Paul Carey died Tuesday at age 88, of heart disease, his wife said.
He was a Tigers announcer from 1973-91, working the middle three innings while Ernie Harwell began and finished games all those years.
But among broadcasters, he had a baritone voice that led some to refer to him as “The Voice of God.” He was embarrassed by that, but young broadcasters in the 1970s, like myself, didn’t take much convincing.
He worked for WJR in the days when radio stations had sports departments, and he did a little bit of everything for that station from 1956 to 1992, when he retired. He did Pistons games for six seasons (and was very good), and I remember tuning in WJR on Friday nights during football season to listen to him read the scores and waiting to see if he tripped up on a nickname among the 700-plus schools in the state.
I don’t think he ever did.
His voice was authoritative without being overbearing, describing the action matter-of-factly. Ernie Harwell was homespun, handling the term “He stood there like the house by the side of the road” with grace and humor. Paul Carey was the anchor, the guy you hoped you’d become if you couldn’t be Ernie Harwell.
You knew where the game was, in terms of innings, by his voice, and you knew things were in good hands when Paul Carey was on the air.
I was working as a manager at a Domino’s Pizza in late 1990 when my friend Kevin Allen of USA Today, seeking a quote, told me that Ernie Harwell had been fired.
I don’t think he was able to use the first thing I said, but we talked for a few minutes and then I asked, “So Paul Carey takes over?”
No, Kevin said. Paul Carey is retiring, too.
“Wow,” I said. There was nothing left to say.
I wonder sometimes if the firestorm that followed Harwell’s first departure might have been lessened if Carey had stayed on for a few seasons. After all, he was only 63.
But he was ready to go, and so he and Ernie did so, together, working that final game in Baltimore at the end of the 1991 season.
Ernie, as we all remember, made a couple of comebacks, beginning in 1993 on the radio before going to TV and then radio again.
Paul Carey enjoyed his retirement.
Already this year, Joe Garagiola has died at age 90 and Vin Scully, also 88, is retiring from the Los Angeles Dodgers, sixty-six years after he replaced a guy named Harwell in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ booth.
And now Paul Carey.
Time marches on, and a generation of Tigers baseball fans smiles at the memory of Paul Carey doing his job with grace and professionalism, a steady force in a season of ups and downs.
Can there be a better tribute?