Harwell said cozy Tiger Stadium "was like Ebbets [Field in Brooklyn] only bigger, but fans were like the Giants' — a history missing in Brooklyn. This was really the best park of all."
In 1981 he won the Ford Frick Award, given annually to a broadcaster by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
But in 1991, the Detroit institution was forced out. Former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who had been hired as the Tigers' president, was seen by some as the villain in the saga and blamed for trying to end Harwell's Detroit career.
Instead of saying he would retire at the end of the season as Schembechler reportedly wanted, Harwell held a news conference in December 1990 to announce that he had been fired. He finished the 1991 season with Detroit, then broadcast for CBS and the Angels in 1992.
By 1993, the Tigers had a new owner and a familiar voice back in the broadcast booth.
"I was flabbergasted by the reaction," Harwell recalled in a 2002 salon.com story. "I thought there'd be a little ripple; maybe somebody'd call the ballpark, say, 'Who was that guy who used to do the game?' and stuff like that. Well, maybe a little more than that."
Harwell was not only a broadcaster but also an author and songwriter.
When the Tigers reached the World Series in 1968, management asked him to recommend artists to sing the national anthem. Harwell suggested Marvin Gaye, Margaret Whiting and Jose Feliciano. Feliciano's unconventional, stylized rendition created a storm of controversy.
Harwell is survived by his wife of 68 years, Lulu; sons Bill and Gray; daughters Julie and Carolyn; and grandchildren.
Times staff writers Kevin Baxter and James Peltz contributed to this report.