The Detroit Tigers family suffered a significant loss on Tuesday when former catcher and radio broadcaster Jim Price passed away at the age of 81. He had been fighting cancer in his later years but no cause of death was given at the time.
Price, along with Dan Dickerson, was the radio voice of the Olde English D through the great renaissance of the franchise over the past two-plus decades after working alongside radio legend Ernie Harwell from 1999-2002. The backup catcher on the 1968 World Series team brought an endless collection of sayings and stories to the table that earn him the esteem of the fanbase while providing a perfect counterpoint to Dickerson’s polished professionalism.
The Bless You Boys staff convened its roundtable after hearing the news, with members of the staff offering their favorite recollections and memories of Price as he heads off to that nice area in the sky. Take a look below at what we had to offer.
Adam Dubbin: I was (and still am) out of market during the Tigers’ most recent Golden Era, and with the TV stream very limited until more recently, I essentially “grew up” again on Dan and Jim.
My favorite from that time was when they would respond to submitted questions, which he would always add, “Nice area” when noting the location of the submitter. He truly added “color” to the commentary.
Frisbee Pilot: While it certainly had been some time since his playing days, I always enjoyed Jim’s insight into the catching position. It’s a unique brotherhood within baseball, which requires an underappreciated skill set that nobody else on the field has to have. Plus, having been a catcher for a good chunk of time growing up, I always enjoyed his flattery — catchers are the “smartest” and “most handsome” guys on the field, obviously.
Fielder’s Choice: I’ll need some help remembering the details, but he had a whole list of “signs you might not be traveling north with the team” that he’d deliver during the late innings of spring training games. Your locker is on wheels, the numbers on your jersey were drawn on with marker, things like that.
Peter Kwasniak: For me, I wasn’t a Tigers fanatic till 2006, and being in college, the way I listened to most games was my portable radio/walkman. Dan and Jim were the voices I associate and will always remember in the era the “Roar was Restored”.
Personally, I always got a laugh out of the way Dan would just go silent trying not to laugh or say anything when Jim started talking out catchers having a strong butt or some goofy thing. You could sense the awkwardness and the wanting to burst out laughing. I did, many times. With all his other sayings so engrained into the Tigers' lexicon, radio broadcasts will never be the same.
RIP Jim, the most handsome catcher to ever walk the earth.
FC: Catcher’s equipment was always referred to as the “tools of intelligence”.
Adam: $20 a year to listen to Dan and Jim via MLB Audio was always the best deal in the business.
Zane Harding: “Buggy whip” wins for me, but his pronunciation of “Nick Castellanos” will always be #1 in my heart.
Frisbee: Oh, there were definitely some interesting pronunciations!
Brady McAtamney: “Batting thiiiiird…”
When you have an entire section on your Wikipedia page called “quirks and signature phrases,” you’re one beloved man.
Cam Kaiser: Growing up listening to the Tigers, Jim Price will always be a huge part of some of my favorite sports memories. Others have mentioned the wonderful Jim-isms like “yellowhammer,” “buggy whip,” and “nice area,” and those were all wonderful to hear him break out on a nightly basis. My personal favorite Jim-ism was “Donnie Kelly, baby!” You just couldn’t beat Don Kelly making a great play or getting a big hit followed by Price gushing over him. Jim Price was a wonderful announcer who I’ll always associate with the happiest baseball moments. I’m really going to miss him.
Brandon Day: I grew up with Ernie, putting my little radio under my pillow so I could keep the volume up without getting busted, and if I planted my ear right over it I could hear crystal clear through the pillow. The whole bit. So, Dan and Jim were never going to be able to top those memories, but over the last 20 years they came pretty close.
I don’t know if I’ve even got a favorite saying or moment. More just general impressions.
I’m a little partial to “racky-tack” for some reason, but “nice area” gets thrown around constantly among friends and family. I did love the constant boosterism of catchers, their good looks, strong legs, and overall intelligence. There was a bemused dismissal of pitchers as headcases at times that was subtle but hilarious to me. “Stop thinking, rookie, and do what your catcher tells you,” and yeah his bemused, slightly evil chuckle and sense of humor about how tough it can be in spring camp and to make the leap to the major leagues.
Sometimes the funniest thing about Jim is when you knew what he was thinking as a bad situation unfolded, but he wouldn’t quite say it. He had a combination of timing and restraint that recalled a bit of Bob Newhart to my mind thinking of him today.
Something I have always appreciated about Jim Price, is that he never got bitter about the modern game or held a grudge against the changes over the decades. He loved the game with passion in all eras. And through his sometimes delightful, sometimes goofy collection of sixties and seventies lingo, you could hear a bit of the voices of the 1968 team in the way he talked baseball. Certainly, he had a bias for catchers, and for a wilder, woolier time in the game, but he always played that as a light schtick and really loved and appreciated a good game of baseball as much in recent years as he did when he was young. And in that attitude, bridging a 55-year span of Tigers baseball, you understood how the game changes, but the game remains the game.
David Rosenberg: Seeing the news that Jim Price passed was a strange mix of emotions for me. While it felt like I’d lost a family member — the distant kind that you don’t see often but are sad to be unable to see again — I struggled to pick out any great moments that I would remember him for. I’m not a radio guy, but I grew up in South Florida at the turn of the millennium, when most Tigers games were absorbed in my household over dial-up with the red, green and blue circles that eventually became the modern Gameday system. Accompanying those dots were the voices of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price.
My mom grew up with Ernie and made sure I knew what a true legend he was. That will be Dickerson for me, but Price made an impact that I didn’t really understand until he passed. Radio these days is filled with phonies and talking heads there to collect paychecks. Price was a Tiger that loved the game. That much was evident in the way he spoke about baseball for more than three decades. It’s rare to come by men like that, and perhaps even rare to find players of that generation that are open to the modern game, as Brandon pointed out. A familiar voice that invited you to join him with the passion he spoke with. It’s hard to ask for more in a broadcaster.
Detroit lost a good one. May his memory be a blessing to those who knew him and cared for him.
Ashley MacLennan: I’ve never been a big radio broadcast listener, just because I usually prefer to watch games, but I’m no fool, I know the radio crew was always the superior team. Whenever I remembered to switch my audio feed to the radio I was always charmed by Jim and his cheeky uncle vibes, how it made it feel like watching a game with a chatty family member rather than a stranger. Jim was the perfect balance to Dan in those broadcasts, never afraid to admit when he didn’t understand a new stat or to sound silly. There was something very comforting about a Jim and Dan broadcast, and Tigers’ fans are lesser today for having lost him.
Patrick O’Kennedy: Jim Price was the backup catcher behind Bill Freehan on the 1968 Tigers, my first baseball love as a kid. Freehan played so much and was an all-star just about every year, so Price didn’t get much attention. He got maybe 35 starts per season in his five years with Detroit. He was always a Tiger — never traded or played anywhere else. He would hit an occasional home run.
Later, he did the sports news on CBS, which was channel 2 at the time. Since I left for So Cal in 1984, I wasn’t familiar with him as a radio partner for Dickerson other than when I’d tune in for non-televised games. Seemed like he talked about food a lot and “my friend Al Kaline” during spring training games. His campaign for Autism and his son who is autistic were well known. Seemed like a really nice guy. RIP Jim.
Please share your memories of Jim Price in the comments section below!