The Phillies honored longtime public address announcer Dan Baker with a pregame ceremony Friday night.
If you have ever been to one of these celebrations, you know the Phillies always excel at this sort of thing.
Among the highlights was a tribute video with some notable appearances from Big 5 coaches, Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan, Eagles radio play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese, and some former players, including, of course, Mickey Morandini.
It’s Dan Baker’s night. The Phillies always do a great job with this stuff. pic.twitter.com/li7Gnytuh3
— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) August 5, 2022
I bring up Morandini not just because Baker’s signature pronunciation of the former infielder’s multisyllabic last name helped elevate the player’s profile during his eight-year tenure with the Phillies, but also because Morandini’s name reveals something about Baker.
When someone becomes well known for something, sometimes that person will work to create distance from it.
Remember Oasis? They hated playing Wonderwall. Kurt Cobain hated Smells Like Teen Spirit. True story.
But that’s not how Dan Baker operates.
Imagine how many times a fan has bumped into Baker over the 24 years since Morandini last played in a Phillies uniform and asked to hear “Mick-eyy Moor–an-dii-nii” like it was the 1990s all over again. It’s basically Baker’s Wonderwall. But not only is he the kind of person to oblige such a request, he does so willingly. In fact, it’s exactly what he did when he met with a few reporters following the ceremony.
Mickey Morandini, Bobby Abreu and Greg Luzinski — three of his favorites from his ongoing 50-year run at the job. The thing is, the 75-year-old Baker doesn’t rattle the names off just to provide a passing fan with a nostalgic childhood moment, he does it because he genuinely loves to do it.
That love, in part, has helped Baker navigate a series of health-related issues in recent years.
Dedicated to his craft, Baker, by his own count, missed a total of 14 games from his start in 1972 through the 2018 season.
“In 2019, when the health challenges started coming, I missed 15 games that year, so I missed more games in one year than I had the previous 47,” he said.
Baker also missed all 30 regular season home games during the 2020 pandemic season. In August of that year, he underwent surgery to treat a squamous cell carcinoma diagnosis.
“When I found out what I was up against, my whole thought process was ‘I’m going to get better,'” and the first thing I asked the doctors was ‘How soon can I announce a Phillies game?”
Over the following months, Baker worked his way back in time for the start of the 2021 season. While the cancer has been treatable and in remission, he has recently dealt with some related complications.
Last month, Baker missed some time after needing a lengthy procedure to treat an infection, but he recovered in time to return this weekend.
“If you’ve got a mission in life, it really helps to motivate you and put aside any aches and pains and health issues,” he said. “Rather than lament what could have been or what should have been or [be] ‘woe is me,’ it’s ‘How lucky am I to do this?’ I’ve felt that my whole life. This is almost like a fairytale existence, and I’m still riding the horse.”
On a personal note, doing a story like this can feel a little bit like a public relations service on behalf of a team, but when it comes to Baker, it’s really not like that at all.
About a week after I first began covering the team back in 2019, he passed by my seat in the press box and struck up a conversation. After a quick intro, he asked a bit about my background and where I was from.
Just some small talk, nothing crazy, but the exchange made me feel welcomed. I’ve since watched him do the same with plenty of others, as if they were as important as Bryce Harper or John Middleton. I have always appreciated that about him — just like I do anytime he walks by to say hello.
As for what’s next, Baker says he has no plans of slowing down.
“As long as the Phillies will continue to have me and God blesses me with good health, I hope to continue announcing the games.”