Detroit Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson will start his 20th year Friday with these lines

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Now, thinking back, Dan Dickerson considers it a gift.

From a legend.

Back in 2003, Dickerson was getting ready to take over as the Detroit Tigers‘ radio play-by-play announcer, replacing the great Ernie Harwell.

And Dickerson had an idea. He wanted to record Harwell reading “Voice of the Turtle,” hoping to play it before the start of every season. “I just thought it was such a nice tradition and people loved to hear it,” Dickerson said.

“Voice of the Turtle” is part of Tigers lore. For years, Harwell opened his first spring training broadcast by reading the Song of Solomon 2:12:

For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone

The flowers appear on the Earth

The time of the singing of birds is come

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

It’s the sound of spring for countless Tigers fans.

“We were having lunch,” Dickerson said. “And I said, ‘Would you be willing to record the ‘Voice of the Turtle?’”

But Harwell declined.

“He was so polite about it,” Dickerson said. “He said, ‘I’d rather not. I’d like a clean break.’”

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At the time, Dickerson was bummed. But now, he considers it a gift from a Hall of Famer.

Harwell was giving Dickerson permission to start new traditions.

To start a new era. To take ownership of the broadcast and make it his own.

“What a nice thing to do,” Dickerson said. “It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do it. He was saying, ‘This is your era.’”

And that’s exactly what it has become.

A quote of his own

After Harwell turned down his request — politely of course — Dickerson wanted to put his own stamp on the start of a new season.

So he started looking for words to sum up his love for baseball.

He searched through the writings of Roger Angell, the tremendously gifted New Yorker writer, as well as other famous baseball scribes.

Then, Dickerson found something that felt right, capturing the spirit of a new season. It was written by B.J. Phillips, an associate editor at Time magazine:

“In the beginning, there was no baseball.

But ever since, there have been few beginnings as good as the start of a new baseball season.

It is the most splendid time in sports.”

How perfect.

Dickerson has read it every year since.

On Friday afternoon, a little after 1 p.m., Dickerson will mark the start of his 20th season as the voice of the Tigers before they play the Philadelphia Phillies.

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Painting a picture (and a foyer)

Dickerson is as fine a man as he is a broadcaster — and he’s dang talented.

But during the lockout, Dickerson was going stir-crazy. He spent about a week in Lakeland watching the minor league minicamp.

But he returned to Michigan on March 1 when it seemed as if the lockout would never end.

“I couldn’t like get into my normal prep, which I couldn’t do anyway, because you don’t have any all those stories coming from spring training,” he said. “I just was mad. So I told my wife, ‘Honey, how would you like the downstairs repainted?’

“She’s like, ‘That’d be great.’ ”

So he painted the foyer.

Then, right when he was about to start painting more rooms, MLB found labor peace.

“I think this is part of the reason this thing got solved,” Dickerson said, laughing. “Because I went out and bought all kinds of paint, of all kinds of supplies, started the job. And then, they settled.”

So the rest of the painting project won’t be finished until October now.

Which he’s fine with.

A pro’s pro

On Wednesday morning, Dickerson was at TigerTown, recording a promo for the upcoming season.

“Hi Tigers fans,” he said, holding a microphone. “This is Dan Dickerson. Want to tell you about a new thing that we’re doing this spring.”

But he flubbed his next line.

Without pausing a beat, he started again. “Three, two, one…” he said. “Hi, Tigers fans, this is Dan Dickerson. We’re getting ready for exhibition baseball, and I want to tell you about a couple of events that we have coming up for you this spring. A couple of livestream games, the 23rd against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 26th against the Phillies. Just go to Tigers.com, watch those games and get ready for these 2022 season.”

Nailed it.

What a pro.

Dickerson loves his job. Loves being involved in baseball.

Loves talking to manager AJ. Hinch.

“The whole idea that every day, I can learn something more about this game that I love from the people who know it at such a high level, that excites me,” Dickerson said. “I’m sure people think, ‘Oh, you know, he says, never had a bad day at the ballpark.’ But it’s true. It’s true. Even in a bad year, I still love going to the ballpark. I still like watching baseball.

“And now, it’s obviously more fun when they win. And that’s why I get very excited about the period that we’re heading into. I think we’re heading into a period where it’s gonna be like under Jim Leyland. They’re gonna be competitive and competing for division titles for many years to come.”

That, of course, is enough to excite many Tigers fans.

Dickerson is a numbers guy, but he took one major lesson from Harwell.

“It’s a people game,” he said. “It’s the people behind the numbers.”

But I would suggest something else: It’s also the man behind the microphone.

To hear him start another season, as the flowers begin to bloom and a new season is upon us… to borrow a line that Dickerson will repeat on Friday, “is the most splendid time in sports.”

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Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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