May 10, 2012
Strange Season Turns Tragic With Loss Of Beane
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
In very few places in the USA do public address announcers matter so much. This area is one of them.
The Lakers have a wonderful, smooth PA voice in Lawrence Tanter, whose only fault is that he works for the Lakers. The Yankees had Bob Sheppard, who missed turning 100 by four months and was an iconic voice at Yankees Stadium for half a century. Zany Dave Zinkoff, the noted Philadelphia 76ers PA announcer of years gone by, carved his own unique niche in the profession with his manic style.
The Bruins used to have Frank Fallon and Weldon Haire (who also did the Celtics seemingly forever) and currently have Jim Martin. He does well, but if you remember Haire you loved his thick Boston accent (Andre Savahd, Don Mahcotte). Andy Jick did the Celtics after Haire, but now is relegated to college duties while Greg Dickerson and now Eddie Palladino took over. Palladino is very energetic, but doesn't have Tanter's pipes or smooth delivery. John Rooke works Gillette Stadium, but no announcer in the NFL leaves much of any imprint on the landscape of the league or the region he works for.
But in these parts, all discussion on PA announcers starts and stops with the great Sherm Feller, who became a national cult figure as the voice of Fenway Park from 1967 until his death following the 1993 season. Feller parlayed a distinguished radio career into an iconic run as Fenway Park's man at the mike where, along with the late organist John Kiley, made the Fenway experience a very special one for many years. They both gave Fenway a special veneer with organ and announcing at the highest levels. Feller, a comforting and relaxing radio figure for many years in Boston, redefined himself with his unevenly paced, staccato delivery which was imitated by many and loved by all.
Feller died in January of 1994. He was replaced by Leslie Sterling, the second female PA announcer in MLB. She worked two seasons, then Ed Brickley took over in 1996 and worked until the 2002 season. Both Sterling and Brickley did well, but neither made a lasting impression on the masses. Brickley did work the famous 1999 All-Star Game and got to introduce Ted Williams, but never really mastered his craft; he never was able to pronounce "Nomar Garciaparra" with a fluent delivery, he always seemed to lurch his way through that long and unique name.
In 2003, a new voice emerged at Fenway. Along with the World Series wins that would follow, this new voice managed to do what Carl Yastrzemski did in 1961: He managed to take over for a legend. Finally, after all this time, Feller had his replacement, someone who could actually match Feller in just about every area other than longevity.
Carl Beane had arrived as a local sports icon. He redefined the "voice of Fenway" with his booming voice, his stately and pronounced delivery, his near-perfect diction, and a presence that seemed at times regal and even godlike. Beane pulled off the impossible in making the general public look to him as the real voice of Fenway, moving gently and gradually away from Feller.
Sadly, Beane passed away on Wednesday, a cruel and sudden jolt to the entire Red Sox organization and all its fans. Beane was driving alone in his car in Sturbridge, a small town at Exit 9 of the Mass Pike which is known for its 1700s-style museum, when he apparently suffered a heart attack and skidded off the road, smashing into a brick wall. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Southbridge. He was 59 years old.
Beane's loss sent shock waves throughout Red Sox Nation. David Ortiz talked of Beane as being "family" and viewed the loss as a member of the family passing away. Adrian Gonzalez said that "news like this is never good" and offered his prayers for Beane's family. A good portion of the NESN broadcast on Wednesday night (with the Red Sox losing 4-3 to Kansas City) was devoted to tributes to Beane.
Beane's death hits very hard back on his home turf. For an area of Massachusetts which often times can feel disenfranchised from the rest of the state, both in perception and politics, Beane was a jewel in western Massachusetts. He was born and raised in Agawam, a Springfield suburb which boasts Six Flags New England (formerly Riverside Park) as its claim to fame. He spent a lot of time in the rural town of Ware, and resided in the tiny hamlet called Holland, which borders an even smaller town named Wales and the biggest nearby town is Brimfield. Given how little attention Boston pays to Springfield, Northampton, Greenfield and Pittsfield (some people in the east do not acknowledge Massachusetts west of Worcester), having Beane at the epicenter of Fenway every day and night was a very proud badge of honor for all of the 413 area code.
Beane was the complete package. If anyone could succeed Feller as the preeminent voice of Fenway, it was Beane. In tribute to Feller, Beane kept a picture of the previous occupant of his chair and said "Sherm, help me out!" before each game. Beane loved his job passionately, respected the work of his predecessors, and was one of the few people out there who truly worked a labor of love.
Beane will live on forever thanks to his being heard very prominently in the movie Fever Pitch. He graced the various ceremonies at Fenway with his beautiful and elegant voiceovers. He was so good that at times he turned an otherwise mundane job into something that seemed very erudite. He became a "must listen" at Fenway, much the same way Feller was.
To underscore how good Beane was, one need only go back to June of 2008. On an hideous weather day at Fenway, just as the Red Sox were about to play host to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Red Sox welcomed the Celtics to Fenway after just having defeated the Lakers in six games for the NBA title that year. The Celtics braved a driving rainstorm and drove into Fenway on three duck boats (the amphibious ability of those vehicles was almost put to use), and the delirious but soaked Fenway crowd roared in delight.
Then Beane took over, introducing all the dignitaries who showed up. By the time it came to announce Kevin Garnett, Beane roared "K-G! Kevin Garnett!" The next player was Paul Pierce. "The captain -- and the Truth! Number 34, Paul Pierce!" Palladino never made those sound nearly as good. It made you wish Beane worked the Garden as well. Kiley did both Fenway and the old Garden, why not Beane? Not to diss Palladino, whose energy is always appreciated at the Garden. But he simply doesn't have the pipes Beane had.
Beane now works for someone upstairs who also speaks in booming tones. Red Sox Nation will pause and remember Beane on Thursday night, but everyone will be wondering who will deliver the announcement for a moment of silence, who is batting leadoff for the Red Sox, and wishing everyone a safe drive home. Beane's death leaves a gaping hole in the Fenway experience. It took Beane almost ten years to come along after Feller's death. Will we have to wait ten years for the next Carl Beane?
We'll deal with that later. Right now, it's about his wife, children and grandchildren who deserve our thoughts and prayers.
And for remembering Beane, and one of the most remarkable non-baseball achievements in the history of the Red Sox. He actually replaced a legend.
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