Remembering “The Ole Announcer” Van Patrick

One of the most popular announcers in Detroit sports history was Van Patrick, who was the voice of the Detroit Tigers during the 1950s and the voice of the Detroit Lions from 1950 until his death in 1974.

Patrick first entered the broadcast booth at Briggs Stadium in 1949 teaming up with Harry Heilmann on Tiger broadcasts and then from 1952 to 1959 he announced games with Dizzy Trout, Mel Ott, and George Kell.

He unfortunately was saddled with one of the worst decades in Tiger history. Ernie Harwell once said: “Van had less to broadcast about in a decade then some guys do in a year.”

Following the ’59 season, Patrick lost his Tigers gig to Ernie Harwell when the team changed its beer sponsorship from Goebels to Strohs. Van’s name had almost become synonymous with Goebel through his many radio and television ads for both the Lions and Tigers.

Most fans in the ‘50s and ‘60s associate Patrick with the Lions during the golden era of Detroit football. For 25 seasons from 1950 until his death in 1974, Lion fans were treated to his distinctive voice and sayings whether he was doing radio broadcasts or on the CBS telecasts.

“It’s spotted, it’s booted, it’s up, and it’s good!!…………….The ball is on the 25 yard line……….let’s call it the 27.”…………….Cogdill’s on the 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 10 touchdown Detroit!

Patrick later became the sports director for the Mutual Broadcasting System and at WJBK TV in Detroit, and also broadcast Notre Dame football. The burly four sports star from Texan Christian University certainly had a face for radio, (along with a pretty bad toupe) but he knew what he was doing, not only with his knowledge of many sports but also on the business side where he became a savvy investor while owning four radio stations.

No announcer worked harder then Patrick during the football season.

On Saturdays he handled Notre Dame football, on Sundays the Lions, and later in his career he even did the radio broadcasts nationally for Monday Night Football.

For one year Patrick battled cancer, before dying of the disease at age 58 on September 29, 1974 in South Bend just before he was headed to the stadium to announce another game.

“It was a horrible way to die but it was the right place to die near both the Fighting Irish and Mutual Radio,” said Al Wester, a colleague and friend.

23 replies on “Remembering “The Ole Announcer” Van Patrick

  • Royce Estes

    I remember when I was a boy in the Detroit area . I loved to listen to Van Patrick. Is he related to Dan Patrick?

  • Jim Mair

    One of the most exciting sports voices America ever heard. In ’57 the Lions and ’49ers were in a battle and he brought it all to me as a 12 year old. The high voltage tube in our TV died, and Dad happened to be away, so I was driven to fix it. I raided my Dad’s bag of TV tubes, got it working, and watched the game and heard his voice. I so remember Kell, Ott, and Trout too, but Van and later Harwell (“…caught by a man from Lum Michigan”) were the best. Later on Detroit also had another non-sports voice in J.P. McCarthy…just remembering.

  • Larry Holland

    Van Patrick was, in my opinion, the best football action announcer ever. No one since has been able to make an ordinary pro football game sound as exciting as he did, and his insertion of humorous remarks made it all the more fun. I would love to hear some of his old broadcasts of those Lion games from the 50s. I wonder if anyone out there knows if any of them might exist somewhere out there accessible on the Internet?

  • larry

    Neat to remember…seems to me..Deacon’s Fearsome Foursome plageurized a Detroit original….Alex,Rodger, Darris & ???? not sure if VP coined this or the press

  • John Bartony

    He had a pre game show before every Lions game on TV called Pro-Press Box. At te end of each broadcast, he would predict the Lions outcome for that Sunday. He picked the Lions to win every Sunday, no matter who they were playing. My Dad would laugh all the time. I used to love hearing Van say the name of “Dick Lebeau”, it just rolled off his tongue. Heard that when Dempsey kicked the 63 yard field goal, Van did not even say “it’s good”,,he thre down his headphones and let the crowd noise tell the story. On channel2, doing the sports, again, I yearned to hear him say “Tonight’s Sports Report is brought to you by Draft Beer Blatz!” I was too young to hear his baseball broadcasts, but with football, he was just the best with Bob Reynolds. Rest in Peace Ole Announcer…you did us proud in Detroit!

    • Jerry S

      I also remember watching ‘Pro Press Box” as a kid. Behind Van, his back screen was a long football football field with these tiny goal posts …Low budget but high tech for those times. I remember Van would make all his picks ,saving Lions for last,and he would always say,”And of course we all expect the Detroit Lions to beat.,….The Green Bay Packers” Insert any team in place of the pack.Those were his exact words everytime ! I loved listening to Van and Bob Reynolds. Remember those were blackout days.You couldn’t watch a home game ever,from Tiger Stadium. We would listen to lions and watch the televised game with sound off…No delay then…Love you Van Patrick…RIP

  • Mike Clayton

    My favorite “Vanisim” , “one more egg for breakfast ” When Walt Dropo would hit one to the warning track, only to be caught!

  • George Kamor

    I was listening to Van on a transistor radio while attending a Yankee/ Tiger game. Paul Foytack pitching to Mantle.
    ” here’s the windup, the pitch, (sound of the crack of the bat), GONE!”
    Mantle hit it over the roof in right.
    Do any of you remember that call of Barney’s interception against the Vikings in ’66-’67? at the end of the first half?

  • Vince

    I worked at Tiger Stadium as an usher from “68-’74 for the Lions and Tigers and someone always had a radio on and Van’s voice would be heard around the stadium. What a great place to play football..outdoors in the rain and snow and cold, then way football was meant to be played in..not these enclosed plastic plush places of today. Can’t stand the clown that broadcasts them now (miller on ch.2) and I never listen on radio because of him. Long live “Van & Ernie”.

  • Doug

    Still remember Van the Man from the fifties. Been a lion fan that long. There was nobody like Van and there never ever will be. Simply the very, very best

  • Mark

    Can still remember, “McCullough flanked out to the right, Walton deployed to the left, Landry barking the signals”. Van Patrick and Bob Reynolds WERE Sunday afternoons for me as a kid from 1967-1974. Lion broadcasts have never been the same since his untimely passing.

  • Mark

    I also remember a 1971 game against the Rams, when Bob Reynolds was describing a pigeon that was camped on the Tiger Stadium turf near the Lion’s offensive huddle. Van Patrick commented that “He must have brought a play in”. The Ole Announcer had a sense of humor that he often interjected into the broadcasts.

  • Eric

    I will not forget the day Van died. I was listening to the tigers and E
    rnie said Van was recovering nicely from the hart attack in South Bend.
    Several innings later Paul Carey gave us the sad news that Van had passed. Then came which seemed like a moment or more of silence. I could hear the crowd but there must have been tears shed. As I remember Van refused to rotate TV games later in his career, wanting to stay blue and silver to the end.

  • Howard Elzinga

    Well friends remembrrvwell Les Bingaman
    The fearsome foursome Same williams Roger Brown. Alex Karras and Darius McCord ! Carl Bretschnider, Joe Schmidt. Wayne walker ,Dick LeBeau,
    Dick “Night Train” Lane.Mike Webber & Yale Larry.

  • Howard Elzinga

    Well friends remember well Les Bingaman. Spoke with Charlie Ane 50 years ago or so. Reminisced.
    The fearsome foursome Sam Williams Roger Brown. Alex Karras and Darius McCord ! Carl Bretschnider, Joe Schmidt. Wayne walker ,Dick LeBeau,
    Dick “Night Train” Lane.Mike Webber & Yale Larry.

  • Mike

    My dad caught Bobby Laynes extra point football in 1956 at Briggs stadium. He brought the ball home and put it on the mantle. We were thrilled. It was brand new. He asked his 3 sons not to play with the football in the street. We had a lot of fun with that ball but unfortunately it could not withstand the asphalt and it was destroyed in about 2 months. So sad.

  • Bob Harris

    Layne under center and Terry Barr deployed to the right.
    It’s a hot summer day here at Briggs Stadium, Ralph Terry looks in for sign, here’s the pitch to Kaline, there’s a drive to deep left field, it’s going, going GONE.
    Here comes Bolling around third and headed for home, he slides, heeeeeeees SAFE!
    Living in Detroit as a boy in the 1950’s, the height of the American Experiment.
    Kaline, Howe and Layne, it never got better than that.
    Played sports year round, even froze over the rear yard in winter.
    My Dad drove a bus for the DSR, Mom worked at J L Hudson’s

  • Paula Orazietti

    When I was about 11 years old and already a baseball junkie in Canada of all places , I recall racing home from school to catch the last few innings of the many day time games of that time. One afternoon I came home tuned in and listened to Van Patrick. I don’t remember all the particulars, like the exact score or the exact inning but I do know this. As I listened to the game from WSOO in Sault Mich. from my home in Sault Ontario I heard Van say late in the game ” the score is 2-0 for Detroit, there are 5 hits in the game and Detroit has them all.” Virgil Trucks was pitching a no hitter.!! The ole master wasn’t going to jinks one of the greats of TNT fame, and winners of the world series from 1946. By that time Newhouser and Trout were gone. I have told that story many time. It was so cool. And Trucks did complete the no hitter being one of two no hitters he pitched in 1952.

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