MSU Wharton hosts ‘Ernie – The Play,’ catch it before it’s ‘looooong gone’
By Larry Hook
The Lookout Adviser
“Ernie – The Play,” a tribute to legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell, is returning to The Wharton Center at Michigan State University.
Following a sellout engagement last August, the play will run Wednesday, Aug. 24 through Saturday, Aug. 27 in the Pasant Theatre at Wharton. Show times are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.
Tickets for all seats are $32 and can be purchased by calling 1-800-WHARTON or by visiting www.whartoncenter.com.
“Ernie – The Play” was written by Detroit sports writer and radio host Mitch Albom following Harwell’s death in 2010. According to Albom it is the most attended play in Detroit history, having entertained over 80,000 theater-goers during the past four summer.
The play recounts the life of Harwell. It is set on Harwell’s last night at Comerica Park – Sept. 16, 2009. That was the evening he gave his farewell speech to Tigers fans after revealing he was battling cancer.
“Ernie’s story transcends sports,” Albom said. “It’s a story of 20th-Century Americana, and a love affair with baseball and a childhood sweetheart.
“Ernie went through the Depression, World War II (and) the segregation of sports. He also called some of the grandest moments ever witnessed on a ballfield. It’s an honor to bring such a rich character to the stage – especially for so many fans who loved him.”
The play stars Peter Carey as Harwell, and T.J. Corbett as “the unusual boy.”
Carey, an MSU graduate who turns 60 on opening night at Wharton Center, has been starring as Harwell for three years. He grew up in the Metro Detroit area listening to Harwell calling Tiger games on the radio.
A former radio host, Carey said he got acquainted with Harwell in 1981 while working on a movie called “Tiger Town.” He worked with him on many occasions after that.
“He was quite the wonderful individual,” Carey said. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him and get to know him.”
Carey described how the play recreates “nine innings” of Harwell’s life.
“It take place on the evening of his farewell speech at Comerica Park,” Carey explained. “Ernie was an extremely humble person; he didn’t like the spotlight shined on him. He liked to highlight everybody else. Well, this was his tribute, his farewell, at Comerica Park. He really didn’t want to do it.
“So as he’s starting to leave, this mysterious young boy appears and he coaxes (Harwell) into doing the broadcast of his life, in nine innings. They start with Ernie at 8 years old and go all the way up to the final speech. That’s how the play ends.”
Carey said he is proud to be a part of a successful play honoring such an icon as Harwell.
“We get standing ovations all the time,” Carey said. “I realize it’s not for me. It’s because they love Ernie and they love us bringing him back to them and sharing the joy once again.”
The play features actual footage from historic baseball moments, supplied courtesy of Major League Baseball, and boasts many unmistakable Harwell calls, including “looooong gone” and “two for the price of one.”
Viewers will get glimpses of the times that Harwell met Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. They will also witness how he “recreated” games in his early days, and what was behind his broadcasts of the Tigers’ 1968 and 1984 World Series wins.
There will be a special VIP meet-and-greet session with Mitch Albom, on opening night only, with tickets priced at $70.
For more information, go to www.whartoncenter.com.