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Dan Baker: Voice of the Phillies celebrates 50 golden years

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Regardless of whether or not the Philadelphia Phillies advance to get another long awaited shot at a coveted World Series title, it’s clear that one weekend in this exciting 2022 season will forever be remembered.

It’s the first Friday in August – a hot summer evening with temperatures flirting with 90 degrees. And just like the weather, the spirits of thousands of loyal Phillies fans are fired up, too ... and with good reason: It’s Phillies Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

This four-day extravaganza features commemorative giveaways, celebrated players from past and present, a special 40th anniversary salute to the 1980 World Series Champion Phillies, plus countless other memorable moments.

But this, the second day in the celebratory event lineup, belongs to Dan Baker, the longtime and much beloved Phillies public address announcer whose distinct, mellifluous voice has become as much a part of the team’s DNA as has any player, past or present, for 50 golden years.

Veteran colleague Tom McCarthy, who voices the Phillies play-by-play action for TV, stands near the pitchers mound to present Baker with a bronze microphone plus a beautifully framed Phillies jersey, bearing the number “50” and signed by the entire 2022 team and Wall of Fame players.

“He truly is as wonderful a man to speak with as he is to listen to,” says McCarthy, noting that Baker’s voice has become familiar to fans of many generations.

“His distinctive tone and inflection has not only become part of the fan experience, but quite literally has become and is part of the personality of Citizens Bank Park as a whole,” he continues.

It’s been a journey of discovery for Baker, who has loved sports of all kinds for as long as he can remember. He fondly recalls his many visits to iconic Philadelphia venues like the Palestra, Franklin Field, the Civic Center and of course, Connie Mack Stadium.

“As a kid my dream was to be a Phillies baseball player and although I was pretty good by the time I was a teenager, I realized playing ball for the Phillies would probably be a long shot,” reflects the now 76-year-old Baker with a chuckle.

As a diehard Phillies fan and having played a lot of baseball, Baker knew a good many of the ins and outs of the game and began wondering what other opportunities, aside from playing professionally, would afford him the chance to go to games on a regular basis.

“I was always a good speaker thanks in large measure to my mom and dad, who instilled in me the importance and appreciation of using good grammar and always being articulate,” he explains,“so sportscasting or anything connected with it, seemed to be the perfect answer.”

With that goal clearly in mind, the intrepid Baker did part-time sportscasting, spotting and statistics recording for a number of visiting radio and TV announcers for Eagles football games, as a senior in what was then Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). He later earned a master’s degree from Temple University.

He continued to gain valuable experience during the late ’60s and early ’70s announcing auto daredevil shows in New England. That in turn led to a stint with Philadelphia-based WKBS- TV - Channel 48 (which is no longer on the air) where he not only learned engineering, floor directing and other aspects of television, but networked with the likes of sportscaster great Stu Nahan of Flyers, Eagles and “Rocky” fame and others.

He began producing high school and college basketball on the radio as a way to display his talents and get noticed.

“In addition to doing play-by-play, I sold advertising, negotiated broadcast deals with various TV and radio stations in the Philadelphia area, so I quickly gained tremendous insights about the often complex business side of sports,” Baker recalls. The likes of Merrill Reese, Bill Campbell, Scott Graham and Pat Delsi were just a few of Baker’s many on-air partners.

Added into the proverbial mix of experience shortly after college was a full-time teaching job in the Philadelphia School System, which would pay the bills while he continued to grow his contact network in multiple sports venues.

An early retirement from teaching 12 years later proved to be a good decision for Baker, whose gut feeling about pursuing a sportscasting career, combined with some good timing and a little luck, would soon pay big dividends.

Indeed, as luck would have it, Baker caught the attention of Phillies executive Bill Giles, who hired him as the team’s public address announcer in 1972. His irrefutable success in that role with the Phillies made him a perfect candidate to succeed Eagles PA announcer Matt Guokas Sr. in 1985.

Both teams called Veterans Stadium home for more than three decades, until the Eagles and Phillies left “The Vet” a year apart for new venues – the Eagles moved to Lincoln Financial Field in 2003 and the Phillies to Citizens Bank Park in 2004.

Aside from a long list of captivating Philadelphia sports highlights over the years, Veterans Stadium will always hold a special place in Dan Baker’s heart, especially as it relates to the Phillies.

“Shortly after I joined the Phillies organization as PA announcer, I met my wife, Cathy, who at the time was working for the team in marketing and promotions,” reminisces Baker.

“I remember the Phillies had just completed a long homestead with the Dodgers in 1972,” notes Cathy. “A party had been planned for July 13 and Dan was on a select list of invitees. Two years later to the day we were married,” she continues.

She laughs recalling that they had to plan their honeymoon to Hawaii around the All-Star break and an extended Phillies 10-day road trip because of Dan’s schedule.

It seems planning around Phillies events has become a tradition of sorts for the Bakers – call it a family affair, with both of their children, son Darren, a high school teacher, and daughter Courtney, a former broadcaster, nurse and now stay at home mom, having been born in World Series years – 1980 and 1983, respectively.

As might be expected, Darren and Courtney have become as much a part of the Phillies family as their parents.

In years past, for instance, Darren taped many batting practices, while his sister, Courtney, was a much beloved sitter for many players’ children, including Phillies lefty pitcher Billy Wagner and others in the early 2000s.

“It’s funny, but growing up with a great announcer like my dad, who has covered so many different sports, you tend not to think of the seasons of the year in the conventional way, but rather in terms of hockey, basketball, baseball and football,” muses Courtney.

“The easiest way to tell people about my dad is by impersonating one of his favorite players to introduce like Mickey Morandini or Juan Samuel,” notes Darren.

The younger Baker readily admits that emulating his father’s dedicated and often arduous work ethic is a daunting task, but one that he constantly strives to achieve.

You could call the always amiable, proper and well-dressed Dan Baker a well-rounded and distinguished man for all seasons, having announced five World Series, two Major League All-Star games, three NFC Championship games, not to mention the Army-Navy rivalries when played in Philly, plus Drexel University men’s basketball and countless other games.

Sharing a microphone with the immortal Harry Kalas at the closing ceremony of Veterans Stadium in 2003, along with introducing President Gerald R. Ford at the 1976 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at “The Vet”and President George W. Bush at the Army-Navy football game in 2003 at “The Linc” rank high on Baker’s extraordinary list of memorable moments.

He joins an elite few in his field who have reached or exceeded an incredible half century mark, with only the Cubs’ Pat Pieper at 59 years and the Yankees’ Bob Sheppard at 57 years, serving longer.

Added to his long list of milestones is Baker’s popular sports interview program, “The Bull Session,” which he co-hosts with former Phillies left fielder Greg “The Bull” Luzinski.

The show, now approaching two decades, airs every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m. during the season on Bucks County’s WBCB - AM 1490, using the Hard Rock Cafe in Center City as a backdrop. Among many recent interviews was Phillies ace right-hander Art Mahaffey, who pitched in the ’60s.

“Dan is an incredible wealth of knowledge in all aspects of baseball and other sports too,” marvels Mahaffey, who, among his own many stellar accomplishments, was striking out 12 hitters and hitting a grand slam homer against the Mets, back in 1962. Despite some recent health challenges, Dan Baker plans to continue doing what he loves best for as long as he can do it.

To be sure, he has plenty of loyal fans, family and industry colleagues alike to root him on.

“There’s an unmistakable generosity of spirit about Dan,” observes 94-WIP Phillies radio network play-by-play announcer Scott Franzke. “He is always upbeat and positive, so even if you’re having a not so great day, somehow when you talk with Dan Baker, you inevitably walk away with a smile.”


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