Tigers’ radio team makes it difficult to tune in

Dan Dickerson is the play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.

Dan Dickerson is the play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.

I am this close…(imagine thumb and forefinger about an inch apart)…from taking a baseball bat to my car radio.

I’ve been in my car a lot recently and it’s given me the opportunity to listen to Detroit Tigers’ games for a change. As you’ll learn, I mean “opportunity” as in: we have an “opportunity” to get a root canal. It’s like someone is drilling a hole in my head and inflicting pain.

That’s what it’s like to listen to the Detroit radio broadcast team of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price. It’s brutal.

It saddens me to say that because I — like millions of others from Michigan — grew up listening to ballgames on the radio. Ernie & Paul, Paul & Ernie, they were a duo unsurpassed in the game. Ernie Harwell with his gentlemanly southern charm and Paul Carey blessed with a baritone that shook your toes and earned him the nickname “The Voice of God.”

Dickerson and Price sound pleasant enough, it’s not their timbre or any speech impediment that earns them terrible grades. It’s how they do their games and what they say. I confess I never realized how bad our radio team was until I started listening to them more often this season. I’m currently constructing a device that will allow me to strap a 36-inch television on the hood of my Jeep Cherokee to end the nightmare that is listening to Dickerson/Price while on the road. Drivers beware, but I feel it’s worth the risk.

Dickerson has a very good voice — it’s commanding and professional. He’s obviously a broadcasting professional based on his delivery. But his game-calling philosophy is annoying and his constant chattering about everything other than what’s happening on the field is infuriating. I’m shaking my fists at the baseball gods out my window here, people.

Those of us who grew up listing to Mr. Harwell were spoiled, and no one is ever going to be as great as Ernie. I don’t expect that. But, there are basic principles of game-calling that Dickerson ignores. On radio it’s important to provide a “reset” frequently to let the listener know the status of the game. For example:

“2-and-2 count on Jackson, Tigers lead 4-3, one out in the sixth with nobody on base.”

That’s a game reset, and listeners don’t need it every pitch, but we need it every batter. That’s because we can’t SEE the field or a scoreboard when we’re listening on the radio. Apparently Dickerson has not been illuminated to this fact. Though I’m sure he’s a nice man, he’s really ignorant as to what his primary job is as a radio play-by-play man: to tell us the situation and describe the play on the field. Dickerson fails on both counts.

Here’s an actual sequence that occurred in a game broadcast earlier this week:

Dickerson:  Jim, he’s working on that breaking ball and he just can’t seem to find the consistency. Against left-handers he’s falling behind and going deep into counts, it’s a problem that started last season and though he’s had stretches, like an earlier start this season in Cleveland, he can’t seem to figure it out.

Price:  You can see it the second time around the order, and he’s trying to figure it out, [he’s] been working with Jonesy in the bullpen between starts, but it’s not there and the numbers show it. He’s not where he’s been in previous seasons. we know he has the power arm, but it’s the art of pitching, we talk about it all the time.

If there’s one thing you need to know about Jim Price, it’s that he loves to talk about “the art of pitching.” I mean he LOVES it. Like polar bears love fresh fish and like hobos love ham sandwiches, Price adores talking about the art of pitching and using the phrase “art of pitching” He often pairs it with the phrase “power arm.”

Okay, so imagine that sequence above and imagine you’re listening to the game. Now extend it about two minutes and consider this: while Dan and Jimmy are playing amateur pitching coach/psychologist, there’s a game going on. I have actually heard Dickerson chatter on and on while two pitches were delivered and he hasn’t told us what the pitches were. He’ll just “catch us up” by suddenly halting his monologue with “2-and-0 on Martinez [if he bothers to tell us who’s at the plate at all].”

And that’s the problem with Dickerson, the biggest problem anyway: he thinks his job is to impress us with information about every batter, pitcher, and team, while telling us the game situation and describing what’s happened on the field in any detail…well that’s an interruption.

When you listen to Dan Dickerson call the Tigers’ game here’s what you get: Dickerson telling you what he knows about baseball while he occasionally interrupts to tell us what happened on the field.

Talk, talk, talk, talk… ohbytheway a home run for Cabrera… talk talk talk. 

To say it’s annoying and frustrating is an understatement. A typical play-by-play man will announce each batter, usually telling you what they’ve done that game, and then proceed to work you through the at-bat. He will describe the defensive layout and tell you when the pitcher is going to deliver the ball. All of those things help frame the game and convey information, but they also serve to build drama. Dickerson rarely if ever does that.

Dickerson loves to amaze listeners with his knowledge of other teams, even when they aren’t playing the Tigers. During a recent game, Dickerson ran down the out-of-town scoreboard in the middle of the inning. I think there was a runner on first or a runner on first and second and Max Scherzer was on the mound. Here’s how it went:

Dickerson: The Astros are leading the Rays 2-0 in Tampa. Boy, the Astros, who won all of 51 games last season and have lost 100 games three straight season, they are young, but they have some talent and they have won 34 games already this season. Their pitching staff with those young starters: Keuchel, Cosart, McHugh, they are all in their early 20s, and Houston is getting those kids to learn on the fly in the major leagues. It’s Cosart on the mound tonight.

Mind you, this is only a portion of the long monologue from Dickerson as he careened through the out-of-town scoreboard. I only took notes on some of it. It went on game after game after game: Dickerson droning on about other teams, their recent success/failures, and so on. Meanwhile, back on the baseball field, a baseball game was taking place involving the Detroit Tigers. As the listener, I wasn’t sure who was at the plate facing Scherzer, I knew he’d thrown at least one pitch (because I could hear the smack of the mitt), but I had no idea what was happening. The game — which should have been taking center stage — was a sideshow to The Dan Dickerson Baseball Show. Jim Price usually grunts or says deeply meaningful nuggets like “Yes” or “That’s right.”

Anyone who listens to Dickerson for very long will realize that he values his friendships with members of the other team’s media and clubhouses. He frequently sprinkles his broadcast with gems like “While we were in Minnesota we were told that Kubel has been struggling to get around on the high pitch from lefties.” Understand of course that he usually tells us this when we’re NOT playing Minnesota.

Price is a former Detroit catcher. We know that because he tells us four or five times a game. For a man who played 261 career major league games, Price feels his catching exploits are worthy enough to interject them every other inning. Now look, I never played high school baseball. I couldn’t hit the fastball, the curveball or the kickball. So I have nothing on Mr. Price’s athletic accomplishments, and normally I don’t care whether a broadcaster had a long career or a short career or whatever. If he can analyze the game, he can analyze the game and add value to a broadcast. (Joe Garagiola was a scrub catcher and Bob Uecker was too, but they were both great broadcasters.) But Price interjects his catching “wisdom” at the wrong time and rarely tells us anything interesting about playing the game. Even worse, Price feels it’s necessary to make one or two “catcher” jokes each broadcast. For example:

Dickerson: Avila asks home plate umpire Jerry Layne to remove that baseball from the game … he sees something there.

Price: Well, he does, and catchers see it all, Dan. We know the catcher is the smartest player on the field, we know that of course! [Continues to expand on this joke until Dickerson fakes a laugh]

Oh yes, Jim. You are a former catcher and when you point out that catchers are smart, it’s ironic because you were a catcher! Har har hardy har har.

One last quibble with Jim: he sometimes talks too fast, especially when doing the plugs for sponsors. He fails to use inflection, which results in whateverhessayingjustrunningtogether.

Price is hard to take, but he’s just the color man, while Dickerson’s failings as a play-by-play man are too egregious to pass muster. Here’s another sequence that actually happened in the Texas series:

[There’s a runner on base and the Tigers are in a tie game, it’s the middle innings but Dickerson doesn’t tell us this, because that would be too informative]

Dickerson: There’s a grounder … the throw across and it pulls the first baseman … Martinez is out … No, now he’s being called safe … [LOOOONG PAUSE] That ball was hit to Beltre and he threw the ball high and wide and it was dropped by Pena. Martinez is safe on an error.

What was he watching? How does he not tell us WHERE the groundball was hit immediately, and what happened at first CORRECTLY the first time? It’s radio — you can pause a millisecond and wait to see what the umpire at first calls. Instead, Dickerson uses his verbal shorthand and fails to call the play correctly the first time. He does this usually once every few games.

If I could have a three wishes, I’d use two of them in the typical way (revenge against my enemies and all-encompassing wealth and power), but the third, the third wish, I’d use that to give Dan Dickerson the gift of description. He really has no idea how to describe action, which is really THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF HIS JOB.

Dickerson is like one of those annoying friends who starts conversations in the middle of a story and expects us to understand what the hell he’s talking about.

There’s a drive … and he dives and it’s caught out there deep on the warning track … what a play! 

WHERE was that drive and WHO hit it? And WHO caught it WHERE? And HOW many guys were on base?!? And what’s the score?

[Driving off the road into a ditch]

20 replies on “Tigers’ radio team makes it difficult to tune in

  • Dan Hiler

    I like hearing Jim price and Dan Dickerson so much so that when the tigers are televised, I mute the TV and turn up the radio!

    Reply
  • Jim Berger

    My wife and I live in a very rural part of Michigan and choose not to pay for satellite TV so our only option to hear Detroit baseball is radio and that only works with a large rotor antenna on the roof. We are not only perfectly fine with that but more then happy to hear Jim Price and Dan Dickerson as our only announcers. The rare times we’ve been able to tune in a game on TV we still listen to Dan and Jim on the radio instead of the TV announcers. Those guys are great and remind this 65 year old of days gone past in baseball announcing. Jim will need to explain the “yellow hammer” a little better but my understanding is that it’s a pitch with late movement that almost no batter can see except of coarse, The Big Man. Like swatting flies when you think you’ll hit it but the minute you swing, it’s gone. I don’t know how any hitter can hit that and especially with placement or out of the park.
    My wife and I have spent another season now in 2016 listening to games we thoroughly enjoy thanks to our home team announcers who simply can’t be matched by anyone. Keep up the great work guys and thanks a ton for your efforts.

    Jim Berger

    Reply
  • michael

    Agree completely, these guys are the best I’ve heard in the radio. So much constructive commentary! You must be kidding. I’m just imagining what a big head you must have. Chill out and appreciate their knowledge and obvious love for the game.

    Reply
  • Kolin stutcher

    I drive a truck all over the country, I have serius radio, I grew up with Ernie and Paul. When the tigers are on the road I get the home team feed. You people that get on Dan and Jim have no clue how good they are. Ever hear Cleveland, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay, Toronto? No you haven’t, dan and Jim work very well together, they know what they are talking about, and they keep things moving for a very bad team. Try listening to the White Sox, I have to keep checking to see if I still have a signal because of the silence. Our guys are awesome. I’m a 52 year tiger fan. 2017 team is very bad. The only thing keeping me listening is Dan and Jim.

    Reply
  • Leland Eck

    I am really tired of all the boring “stats” that Dan Dickerson constantly spews! Ernie always had a historical perspective of all the greats throughout the history of the game. Dan gives us none of that……ever! Nothing but stats, stats, stats all the time!!! Jim Price needs to go retire. For a former player he provides minimal history of his experiences with the players of his era. Many times he sounds like he’s got a mouthful of food while trying to talk at the same time.

    Reply
  • Jason Haughton

    Rather listen to the radio guys than suffer thru the new guys on tv. Schep and Gibson? Inexperience combined with a droning voice. Its boring and insufferable. The only light is Jack Morris.

    Reply
  • Matt vriesman

    Dan Dickerson is a blessing from the gods. SO passionate and exciting. Even when the team is bad, I don’t know why I care so much when we are 20 games under .500 but then tie the game in the 8th on a bloop single… sometimes it feels like Dickerson is the only one who gets me. I also appreciate the continuity of Jim Price in the both. You want a great play by play guy and then a sidekick who has been around a long time and loves the team. That’s Jim. I had a freaking existential crisis when Dan replaces Ernie. I hated it! But the 2003 Really endeared me to Dan. I appreciated growing with him from the depths to the great heights of 2006 and beyond. Tigers radio means more to me then just about anything in the world. THANK YOU DAN DICKERSON!! I named my son after Ernie, I hope you are still around when my son listens to the Tigers with his son.

    Reply
  • Jackie Hart

    So happy to see someone else feels the same way I do! Your right, there is a game being played and listening to the radio, we would like to know what is going on. I am always yelling “Just shut up and call the game!” I think Dan does a much better job with anyone other than Price.

    Reply
  • Blaine Cowick

    I have lived in Northern California and had MLB Premium so I can watch ir listen. When I listen I always listen to the opposing team’s announcers. They are both the absolute worst in MLB. Detroit deserves way better!!

    Reply
  • Daniel T.

    Dan and Jim are an incredible duo! Dan has an abundance of skill when it comes to detailed, in depth play-by-play and an impressive overall knowledge of every facet of the game. He paints a beautiful picture of the action and setting, delivering the listener to the ballpark. I can often see the game is my mind’s eye, as if I was right there at the ballpark. That’s how much power Dan Dickerson has a baseball play-by-play man. He goes above and beyond, ALWAYS.
    And Jim Price is a perfect compliment to Dan’s call of the game. Here’s a man who absolutely lives and breathes baseball. A baseball lifer if their ever was one. His knowledge and insight is always welcome on my radio dial. Who cares if he makes jokes about his glory days as a MLB catcher? He’s joking! And he’s demonstrating just how much he loved to play! He won a World Series with the Tigers for pete’s sake! Dan and Jim have plenty to offer, and then some, as the Detroit Tiger’s radio announcers! And I know the overwhelming majority of Tiger’s fans agree!

    Reply
  • Steven Brady

    Spot on!! I would love to work in the yard and listen to a relaxing Tiger baseball game on the radio, but it is impossible with jabber jaw Dan Dickerson talking about everything BUT the game. I can hear game action in the background, but hes still rambling on some tangent instead of play by play. How does he keep getting away with ‘Storytime With Dan Dickerson’ and not announcing the game?? Horrible!!!

    Reply

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