The Twins reached the final game with the potential to sweep for the fifth time in eight three-game series. They had failed in the previous four opportunities and were leading 3-2 in the fourth inning on Wednesday at blustery Target Field.
J.J. Hardy, Tuesday's hero, was scratched because of a sore wrist. This put Alexi Casilla in the lineup for the second time in 28 games. Detroit starter Rick Porcello committed the grievous sin of walking Casilla with two outs in the fourth.
Nick Punto followed with a fly ball to deep right-center. Rookie right fielder Brennan Boesch got there without much trouble, then the ball popped from Boesch's glove.
Casilla scored and Punto reached third on the error. Denard Span followed with a bouncer that was oléd into an RBI single by shortstop Ramon Santiago.
Detroit's generosity had upped the Twins' lead to 5-2. They would hold for a 5-4 victory and this season's first sweep.
When the fourth was over, a reporter approached Jim Price, a Tigers radio announcer, and asked what the great Ernie Harwell might have said to avoid being overly harsh toward young Boesch.
"Ernie would've said, 'We told you about the wind earlier today, and it could have played tricks with that ball, and it's an error that has cost the Tigers,'" Price said.
Harwell died Tuesday at 92. He had been a Tigers announcer on radio, TV or both from 1960 through 2002, with the exception of 1992. WJR radio announced in December 1990 that the 1991 season would be Harwell's last on Tigers broadcasts.
The Detroit fans raised what a southern gent such as Mr. Harwell might have called "Holy Hades," going so far as to protest the decision at Red Wings games. The decision stood for 1992, before Ernie returned as part of the radio broadcast in 1993.
He was on Tigers telecasts from 1994 through 1997, with Price as his partner. "It wasn't the same for Ernie on television," Price said. "He loved radio, and painting the picture for the fans."
Harwell went back into the radio booth with Price as his partner for his last few years with the Tigers. His producer for decades on WJR had been Howard Stitzel.
"Howard was a year older than Harwell, so he called Ernie 'The Kid,'" Price said. "We worked out of a booth in Tiger Stadium that was right on top of the plate. Ernie called it 'The Doghouse.' If it was cold, Ernie would walk in the booth and say, 'Mr. Price, we have to huddle up tonight.'"
Price announced Harwell's death to his Tigers audience during Tuesday night's game. He knew it was coming because of Harwell's yearlong duel with terminal cancer.
"I got back to my hotel [in Minneapolis] after the game and spent most of the night thinking about Ernie," Price said. "And it struck me: In all the time I spent with him, I never heard Ernie complain, or say that he didn't feel good.
"What a great way to live -- without a complaint."
Price paused. He smiled.
"There were a couple of things," Price said. "Ernie didn't like it when the pregame shows kept getting longer. He wanted to come on, give the lineups and start announcing a ballgame. And when the Tigers started shooting off fireworks, he would hustle from the stadium.
"We had some secret stairs from the Doghouse to get out of the stadium. When the game was over, Ernie was gone. He would be on the road, listening to me trying to do the wrap-up over the fireworks, and he would laugh all the way home."
Harwell had two reminders that Price said he heard almost daily: "Ernie would say, 'Jim, the game's what matters, not the announcers,' and also, 'The team that gets the most runs wins.'"
What the Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster was telling his partner was that broadcasters weren't there to scream or complain about umpiring but rather to describe the action and give credit where due.
For me, the most memorable Harwell moment as a broadcaster came in May 1984. The Tigers -- in what would be a World Series-winning season -- were off to a fantastic start. I was listening to WJR late one night when Detroit won in Anaheim.
Harwell gave the totals, the details of the Tigers' latest streak, mentioned matter-of-factly they were now 35-5 and then added in low-key tribute, "What a ballclub."
A single "what a ballclub" from Ernie Harwell was better-earned than all the superlatives a home team can get from a modern-day yelper in a full season.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • email@example.com