Detroit Tigers: Happy Birthday Ernie, Meet the Prince

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Detroit Tigers: Happy Birthday Ernie, Meet the Prince
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Ernie Harwell at his final farewell from the broadcast booth. Ernie would have been 94, January 25TH 2012.

Big Cecil Fielder steps up to the plate with a chance to put the Tigers ahead—CRACK—Fielder hits one deep, and that ball is long, long gone.

Two decades ago, that’s what Tigers' fans were cheering about as Cecil Fielder was chasing 50 home runs in 1990. Nothing was better than listening to the crackling sound of Hall of Fame announcer, Ernie Harwell, calling it out.

When the sun rises in the East in Motown tomorrow morning on January 25, die-hard Harwell fans will be smiling. So will Ernie as he looks down on his Detroit Tigers, celebrating what would have been his 94th birthday. On the eve of Harwell’s birth, the Tigers gave the old-gamer a real nice birthday present and it was a surprise to everyone.

Sure, it cost Mike Ilitch, the Tigers’ owner, a fat payroll increase (to the tune of $214 million), but it was a present I’m sure he didn’t mind splurging for.

Can you see him up there smiling down on Detroit?: Ear-to-ear grin and enjoying the sight of the city in celebration. The sounds of the Tigers’ faithful preaching to one another about what a shot in the arm this is for the boys of summer after the unexpected loss of slugger Victor Martinez following an offseason ACL injury?

Journalists are supposed to write copy using the last name of the individual after the first full use of their name, but with Harwell sportswriters were afforded a rarity. That's something Harwell himself would have preferred. They simply called him Ernie.

Odds are it won’t be too long before Tigers’ fans will reminisce about the younger Fielder’s father, making comparisons and plenty of contrasts, while hearing echoes of Ernie calling out “Big Cecil’s” long shots.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
National League rivals become American League foes, Albert Pujols and Cecil Fielder jumped ship from the NL to the AL this off-season, earning huge contracts and shooting them into MVP contention out of the gate.

And then it will happen. Another “true” one-name Tiger will begin his Motor City prowl. He will simply be Prince, if for no other reason, than the thousands of articles that will be written in the next several weeks about the former and the latter Fielder, in an effort to avoid redundancy and confusion.

On his 94th birthday, Ernie can celebrate with Prince.

It would have been interesting to hear Ernie’s perspective on the Tigers’ blockbuster deal. What would he have thought about the signing of the son of a Tigers' hero?

After all, Prince’s daddy hit 319-career home runs, 245 in the Old English D. At Prince’s rate, he’ll have surpassed the old man three years into a nine-year deal. No doubt, Cecil Fielder was a fan favorite, a three-time All-Star and the only Tigers' player to hit 50-plus home runs—other than Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.

Since then, 24 different times a player has hit 50 or more home runs. The list includes Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez more than once. It also includes the name of the son of Cecil Fielder, Prince.

Prince will have to do his father, not one better, but two. In 1990, Cecil Fielder hit numbers 50 and 51 during the final game of the season. Seventeen years later Prince pounded 50 on the dot. So, Prince, too needs to at least double-up on the 50-plus home runs on a season list to have a chance at surpassing the former Tiger great. Except, for the most part, this is where the comparison between father and son ends—it is where it should end.

Prince Fielder has the potential to become a perennial All-Star, a career double-digit All-Star, an American League MVP and perhaps even more. His potential longitudinally far outweighs that of his father's.

Cecil Fielder had three outstanding seasons for the Tigers. Another three pretty darn good seasons as well, but that was it. He was a career .255-hitter.

Prince, in seven Major League Baseball seasons, has a career .282-clip at the plate. He has hit 30-plus home runs in five of his seven years in the bigs—a feat his dad achieved only one more time than him in over 13 seasons. Prince is in his prime. He is set to take off into the stratosphere. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the guys around him in the order, and what it will do for Miguel Cabrera.

What would Ernie say about the Tigers lineup? One, which at some point, will include Victor Martinez, not to mention guys like Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta, as well.

Would he say that it could be the best ever in Tigers’ lore? Fans will have all of the 2012 season to think about things to come—and they will.

But for now, we have a birthday to celebrate. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Happy Birthday Ernie. Meet the Prince.

*All statistical information provided by BaseballReference.com 

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