When Harwell talked with Bob Costas for an MLB Network interview last fall, he expressed doubt that his terminal cancer would allow him to witness the start of the 2010 season. Even in his condition, though, he continues to amaze. He won't be watching in person, but he'll be watching.
Though Harwell will not be at the park when the Tigers host the Indians on Friday afternoon, he will be watching and listening to the broadcast, according to his longtime friend and attorney, S. Gary Spicer. Some of the medical personnel who have cared for him will be there as a token of appreciation.
The last time Harwell appeared at the ballpark, he took the microphone to explain his condition to fans and to express his gratitude for their friendship and support. He was diagnosed last August with inoperable cancer of the bile duct. At the time, doctors didn't give him a firm timetable on how long he would survive.
"It could last a year or two, though it probably won't," Harwell said in a telephone interview. "You look forward to each day and you live it."
Harwell, though, has always had a gift of defying expectations for his age. Beyond a broadcasting career that lasted well into his 80s, including 55 Major League seasons and 42 with the Tigers, Harwell remained active into his retirement, a gift he credited to regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Spicer has said Harwell is "holding his own" in recent weeks, an encouraging sign for his situation. He continues to receive an abundance of good wishes from friends and strangers alike.
On Friday, as the Tigers begin another season of games in the Motor City, it's likely Harwell will be getting a lot of good thoughts as well.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.