Fenway Park will be different tonight. To the fans, a familiar voice will be missing. To those who work at the ballpark, a friend will be mourned. Carl Beane died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 59.
Beane was The Voice of Fenway Park. The Agawam, Massachusetts, native had been the team’s public address announcer since 2003. His deep, rich baritone was instantly recognizable to a generation of fans.
His style was straightforward, with only an occasional flourish. When “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fenway Park” came over the loudspeakers, it was easy to imagine it being a bygone era. Befitting his workplace, Carl Beane loved tradition.
He also loved his job. To many of his friends — and he had no shortage of those — that is how he’ll be remembered. The Voice of Fenway Park didn’t come to work. He came to do something he enjoyed, and it showed. Carl Beane will be missed.
In the summer of 2005, I talked to Beane about his life and career for the book “Interviews from Red Sox Nation” [Maple Street Press, 2006]. As an appreciation, here are excerpts from that interview:
Beane on his early days as an entertainer: “I began as a musician, a drummer. I was, and still am, devoted to Buddy Rich. I played with some local bands, but was good at playing with people who didn’t make it. I did play with Chuck Berry once, when I was about 16 years old. He was having one of his annual duels with the IRS and didn’t have a traveling band. Musicians hung out at record stores back in the ’60s, so he’d call one in the town he was coming to and line up local musicians. I was in a store in Holyoke [MA] and the manager asked if I wanted to play with Chuck Berry. The night of the show, we’re standing around waiting for him when this big Cadillac pulls up. We asked if he wanted to do a sound check, but all he wanted was to know that we had played his songs. He said that we’d start a song when he waved his guitar, and we’d end it when he waved his guitar. That was it.”
On his radio background: “I knew in fourth grade that I wanted to do radio. I went to broadcast school and graduated in 1972. When I got out, I started working at WMAS in Springfield [MA]. I was a disc jockey and also did some sports, which included high school basketball. After that, I went to WBRK in Pittsfield, where I was a nighttime DJ and produced a sports show. From there I went to WARE, in the town of Ware, and I’ve been associated with them ever since. One of the interesting things I’ve done is host a Sunday-morning polka show. I called myself Beane-ski. There’s a big Polish population in the Ware area and I took a lot of requests. I had a three-page list of people I had to say hello to every show.
“I work as an independent contractor and my voice is on around 400 stations. In the off-season, I’m with WBZ and ESPN radio. I do updates on WFAN. I do sound-bites for Westwood One. I figured out a long time ago that if I worked for a lot of people, there’d always be work.”
On getting the job with the Red Sox: “I didn’t do a demo tape. I’ve been going to almost every Red Sox game for 28 years because of my radio work. I was a known commodity as a reporter. It had been suggested to me that I look into the job and one day at the dinner table I got a bee in my head to call and ask about it. This was in March and they asked me if I wanted to come down to Fort Myers to try it out. I was the only one to get a live audition. By the third inning, I knew that I really wanted to do this. 165 people applied for the job and they gave it to me after I had decided, almost on a whim, to call and ask about it.
“I was simply blessed with a good set of vocal cords. My voice changed at the age of 11, so it was God-given, simply the sound of the noise coming out of the hole below my nose. I try not to do anything to abuse it — I don’t drink or smoke — but that’s all. I’ve always liked to read aloud. Maybe I have what I have from that.”
On getting the names right: “When a team comes in, I talk to their media relations person or their announcer. If I have an opportunity, I’ll ask the player himself. I’ll walk up to him and say, “Say your name.” Kansas City has a player named Gotay, but it’s not pronounced “go-tay,” it’s “go-tie.” It’s my job to have it right, so I always check.
“I [announce every player’s name] the same, with one exception: Derek Jeter. I pause just a little longer between the Derek and the Jeter. He knows it, too. After one game, he came up to me in the clubhouse and said, ‘I know why you do that. You do it so they can boo me twice.’ I admitted that it was true, and the next night when I did it, he looked up at me and nodded. But it’s funny, there are players who get more boos than he does. ARod and Sheffield get it worse. Jeter’s boos aren’t vicious, they’re more like Mantle-boos. He’s booed out of respect.”
On his daily routine: “I get here three hours before the game. The first thing I do is let everybody know I’m here. Then I set up my computer and check the rosters, looking for injuries and additions. I start checking the pronunciations, to make sure I get Joachim Benoit right. I get myself something to eat, then wait for the daily script that covers the pre-game festivities. Depending on the game, it’s anywhere from six to 15 pages and I always read it aloud. It starts with the greeting and then there are things like the honorary ball boy, the kid that says ‘play ball,’ the person throwing out the first pitch, the person singing the National Anthem, and more. Those are all names I have to get right. Of course, sometimes there are last minute changes and I have to wing it. Everything is timed out perfectly. It’s very structured.
The normal break between innings is 2:05, and it’s 2:20 when it’s an ESPN or FOX game. The second base umpire keeps time on the field and I keep track myself on my watch. I take my cue from the throw down to second base to announce the first batter of an inning. When they start throwing the ball around the infield, I know the batter will be walking toward the plate. As for line-up changes, the home plate umpire is supposed to wave and point if there’s an official change, so I have to watch him. Of course, some umpires are better at that than others.”
On being the PA announcer at Fenway Park: “If I [embellished], people would boo. The fans here wouldn’t want me to do that. The only schtick — I suppose that’s what you’d call it — is in the seventh inning stretch, when I say, “streeetch.” But beyond that, the fans’ expectations are that I just do my job. Some places expect something different, but this is Fenway Park. It’s all about tradition. You don’t need to tell people how to, or when to, cheer. Places like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium don’t need cheerleaders. There’s been a precedent set, a way it should sound.”
On his love of the job: “I’m often one of the last people to leave the ballpark after a game, and I’ve sat in the parking lot, overwhelmed by where I am and what I’m doing. I’ve been coming here for fifty years, and I can imagine this place talking to me. Actually, it does talk to me. I hear it talking to me in my own voice. At least, I hope it sounds like me.”