Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Paul Carey, 1928-2016

When you think, "The Voice of the Detroit Tigers," the legendary Ernie Harwell comes to mind. But it was his partner who knew them better, because, unlike the Georgia gentleman Harwell, he was a fan of theirs first.

Paul Carey -- apparently, no middle name -- was born on March 15, 1928 in the Detroit suburb of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He went to Central Michigan University, transferring to Michigan State University. When WCEN, 94.5 FM, went on the air in 1949, he was part of its first broadcast staff, including broadcasting CMU football games. This was interrupting when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

In 1956, he joined the announcing staff at Detroit station WJR, and became assistant sports director in 1958. He became known throughout Michigan for his scoreboard show for high school football and basketball.

In 1964, he became the main producer for the Detroit Tigers Radio Network, including their 1968 World Championship. The announcing team was Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane. In 1973, Lane left (he juggled several sportscasting jobs, and was eventually brought back by the Tigers), so Carey became the Hall-of-Famer Harwell's partner, and remained so until 1991, when the two of them were "retired."

"Maybe one of the reasons we got along so well is that there was quite a difference in our personalities and approaches," he said. "Ernie got up early and exercised early. I got up late as I could, and exercised as little as I could. I'm a worrier. Ernie was not. He didn't fret. Again, maybe that's why we got along so well. We weren't finishing each other's sentences."
Ernie and Paul in the broadcast booth at Tiger Stadium

Carey also did pregame and postgame shows for the Detroit Lions, and, occasionally, games of the Detroit Pistons. But he's best remembered for the Tigers. He called Al Kaline's 3,000th hit and farewell, the rise of Mark Fidrych and Ron LeFlore, 19 years of double plays by Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, Jack Morris' no-hitter, Cecil Fielder becoming baseball's 1st 50-homer man in 13 years, and, most importantly, the Tigers' 1984 season, when they got off to a 35-5 start, ran away with the American League Eastern Division title, and won the World Series, beating the San Diego Padres in 5 games, including a Game 5 clincher at Tiger Stadium, which featured 2 home runs by Kirk Gibson. (What, you thought he was only a World Series hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers?)

Current Tigers play-by-play radio announcer Dan Dickerson described the Harwell-Carey team as follows:

The team of Ernie and Paul was, such a great team. I think the thing I took away from listening to those broadcasts, just the way they called a really good game. I grew up listening to these guys. It was Ray Lane first with Ernie, then it was Paul. And I just liked the way he called the game. It was straightforward.
He had a powerful voice that kind of sucked you into the radio. Ernie was different, but they had that same magic”
He was just very humble and gracious and kind, he loved to share a laugh. He had a big, booming laugh that I’m sure you can picture and he was just a very likable, nice person and for me, it was just a treat to be able to spend any time with him. A truly nice person to go along with being a great broadcaster.
"He had the voice that all broadcasters would love to have," said Detroit Red Wings radio play-by-play voice Ken Kal, a native of the West Side of Detroit. "He made you feel good by the way he broadcast Tiger games. I always felt I was at the ballpark when he was describing the action."

Paul Carey was named Michigan Sportscaster of the Year 6 times, and was elected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He died yesterday at his home in the Detroit suburb of Rochester, Michigan, after battling heart and lung disease. He was 88 years old.

He is survived by his wife Nancy. His lost his first wife, Patti, to cancer as the Tigers were going for the title in 1984. He had no children. But he had many survivors who enjoyed listening to his broadcasts.

As Lynn Henning put it in today's Detroit News, "His voice was God-granted and God-graced. His broadcast skill, and certainly his personal decency, were gifts also, perhaps as self-enhanced as qualities can be."

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