Detroit Tigers play-by-play announcer Dan Dickerson was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his much-shorter-than-normal offseason to chat with me. We discussed 2006, the Magglio Ordonez call, and the outlook for 2007.
DTW: 2006 was a special season for everyone involved with or rooting for the Detroit Tigers. Was the season more fun and/or satisfying for you as a lifelong fan of the team or as a member of the organization?
Dan: It’ll be hard to draw a line between the two. Obviously I am fan because I grew up a Tiger fan. I think it probably is the most satisfying because it is your job and you’ve been part of something that’s been a lot of fun, but without a lot of success. And then, if it wasn’t out of nowhere, then it was certainly unexpected tremendous success. So to be a part of the organization, to be a part of watching that team, it was incredibly satisfying and gratifying. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it.
It was amazing to me to see them go from a situation where over the previous two years you’d go into a series and think “they have a chance” to going into every game expecting them to win. And for that to transform that quickly was an incredible thing to watch.
DTW: As someone from Detroit, you remember 68, and 84, and the chase in 87. Where does 2006 rank for you among the great Tigers seasons?
Dan: I was only 9 in 68 so I can’t probably include that. To me, because I was a part of it everyday, personally I’d go with 2006. When I think of 84, it was the first time as an adult that I got to watch a reallygood team all season long and follow a really good team. But that team had been building for several y ears to that point. This team  just came out of nowhere to go from 71 to 95. I’d rank 2006 as tops.
1987 was one of my favorite seasons just because of the way it ended. I’ve always loved that season. That race with Toronto was one of the most incredible things in baseball. I don’t think they were seperated by more than 2 1/2 games for a month and a half except at the end the end when they fell down 3.5 for a day I think it was. [ed note: From 8/12 to 9/23 the lead was within 1.5 games and went to 3.5 on 9/26 before closing] So I always loved 87.
Between 68 and 84 I don’t think I could pick one. Sixty-eight meant a lot to me because it sucked me into baseball. There’s no question as a 9 year old when the team was that good it was very easy to become a baseball fan and a Tigers fan. That season is always dear to me. I think about as kids, and everyone did it, but we’d imitate everyone of those 68 Tigers stances when we’d play whiffle ball in the backyard. It’s just what you did.
And 1984 was so much fun because as a young adult I could watch that and enjoy every single minute of it.
DTW: Now moving on to “the call” which everyone has heard many times and is now part of the Tigers ticket ads. First, can you describe what you were thinking when the ball left the bat and then watching the Polanco and Monroe run around the bases? Were there certain things you were trying to capture or was it all pure reaction?
Dan: That part was pure reaction. I think you can hear it in my voice. I think my voice really does capture how amazing it was. It’s one thing to have a deep fly ball, but this was such a no doubter. I get chills thinking about that moment because of how great those home games had been up to that point. The 4 playoff home games had just been unbelievable with the atmosphere. But that was pure reaction.
People say “did you write it out” and I think what I found out was with the Kansas City game when they clinched the playoff spot it was my first experience with the post season and I knew there would be a lot of attention paid to the big out. And I, if not scripted that one, I knew exactly what I was going to say when they clinched. And I said it, and when I heard it back I thought “that sounded pretty scripted.”
So I thought you had to have an idea what you wanted to say, but then let the moment dictate how it comes out. That’s probably the best way to describe it. I knew I wanted to capture how far they’d come in 3 years. You anticipate what that last out might be or what that last hit might be. I was picturing a ground ball or a pop-up or something. I certainly wasn’t picturing a walk off homer. Even when he stepped to the plate I was expecting a single just because he seemed to be so good at coming up with a base hit in that situation.
So you have to react to the moment. You certainly don’t want to be speechless (laughing). So you need an idea, but you can’t script it.
DTW: The “Oh Man” made it very genuine
Dan: (laughing) That just came out
DTW: And second, what do your kids think about hearing your voice everytime they turn on the TV or radio?
Dan: I think it’s really funny. Since this is all they’ve ever known, you hardly get a reaction out of them. We’ll be in the car sometimes and they’ll say, “Oh, that’s you” and with the call on a fair amount it just kind of washed over them. I think when they were really young I think they thought everyone’s dad was on the radio. To me it was great, it’s not a big deal to them. Although it was interesting the other day, my son said “Dad you’ve got a cool job.”
They’d just been to Tigerfest and I think had seen some of the excitement. My son is getting to the age where he can get caught up in the excitement. To him going to the games has been seeing the fireworks and going on the ferris wheel. Now he’s starting to play a little bit and he’s enjoying the game.
I wouldn’t say they’re blase about it, but really it’s all they’ve ever known. It’s not a big deal to them and I think it’s great.
DTW:While the Ordonez call is certainly your most famous and most significant, is it your favorite? Are you still holding on to Brandon Inge off of Troy Percival, or was it one of the other moments from the season
Dan: I haven’t heard the Brandon one in awhile. I always like that one because it reminded me of something Ernie had said to me in my first year. They started 9-23 when I first started this job, and how do you deal with that? This is my favorite team and they’re terrible. It served as a reminder that each game stands on its own and you’ll never know what you’ll see, like a great individual performance, a great game between two bad teams, or something you’d never seen before. I always think of that Brandon Inge home run and that it reminds you a great moment is a great moment. It doesn’t matter how bad the team is. That was a great moment and those guys celebrated like they were 30 games over instead of 30 games under. I always think of that as a really fun call.
If I had to rank them I think the Ordonez call has stood up over repeated listenings. I thought they were going to kill it there for awhile, but I think it stands up. If that’s the test of whether it was a good call or not, I think it passes that test
DTW: Moving on to 2007, you just finished the Caravan last week. How did this year differ from past years in terms of fan reactions?
Dan: You noticed it right away. I was on the West caravan and we went to MSU first. We were at Breslin and there was good turnout. I introduced the players and you could notice it right away, the intensity. There was kind or a roar. And it was fun to see the players faces when they came out and it was like “Oh! this is what it’s like now.” I think they really enjoyed it and realized how intense the devotion is and how much fun it’s going to be this year.
DTW: As for the 07 season, what is your outlook for the Tigers? Did they make enough moves in the offseason to stay contend in a tough division?
Dan: I do. I think the Sheffield trade was just a very solid move. Of course they had to be convinced that his wrist was good, and they were. If they’re convinced I’m convinced. I don’t think Dave Dombrowski invests that kind of money if his wrist is sound. I think he’ll be a productive hitter.
I think that guys that are his type of hitter, hit for average, hit for power, drive in runs, if you’re still that way at 38 you tend to stay productive right up until 40. That’s when it seems to be the magical cutoff for hitters. And there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be productive for all 3 years, but certainly 2 of the 3 years before he hits 40. I think that addresses a huge need. A guy that doesn’t strike out a lot for a power hitter. A guy that walks more than he strikes out. I think he can have an effect on others guys in that lineup.
The things is that you look historically at teams that jump up, like the Tigers did, they tend to fall back the next year. Those are the odds. I think the teams that don’t, like Atlanta in the early 90′s, have superb pitching. I think that’s where the young pitchers, Bonderman and Verlander leading the way, are the really keys. That if there’s a slight fall back, you stay in the 90′s. If you’re in the 90′s you’re right there at the end.