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Profile: Phillies Announcer Dan Baker
Even major surgery can't quiet this baseball veteran
By Larry Hanover

As much as Dan Baker loves Bryce Harper as a player, there’s one thing the superstar outfielder will never have – a lot of syllables in his name.

As the public-address (PA) announcer for the Phillies, Baker can be forgiven for having a different standard for judging the players.

“My favorites tend to be the polysyllabic names because they allow for a more melodic interpretation,” he says. “My favorite was ‘No. 12, second baseman Mick-ey Mor-an-di-niiii!’”

For both syllables and stature, Morandini, a member of the 1993 National League championship team, would be hard to beat.

No matter what their names are, Baker will call it with his signature style. At 74, the West Deptford resident – hired by the Phillies in 1972 – is the longest-running PA announcer calling the games in Major League Baseball today. Although he’s entering his 50th season, he considers it only No. 49. After working a handful of exhibition games in 2020, Baker underwent major surgery in August to remove a tumor from his sinus that kept him sidelined for the entire pandemic-shortened season. Two additional surgeries and 30 radiation treatments later, he’s got his voice back.

“I had a tough recovery, yet in a relatively short space of time,” Baker says. “The doctors used the word ‘amazed’ because my improvement has been so dramatic. They said all along it would be a lengthy recovery. But if everything goes well, there’s no reason why I couldn’t return to Phillies PA announcing.”

Unless your home game seats are really close to the field, you likely wouldn’t recognize Baker if you bumped into him on the street. The guy known for his voice is OK with that.

“Even though I’m down on the field in front of everybody,” he says, “at such a distance, you can’t really see the person’s face.”

Rest assured, Baker was there every year of the Phillies’ 32-year run at Veterans Stadium except the first, and now he’s been part of every season at Citizens Bank Park except 2020. He worked all home games until 2019, when he missed 14 for 2 other related surgeries.

Beyond the baseball diamond, Baker’s voice would be familiar to a broad range of Philly sports fans. He was the PA announcer for the Eagles for almost 30 years, broadcasted on TV and radio for Philadelphia Big 5 college basketball games for 21 years and still does the PA announcing whenever the Army-Navy football game is held in Philly.

Although his original dream was to play ball, Baker can thank his parents for setting him up for a lifetime of sports-announcing success.

“My mom and dad were sticklers for elocution,” says Baker, whose family moved from Philly to Mount Ephraim when he was a kid. “They always impressed upon me the importance of being a good communicator, and that meant talking in grammatically correct English, looking someone in the face when you spoke with them, pronouncing every syllable in a word.”

Like many a baseball-obsessed kid, Baker hoped to play professionally. But the aspiring shortstop realized he needed a Plan B when he was cut from Audubon High School’s varsity team.

It dawned on him that his voice could take him places. He was known for his spot-on impressions of some of the city’s best PA sports announcers, including the renowned Dave Zinkoff (who has a street named after him at the stadium complex) of the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors and, later, 76ers.

It helped too that he was really good at tracking statistics and was in the habit of cutting newspaper box scores from games and pasting them in a scrapbook.

A part-time job in the mailroom at now-extinct Channel 48 put him on the right track. There, he was connecting with NFL play-by-play announcers and offering to help them with statistics during games. “It was a vehicle that allowed me to go to the games for free,” Baker says. “Not only that, I got paid!”

It also led to gigs you’d never picture for Baker, who’s always smartly dressed in a blazer. He filled in for ring announcer Charles “Buddy” Wagner during live Worldwide Wrestling Federation matches at the Channel 48 building. Wagner then hired him for a summer gig announcing and promoting auto daredevil shows, including one where Wagner’s Lucky Mustang Hell Drivers were a preliminary act when the famed Evel Knievel jumped over 20 buses on a motorcycle.

In 1971, Baker scored an interview with Bill Giles, the longtime Phillies executive. Knowing he needed some aggressive promotions to generate interest in a bad ballclub, Giles took interest in Baker’s background work with daredevil shows. But the exec also needed someone who could split time keeping track of balls, strikes, runs and hits on the stadium scoreboard (which Baker did until the Phils moved from the Vet). Baker knew he had Giles hooked.

“Mr. Giles, that’s nothing for me,” Baker recalls telling Giles, now chairman emeritus. “I used to lay in bed at night and keep balls and strikes on my fingers as a kid when I listened to Phillies games on the West Coast. If you hire me, I’ll be the quickest and the most accurate in baseball.” Giles hired him on the spot.

Dan Baker was master of ceremonies at Bobby Abreu’s 2019 induction into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame; (back row, from left) former managers Charlie Manuel and Larry Bowa, Mike Lieberthal, Juan Samuel and Greg Luzinski

There’s nothing Baker loves more than induction night each year, when he gets to add a plaque to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame, which he has handled since the passing of legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas in 2009. It’s like a family reunion that gives Baker a chance to resurrect his favorite introductions, which are melodious even with a voice recovering from illness: “No. 53, right fielder Bobby Abreu! No. 19, Greg Luzinski! No. 32, pitcher Steve Carlton! No. 20, third baseman Mike Schmidt!”

Still a master of statistics, Baker can rattle off the details of the only PA announcers he trails in longevity on the all-time list: Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard, who retired at age 97 after 57 years, and Pat Pieper of the Chicago Cubs, who retired after 59 years.

He recognizes he’ll probably have to make concessions to his routine if he’s going to be able to work. Due to the pandemic, he would likely stay secluded in the booth the whole game instead of appearing on the field for the lineups. But if the body is able, he’s willing to shoot for the record.

“If God blesses me with good health and if I can still perform at a high level, and the Phillies will have me – and I think those things are all possible – that would be a great honor,” Baker says. “I’d achieve the record at age 85. But that’s probably putting the cart before the horse. I need to get back here and perform at a high level to justify serving in this role. It’s my dream job.”

David Buck, the team’s executive vice president, says Baker has no worries when it comes to the Phillies backing him.

“He will work as much as his health will allow,” Buck says. “If it’s all 81 home games, great. If it’s 41 home games, that’s great. Dan’s been here with the Phillies for 50 years. We’ll be here for Dan.”

April 2021
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