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04/15/09 6:59 PM ET

Beloved broadcaster Harmon, 82, dies

Former voice of Brewers, Rangers passes away in Texas

ARLINGTON -- Merle Harmon, one of the pioneering giants of sports broadcasting and former broadcaster for the Rangers and Brewers, passed away on Wednesday in a local hospital after a long illness. He was 82.

Harmon, after serving in the United States Navy during World War II, began his broadcasting career in 1949 with the Topeka Owls in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League.

He later moved to the Kansas City Blues and was the first voice of the Kansas City Athletics when they relocated from Philadelphia in 1954. In 1961 he joined ABC and covered the Game of the Week in 1965. He also broadcasted for the Milwaukee Braves and the Twins as well as football with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets.

"I grew up listening to him on the Jets games," said Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel, who is from Brooklyn. "He was one of the major inspirations of wanting me to get into this business."

Harmon joined the Brewers broadcasts in 1970 and teamed with Hall of Fame announcer Bob Uecker for the rest of the decade. Uecker was just getting started in the business at the time and is still a broadcaster for the Brewers.

"Merle was a great friend and a wonderful partner in the booth, and the memories he leaves us with will be cherished forever," Uecker said in a statement. "His dedication to family and broadcasting were second to none, and I will always be grateful for the latitude and direction he gave to me as I was entering the profession. My heart goes out to his family, and I speak for everyone at the Brewers in saying that this is a very sad day for all of us."

Harmon left the Brewers in 1979 to go to work for NBC for three years. He then joined the Rangers broadcasts in 1982 on Home Sports Entertainment, the fledging cable channel that was at the cutting edge of the explosion of regional sports networks.

"If there was an incredible thrill for me, it was when he joined our broadcast team and I was able to spend time with him on a daily basis," Nadel said. "He had a unique style and was a tremendously kind and giving person."

Harmon retired from broadcasting in 1989 but remained involved in Rangers social events through the years. He was also a pioneer in the memorabilia business as he founded Merle Harmon's Fan Fair, a chain of retail stores that sold licensed sports merchandise.

"I think every accolade that Harry Kalas deserved this week, Merle deserves the same," Rangers broadcaster Dave Barnett said. "He was one of only a few people who had an impact in that many different markets."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.