Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Original Voice of the Brewers Signs Off

Merle Harmon, the original voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, died Wednesday afternoon. Harmon, who was paired with Tom Collins on radio during the club's initial season, was the Brewers lead play-by-play voice when Bob Uecker joined the Brew Crew as a radio broadcaster in 1971.

Harmon began his big league career calling Kansas City Athletics games for seven seasons, starting in 1955, as that club's original voice following their move from Philadelphia. He went on to do play-by-play for the Braves during their final two seasons in Milwaukee, the Minnesota Twins from 1967 through 1969, the Brewers through the 1979 season, and the Texas Rangers from 1982 through 1989.

On the network level, Harmon handled the "Game of the Week" for ABC-TV in 1965 and for NBC-TV in 1980 and 1981. He worked the 1980 World Series for NBC. His broadcast experience included the National Basketball Association, Big Ten football and basketball and other college basketball games. He also handled New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs football games on local radio, as well as American Football League games for ABC.

In 1980, NBC hired Harmon to anchor the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. The Brewers refused to grant him a leave of absence and he was forced to give up announcing their games. The U.S. wound up boycotting the Games that year.

From 1977 to the mid-90's, Harmon tended to his Merle Harmon's Fan Fair sports apparel and memorabilia stores, which started with three stores in Milwaukee and grew to more than 130 nationwide, including one I frequented in Mesa, Arizona.