Dark Days for Ernie Harwell’s Baseball Collection
Famed broadcaster Ernie Harwell accumulated amazing sports collectibles and mementos over his lifetime. When he gifted them to the Detroit Public Library, he hoped they could be enjoyed by many. Even after his death, they are not being given the reverence they deserve. The collection, with an estimated value of $4 million, should be prominently displayed but the library has done to little to honor the extensive collection or the man who gave them.
The recent layoff of the main caretaker for the collection further complicates a situation where poor organization and limited resources are squandering a bundle of historic items. Theft has also been an issue for the collection. An employee was fired four years ago for stealing cards. Although cards were returned when the theft was discovered, there is no way to be certain if all the cards made there way back to the library due to a limited database.
The collection includes many baseball cards, at least 13,000 photographs, 100,000 newspaper clippings and years of team correspondence. Specific items include four Tiger Stadium seats and microphones from Harwell's days with the Tigers. There is no way of knowing exactly what the collection holds because there is no process in place for the items that sit mostly boxed in a back storage room.
In 2004, "The Lulu and Ernie Harwell Display Room" was opened as a permanent exhibit to house the collection. Sadly, the room only contains about ten percent of the collection and the lights remain off most days. After the thefts, access was restricted and the appointment-only exhibit had just 500 visitors in 2010.
Ernie Harwell was a beloved broadcaster and the voice of several teams throughout baseball. Although mainly remembered for his years with the Detroit Tigers, Harwell also spent time as the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles and California Angels.