Celebrities turn out for Fall Classic
Harwell, Kaline, Horton and Seger take center stage in Motown
DETROIT -- It takes a mega-superstar to upstage anyone in a baseball uniform this time of year.
Every move the players and managers make during the World Series -- whether they're stretching, taking batting practice or playing -- is watched by thousands in person and millions worldwide.
The attention during batting practice on Saturday at Comerica Park was focused mainly on the field, but off to the sidelines was a legendary figure whose presence did not go unnoticed.
Ernie Harwell, Hall of Fame broadcaster and the voice of the Tigers for more than four decades as part of a 55-year career, was typically unassuming and humble as he took in the scene at his home ballpark. But it didn't take long before he was besieged by reporters and baseball figures, many of whom hadn't seen the now-retired Harwell in a number of years.
Having witnessed the very best and worst of Tigers history, Harwell was thrilled for the fortunes of the 2006 American League champions.
"It's been so long since we've been in the playoffs, and it's even sweeter now because of how long it had been since we'd had a good season," Harwell said. "I'm excited. It's wonderful. We've had more excitement about this pennant race than any one we've had here. Maybe because the come-from-behind aspect is so strong. They surprised everybody."
Harwell, who will turn 89 in January, was one of several key Tigers figures who was asked to participate in Saturday's pregame ceremony at Comerica Park. Harwell delivered the first game ball to the mound, accompanied by a member of the Boys & Girls Club.
"If I want to, I might take that ball with me and they won't have a game," Harwell joked prior to the event. "I'm going to take my ball and go home. That'll throw them off, won't it?"
No such luck. Harwell, gracious as always, waved to the crowd amid chants of "Ernie! Ernie!"
Harwell's appearance followed the ceremonial first pitches, thrown by two legendary Tigers: Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline, who played for Detroit from 1953-74, and outfielder Willie Horton, who played in the Motor City for 15 of his 18 big-league seasons, from 1963-77.
Kaline and Horton were accompanied to the mound by Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.
Detroit native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Seger sang "America the Beautiful," an assignment he was more than happy to accept when baseball officials asked him to participate in the World Series pomp and circumstance a few weeks ago.
"It's such a miracle story," Seger said. "Words can't explain how happy we are for the team and the fans and the city. It's incredible to watch."
The pregame ceremony also included the unfurling of a giant American flag, which stretched from corner to corner in the outfield. The crowd was also treated to a flyover of two F-18s.
The musical portion of Game 1 of the Fall Classic concluded with the singing of "God Bless America" by Jennifer Hudson of "American Idol" fame.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.