"When you talk Tigers, you talk him," Bud Somerville, a 54-year-old Westland man who had waited outside the stadium all night to be first in line to get in, told The Detroit News. "Ernie was baseball."
Somerville said he met Harwell in 1998 when invited to a game with his oldest son, who was about to leave for the Air Force.
"He said his seat in the press box was the greatest seat in baseball," Somerville said. "I sat in it, and it was great."
Another fan, Roddy Hogan, 55, of Redford Township, who was second in line, said Harwell "is with the No. 1 announcer in the sky."
At least a couple of hundred people were in line when the gate was opened for an all-day viewing to allow them to pay their respects to the man who was the voice of the Tigers for four decades. Mourners walked by his coffin, which was flanked by flowers and photos of the sportscaster, and Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski greeted them.
Dombrowski said Harwell had appeared at peace with the subject of his own death when they had talked last fall about a memorial last fall.
"I think it was because he knew where he was going," Dombrowski quipped during a news conference.
"He is a legend, really. He brought people together."