Legendary broadcaster Frank Beckmann passed away last night. He was a talented man who had many titles in broadcasting, but as a kid in the 90s, he made an era of Detroit Tigers baseball much more entertaining.
Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, there was one thing that my brothers and I did every Saturday in the fall and that was watching Michigan football on WXYZ-TV Channel 7. In my early youth, I tuned into the stations of the day, the Planet 96.3, 89X, WRIF for Drew and Mike in the morning on the way to school, then in the summers the entire WRIF morning block with Doug Podell, and the Detroit Tigers on WJR with Ernie Harwell early in my childhood whenever I had the chance.
My main two voices I heard was George Kell and Al Kaline on Local 4 TV because we did not get cable until I was in the 9th grade and by then, the vigors of high school began and Detroit Tigers baseball became more of something I would try to catch on the radio with Frank Beckmann on the call.
Frank Beckmann’s first radio calls on WJR were ones of the Detroit Tigers replacement players in spring training of 1995. While his partner Larry Sorensen was finishing up his duties at WDFN-AM, Beckmann shared the booth with following names that are synonymous with Tigers broadcasting history. George Kell, Jim Price and Ernie Harwell. He made sure in an article in March 1995 he thanked Harwell for his help in transiting to baseball.
Frank Beckmann entertained fans during a Detroit Tigers dry spell
After a few seasons in the booth, Beckmann and Harwell switched as Harwell went back into the radio booth in 1999 and Beckmann was doing games for UPN Channel 50. This schedule allowed him to spend more time with his family. As a fan, the late ’90s Tigers teams by the middle of the summer seemly seemed out of contention already, but Beckmann, with his energetic and booming voice, was always consistent, even if the Tigers rosters then were not.
He called the last seasons of Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson. He saw the rise of players like Travis Fryman, Bobby Higginson and Tony Clark and Justin Thompson. We witness one of the most historical broadcasting booths of all time with Beckmann, Ray Lane, and George Kell in the booth at the final game of Tiger Stadium on September 27th, 1999.
His call of the Robert Fick grand slam, the last hit at Tiger Stadium, is one for the ages.
When the Saturday transition of watching Michigan football with my brothers on Saturdays went away, he was there, on the radio waves as we were outside raking leaves or hearing his voice on the way to Michigan football games. Everyone has their first memories of hearing his voice, but for a Tigers’ fan in the 90s, he holds a special place in my memories.
It is easy to remember the wins and losses of those Tigers teams from 1995 to 2002 because of the internet, thanks to Baseball-Reference, but having the individual memories of Beckmann’s calls on the radio and TV made it unique.
While everyone was becoming Atlanta Braves fans here locally because of their success and Taylor, Michigan native Steve Avery on those teams, I wore my Tigers’ gear with pride and passion. No matter the role Frank Beckmann had in the broadcasting booth, that’s how I will remember him, with pride in his craft and passion for his career.