Remembering “The Ole Announcer” Van Patrick

One of the most popular announcers in Detroit sports history was Van Patrick, who was the voice of the Detroit Tigers during the 1950s and the voice of the Detroit Lions from 1950 until his death in 1974.

Patrick first entered the broadcast booth at Briggs Stadium in 1949 teaming up with Harry Heilmann on Tiger broadcasts and then from 1952 to 1959 he announced games with Dizzy Trout, Mel Ott, and George Kell.

He unfortunately was saddled with one of the worst decades in Tiger history. Ernie Harwell once said: “Van had less to broadcast about in a decade then some guys do in a year.”

Following the ’59 season, Patrick lost his Tigers gig to Ernie Harwell when the team changed its beer sponsorship from Goebels to Strohs. Van’s name had almost become synonymous with Goebel through his many radio and television ads for both the Lions and Tigers.

Most fans in the ‘50s and ‘60s associate Patrick with the Lions during the golden era of Detroit football. For 25 seasons from 1950 until his death in 1974, Lion fans were treated to his distinctive voice and sayings whether he was doing radio broadcasts or on the CBS telecasts.

“It’s spotted, it’s booted, it’s up, and it’s good!!…………….The ball is on the 25 yard line……….let’s call it the 27.”…………….Cogdill’s on the 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 10 touchdown Detroit!

Patrick later became the sports director for the Mutual Broadcasting System and at WJBK TV in Detroit, and also broadcast Notre Dame football. The burly four sports star from Texan Christian University certainly had a face for radio, (along with a pretty bad toupe) but he knew what he was doing, not only with his knowledge of many sports but also on the business side where he became a savvy investor while owning four radio stations.

No announcer worked harder then Patrick during the football season.

On Saturdays he handled Notre Dame football, on Sundays the Lions, and later in his career he even did the radio broadcasts nationally for Monday Night Football.

For one year Patrick battled cancer, before dying of the disease at age 58 on September 29, 1974 in South Bend just before he was headed to the stadium to announce another game.

“It was a horrible way to die but it was the right place to die near both the Fighting Irish and Mutual Radio,” said Al Wester, a colleague and friend.



About Bill Dow

Bill Dow has written numerous articles on Detroit sports history as a regular freelance contributor to the Detroit Free Press sports page, and some of his work has been published in Baseball Digest magazine. He also wrote the Afterword to the latest editions of George Plimpton’s book Paper Lion.