August 9, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Legendary Detroit Tigers catcher and broadcaster Jim Price, who played briefly for the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League, passed away on Monday at the age of 81.
The Detroit Tigers shared the news of his death on social media on Tuesday.
Price died at his home in Washington Township in northern Macomb County, Mich. No cause of death was provided.
“All of us with the Detroit Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of Jim Price’s passing,” said Tigers chairman and CEO Chris Ilitch in a statement. “Jim was a champion on the field, in the broadcast booth, and throughout the community.
“That Jim was with the organization for much of his life, doing what he loved, is such a powerful sign of his dedication and loyalty to the Tigers and the city of Detroit. Those are among the many reasons Jim was one of my mother and father’s favourite people, and they had such a strong relationship for many years. The thoughts of my family, and everyone across baseball, are with Jim’s wife, Lisa, and the entire Price family.”
Born in 1941 in Harrisburg, Pa., Price was signed as a pitcher/shortstop by the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 1960 season. During his seven seasons in the Bucs’ system, he was converted in a catcher but he was best known for his bat. His breakout campaign came with class-A Kinston in 1963 when he hit .311 with 19 home runs and 109 RBIs in 151 games.
Unable to crack the Pirates’ big league roster, his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers on April 7, 1967. For the next five seasons, he would serve as the backup to Tigers all-star Bill Freehan behind the dish.
In 64 contests during the Tigers’ 1968 World Series-winning season, Price batted .174 with three home runs. He went hitless in two at bats in the Fall Classic.
Price enjoyed his best big league campaign in 1969 when he batted .234 with nine home runs in 72 games. But after just two more major league seasons, he opted to retire at the tender age of 29.
“I was fed up making no money . . . When you don’t play every day, you lose your skills,” Price told Gary Gillette for his SABR bio.
By this time, Price had already been dabbling in broadcasting for a TV station in Pennsylvania. Gillette writes that Price also took a job as a manufacturer’s representative and settled in the Detroit area.
Stint with London Majors
Price and ex-Tigers ace Denny McLain also became partners in a firm involved in real estate.
In May 1974, more than two years after he had played his last pro game, Price, along with McLain, signed with the Intercounty Baseball League’s London Majors. On May 2 of that year, Glenn Hall, the Majors general manager, prematurely announced that the two would play for the Majors for $30 a game (the same as the other players). And Hall gave the impression that the two would play the entire season with the Majors.
McLain was quick to deny that he had signed a full season contract with the Majors, saying he believed the agreement was for “a one-shot deal” for the home opener on May 24 “to help promote the league, to give it some adrenalin and get it off to a good start, but that’s all.”
The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner later relented and played 14 home games for the Majors in 1974 for a reported $1,000 a game, according to the London Majors Alumni Association page. However, he only pitched nine innings. The bulk of his time with the Majors was spent at first base, shortstop and even behind the plate.
But it was Price who caught McLain in the Majors’ home opener on May 24, 1974 at Labatt Park in London. Price went 0-for-4 in the Majors’ 6-5 loss to the Kitchener Panthers (See article below).
Price’s time with the Majors was brief and he returned to his business ventures in Detroit , while also continuing to work for local TV stations. In the 1980s, he worked College World Series telecasts for ESPN.
Tigers legendary broadcaster
He had certainly paid his dues by the time the Tigers hired him to work on their TV broadcasts in 1993. From that point on, Price would be part of either the Tigers’ radio or TV broadcasts for close to three decades.
The former catcher was admired for his candid insights and was highly respected by his colleagues, peers and broadcast partners.
“Some kids grow up wanting to be a firefighter, an astronaut, etc. I wanted to call Tigers games with Jim Price,” wrote Dan Hasty, one of Price’s broadcast booth partners over the years, on Twitter on Tuesday. “At 10 years old, I got that chance at a TigerFest. 20 years later, I got to do it for real. Rest Easy, Jimmy — a great man who helped make dreams become reality.”
As his health declined in recent years, Price didn’t travel with the Tigers on most road trips.
He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and son, Jackson.