ``I used to yell at the refs quite often because it seems like they were seeing a different game,'' she said. ``Shaquille gets beat up a lot in the paint. Of course, I don't like what I see, but I learned how to be quiet because it doesn't change.''
--The Jell-o isn't jiggling - his head is. The Chick Hearn bobblehead ($24.99) is just at Just Sports USA stores (Camarillo, Northridge, Torrance and West Covina) or Item No. 152415 on their Web site, www.justsportsstore.com. Does it really look like Chick? Does it really matter?
--Vin Scully line of the week: During the Dodgers-Braves telecast Wednesday, he described the new cordless set of goggles available to rent for $20 at Turner Field that allow people to watch seven TV channels if they're bored with the contest on the field. ``We're losing the art of conversation at home anyway,'' Scully said. ``Now what's going to happen?''
--Done looking at Fox Sports' Lisa Guerrero's bikini spread in Thursday's U Entertainment section of the Daily News? We suspect she could have turned down the offer, but taking it only furthers the perception that unfortunately female sportscasters of the future will be judged more on appearance and less on the quality of their work. By the way, what ever happened to former Fox reporters Alex Flannagan or Sam Marchiano? Maybe current Fox ``reporters'' Lisa Dergan (www.playboy.com/playmates/personal/lisadergan/) or Leeann Tweeden (www.leeannonline.com) know.
--Fox has been complaining that a new service offered on MLB.com called ``Condensed Games'' is undermining its regional broadcasts. The service, for $4.95 a month, compresses a contest into about 20 minutes in a 300K video stream. MLB has responded that half the 5,000 people who subscribe are those who are ``geographically displaced'' or those who have scheduling conflicts and want to see the game. Meanwhile, the commissioner's office reported Thursday that games on ESPN, ESPN2 and TBS had a combined 52.96 million viewers for baseball games during April, up 30.7 percent from a year ago.
no caption (book: ``Ernie Harwell, My 60 Years in Baseball'')
SOUND BYTES (see text)