Some combinations are just meant to be.
Abbott and Costello. Beer and pretzels. Hot dogs and mustard.
And then there’s baseball and radio.
In our video-centric age, it’s easy to overlook the fact that not long ago radio was the technological wonder that tethered baseball fans to their favorite team. Ever since radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcast the first baseball game in 1921, the sport was destined to surge in popularity throughout the mid-twentieth century.
And why not?
The pleasures of listening to a baseball game on the radio are many and varied, for it’s a moveable feast.
Gotta wash the car in the driveway? Tune in the game on your portable radio and swab away.
Been counseled by a certain someone to cut the grass? No problem—put on your headphones and mow down those blades like a big leaguer.
Burgers on the grill tonight? Well, you get the idea.
Listening to a game on the radio can be a near-spiritual experience for baseball purists, especially if the announcer honors his craft. Of course for many decades Detroit Tiger fans enjoyed listening to one of the all-time great chroniclers of the game, the beloved Ernie Harwell.
Standing alongside Ernie in the pantheon of baseball broadcasting titans are, in no particular order, Red Barber and Mel Allen (Yankees), Bob Prince (Pirates), Russ Hodges (Giants), Harry Caray (several teams), Jack Buck (Cardinals), Harry Kalas (Phillies) and Herb Carneal (Twins).
Each of these icons brought personality and an understanding of the unclocked beauty of our national pastime to the broadcast booth, entertaining multitudes within earshot of his voice.
Contemporary practitioners who have distinguished themselves with their radio (and in some cases, TV) work include the incomparable Vin Scully (Dodgers), Jon Miller (Giants), Bob Uecker (Brewers), and Michigan’s own Dick Enberg (Padres).
So how does current Tiger radio play-by-play man Dan Dickerson, who has been the voice of the Tigers since 2002, measure up to these luminaries?
The answer is–surprisingly well, thank you.
In a profession where homogenized voices are the rule rather than the exception, Dickerson stands tall among his peers. He is well-prepared, spontaneous, and enjoys a natural rapport with his insightful color man, the ageless former Tiger catcher Jim Price.
Like many in his trade, Dickerson tracks the game dutifully and keeps his listeners well-informed. What separates him, though, is his rendering of those decisive moments that punctuate a three-hour baseball game.
It is in that rarefied air that Dickerson soars.
Whether reacting to a key strikeout (Heee GOT ‘im on strikes!) or calling a home run (Way back…and GONE!), Dickerson delivers a knockout punch every time. His narrative is passionate, yet tempered, as he captures the exhilaration of the moment in genuine spurts of emotion.
His call of Magglio Ordonez‘s majestic walk-off home run against Oakland, which propelled the team into the 2006 World Series, is an all-time Tiger classic. It is but one of many.
Unfortunately, the golden age of baseball’s colossal radio announcers is in eclipse. With the proliferation of games on cable TV and other video venues, radio broadcasting has assumed a much lower profile in recent decades.
Considering the undeniable allure of watching a game on a big-screen, high-definition display, television has understandably become the medium of choice of the masses.
Yet there remains something magical about listening to a well-described game on the radio that television, with all of its technical wizardry, cannot touch. Radio has always been the province of the imagination, and elite announcers know the landscape well.
So this summer–whether you’re sunbathing at the beach, sitting around a campfire at a northern Michigan lake, or simply luxuriating on your deck–grab a radio and tune in the Tigers.
With Dan Dickerson at the microphone you can truly relax, listening to one of baseball’s finest.