He was born at Woman's Hospital in the East Falls section of Philadelphia and raised on Springfield Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia before moving just across the Walt Whitman Bridge to Mount Ephraim, N.J. in his youth. He graduated from Audubon High School and earned his bachelor's degree from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) before obtaining a master's degree from Temple.
Dan Baker has never been far from the shadows of where Lincoln Financial Field stands today. Most Eagles fans may not be able to recognize Baker, but he was a part of the gameday experience for millions of fans spanning a generation. On Sunday, the Eagles will respect and recognize Baker for his 29 years of service as the team's public address announcer, an era that began in 1985 and concluded last year. Prior to his tenure as the public address announcer, Baker worked as a spotter - the person who tells the broadcaster who made the play - or a statistician for radio and television broadcast teams for 18 seasons, including the 1980 NFC Championship Game with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier. In all, Baker has helped enhance the fans' gameday experience in one way or another for the past 47 years, dating back to when the Eagles called Franklin Field home.
"It will certainly be a moment of great pride," Baker said by telephone on Friday. "I love the organization with all my heart. I have rooted for the Eagles since I was a boy; the first sports team I rooted for was the Eagles."
Since taking over the stadium public address duties for Matt Guokas, Sr., Baker never missed a single home game. A member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2012, Baker's distinct and classic voice provided fans in the stadium with prompt and accurate calls declaring the down and distance or who made the big catch. A true professional in every sense of the word, Baker is a die-hard fan of the team, but had the utmost respect for the job at hand.
"I always understood that I had a responsibility as a PA announcer to provide the information quickly and accurately, and so that they could understand what I was saying," Baker said. "That was the primary responsibility, and it was very important to me to get that right, and also to not interfere with the team in the huddle, or to do anything that would interfere with the play. There's time not to announce. Of course when the Eagles are doing well, I would make it very obvious in my voice. I always tried to announce with enthusiasm, but when the team is doing well it comes across, and when the fans are reacting the way that they do, it just creates a fantastic atmosphere. And the Eagles fans are so passionate, they're so loyal, and it was really a thrill for me to do."
Baker delivered "a zinger" during the 1995 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Veterans Stadium that will be forever known as "4th-and-1." With just over two minutes left in the game, the Cowboys faced 4th-and-1 from their own 29-yard line. Instead of punting the ball away, Dallas decided to go for the first down. Future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith took the handoff and was stopped short of the first down marker. The crowd at Veterans Stadium was whipped into a frenzy only for the referees to declare that the two-minute warning struck before the ball was snapped. The Cowboys didn't learn their lesson and still went for the first down on 4th-and-1.
"When they broke the huddle, I announced that it was '4th and 1 - AGAIN!' And then the Eagles stopped them again!" Baker said.
Baker enjoyed the time in the announcer's booth because it also provided a chance for him to spend quality time with his family. Baker's brother, Rick, was his spotter for 14 years. Baker's son, Darren, took over the spotter job for the final 15 seasons.
"That made it extra special. My son Darren is a teacher at West Deptford Middle School, he's a Language Arts teacher. He was a very good student-athlete himself. He knows sports - I brought him to games since he was a little guy from time to time, and he has a special feel for football. He knew that my reputation was on the line," Baker said. "It was a real family thing. My brother Rick was the spotter for the first 14 years, and my son Darren was for the last 15, and both were outstanding. I pride myself on the speed and accuracy of those announcements, and my brother Rick and my son Darren were a big reason for that."
Baker took immense satisfaction thriving in one of the most difficult assignments last season - the Snow Bowl. The team's success over the past 15 years also provided Baker the opportunity to work a number of playoff games. He still remembers how Veterans Stadium was trembling following Duce Staley's touchdown in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. He reminisced how he had to collect himself after Freddie Mitchell gained 28 yards on "4th-and-26" in the 2003 playoffs.
"Don't forget, we've got 70,000 people because it's a sellout crowd - you can't make a mistake there. It would make the Eagles look bad, it would me look bad ... so I had to wait to see that referee signal," Baker said. "To the naked eye, I thought he had it, and I was anxious to say it, but I waited until the official indication came, and then I said it as enthusiastically as I could, and I was an extremely happy guy."
Baker has voiced the names some of the most iconic players to ever play for the franchise. He loved to articulate quarterback Randall Cunningham because "when you have a few syllables in a word, it allows you to do a few more things melodically." How could anyone, Baker included, not relish in delivering "Duuuce" for Staley or "Huuugh" for Hugh Douglas. One of Baker's all-time favorite names to say was that of former defensive tackle Hollis Thomas.
On Sunday, a new season begins for the Eagles as an era ends. Baker called the opportunity to be the public address announcer "a great joy" as he leaves a standard of excellence and professionalism that was second-to-none.