The death of Carl Beane last May brought on a year’s worth of guest public-address announcers at Fenway Park. The Red Sox didn’t want to name a successor so soon after his death, so for much of the season, they allowed about 50 people to sit in Beane’s seat and announce players as they came to the plate.
The PA announcer is part of the rhythm, part of the presentation at the ballpark. Who can forget Sherm Feller, the former vaudeville entertainer and radio disc jockey whose unique style was a staple at Fenway for so long? He truly captured the ambiance of the ballpark and became a fabric of the game presentation.
Dr. Charles Steinberg, senior adviser to the president/CEO, is looking for that voice to be the “color of Fenway.”
Toward that end, the 50 or so who auditioned last season and the 400 or so who have tried out this year — privately last week or in the public auditions last Saturday in what Steinberg called a “Fenway American Idol” — will be whittled down.
The finalists will be brought to Fort Myers, Fla., where their voices will be heard in the open air and their presentations analyzed throughout spring training. Feedback from the crowds will be important.
Can they find the next Feller, the folksy entertainer with the deep voice, or the next Beane, who had what Steinberg called a “senatorial voice”?
Or will they go in a completely different direction?
Steinberg is looking for personality, not just a “plastic voice.” He’s looking for one that has a warmth, that fits in with the crowd, fits in with Fenway.
As Steinberg points out, the announcer also must be able to read some things cold, on the spot, and must know not to introduce a relief pitcher until the umpire points to the press box and gives permission to do so.
Steinberg said he enjoyed working with local personalities like longtime sportscaster Bob Lobel and TV personality/satirist Dick Flavin, who were guest announcers last season.
He enjoyed the young “warm voice” of former Red Sox publicist Henry Mahegan, now a Boston schoolteacher, who knows the press box atmosphere and how the information flow works.
“It would be an honor to do that job,” Lobel said. “I felt like a kid again, announcing the lineups in my backyard. It was really cool. Spending a summer at Fenway Park would be great.
“I enjoyed the game I did last year and the audition last week. I just know I had a lot of fun, and if I get so lucky as to be chosen, I would be honored to do it. It would be neat to be considered the voice of Fenway Park.”
Lobel said his front-runner would be the eloquent Flavin, who has a theatrical way about his presentation.
But Steinberg refuses to name a front-runner, trying to keep an open mind.
“It was a fun process for everyone concerned,” Steinberg said. “I think giving fans the stage to audition for this job was exciting in and of itself for so many of them.”
Besides Lobel and Flavin, professional PA announcers from all over the country came in to audition.
The job isn’t considered a full-time position, but it’s a chance for someone to attend the home games, watch Red Sox baseball, and create a mood. In other words, the perfect part-time job.
Most PA announcers around baseball are part-time employees who do it mostly for the love of the game. Many have full-time careers or are retired.
“It would be a job you could really do a lot with,” Lobel said. “It could be more than just being a PA announcer. You could be a voice for the team in other areas as well.”
The Red Sox have had seven PA announcers in their history, starting with Frank Fallon from 1953-57. Former Bruins play-by-play man Fred Cusick did it in 1956 and 1957, and Jay McMaster preceded Feller from 1958-66.
Feller took over in time for the Impossible Dream season in 1967. After Feller’s death in 1993, the Red Sox hired only the second female PA announcer in major league history, Leslie Sterling. ( Sherry Davis, with the Giants, was the first). Sterling, now an ordained minister, was heard at Fenway from 1994-96, and Steinberg said there are “a few women” in the mix this time.
Ed Brickley took over in 1997 and worked until 2002, when the Sox hired Beane.
Sometime during a game in Fort Myers this spring, we’ll hear the new voice of Fenway.
Apropos of nothing
1. The father of new Red Sox media relations director Kevin Gregg is the late Eric Gregg, who was the third black umpire in major league history. Dick Berardino, a longtime organizational man with the Sox, said that when he managed Boston’s Elmira short-season team, “I remember a young, black umpire who couldn’t have been more than 18 years old at the time. It was Eric Gregg. We were in Batavia and I got into a beef with him over a call and he threw me out of the game. It was his first professional ejection.” Berardino retold the story to Kevin recently.
2. Bob McClure, who was fired as pitching coach by the Red Sox last summer, has decided to take a year off from baseball, turning down opportunities with the Rockies and Padres to stay home and be with his young twins, one of whom was sick last year. McClure said he and Bobby Valentine actually came to a good place toward the end of his tenure. “We didn’t agree on some of the instruction at first,” he said, “but we worked on it and by the end we had worked things out and come to a meeting of the minds. I think our relationship was fine.” But that didn’t save his job. With the rotation underperforming, management decided it needed a new voice and promoted Randy Niemann from assistant pitching coach. McClure has a strong reputation around baseball and should have no problem getting back in when he’s ready.
3. It’s always great to see a local product in Red Sox camp. Terry Doyle, a righthander from Salem who pitched for Boston College, will likely be in Pawtucket. He was 6-3, 2.83 for Triple A Charlotte (White Sox) in 2012 before signing with Fukuoka in Japan (1-1, 3.55).
4. It would be great if the Nationals moved from Viera, Fla., to Fort Myers, which would give the area three teams and solve some travel issues. But Lee County seems to be up to its ears trying to make the Red Sox and Twins happy; it would have to refurbish City of Palms Park and the minor league facility to make it happen. Right now, it doesn’t look good.
Apropos of something
Will anyone challenge a player and attempt to void a contract for PED use? This will become quite a legal debate in the coming months.
There appears to be enough protection for players in the Basic Agreement, where the penalties for PED use override any character clauses in the standard player contract.
But there has been a lot of talk about whether the Yankees would seek to void the remaining $114 million on Alex Rodriguez’s contract if he indeed is found to have used banned substances from a Miami anti-aging clinic.
There reportedly is documentation that he did, and ESPN sources are saying he was injected by the owner of the shuttered clinic, Anthony Bosch.
It appears that nothing can happen until Major League Baseball or federal authorities conduct an investigation into the matter.
Rodriguez has admitted to past use of PEDs, from 2001-03 with the Rangers, but said he hasn’t used any since then.
Overriding any language in a standard player contract would be language in the individual guaranteed portion of the contract. Each contract may contain certain language that protects both the team and player.
But according to a former agent, one avenue the Yankees could take to void the Rodriguez deal would be trying to prove there was fraud prior to the contract being signed.
The Yankees could try to show that Rodriguez lied about taking PEDs and thus the contract was agreed to under false pretenses.
The insurance company protecting the team from A-Rod’s hip injury also could claim that he lied on an application for insurance.
Even though the team takes out insurance on the player, the player has to provide the personal information.
But most experts agree it would be a difficult process, and the best bet might be a mutual parting of the ways in which a settlement is reached.
Updates on nine
1. Franklin Morales, LHP, Red Sox — A few teams contacted the Red Sox about Morales this offseason and a few others have him on their list of pitchers to watch closely in spring training. Teams are intrigued by Morales’s starting capability, especially with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball. Morales had to “stretch out” on the fly last season, but with a full spring training, scouts will be interested to see if he can consistently maintain that velocity for a full outing. He did it at times last season. One American League scout will be looking to see how he commands his secondary pitches. If Gio Gonzalez winds up being penalized for his alleged link to the anti-aging clinic in Miami, the Nationals may be interested in Morales.
2. Andrew Bailey, RHP, Red Sox — With the Sox having Joel Hanrahan and a deep bullpen (especially if Daniel Bard has straightened out), Bailey is another pitcher who will be watched by scouts. There are still teams out there who could use a closer (Tigers, Mets?), and the Red Sox might listen if the return is decent.
3. Travis Hafner, DH, Yankees — Though he has been beset with numerous injuries over the past few years, he could do some serious damage at Yankee Stadium with that short porch. Brian Cashman has been really good the past few years at identifying players like this, from Eric Chavez to Andruw Jones. If Hafner is healthy, he also provides a good on-base percentage (.381 for his career). With him and Kevin Youkilis, the Yankee lineup could feature the plate patience it was once known for.
4. Hideki Okajima, LHP, free agent — He has opted out of his contract in Japan and is ready to return to the majors. The former Red Sox lefty has gone through some ups and downs the past two years, but appears to have his Okie-Dokie slider back. A few teams are interested in a minor league deal, but Okajima hasn’t made up his mind yet.
5. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, free agent — Teams like the Astros and Mets are kicking around the possibility of adding Matsuzaka to their spring training camp to see if he can recapture the form he had in his first two seasons in Boston. Matsuzaka could also head back to Japan if he doesn’t get what he considers a good chance to make a major league roster.
6. Derek Lowe, RHP, free agent — The veteran righty is carefully choosing the right place to resume his career. Lowe wants to be a starting pitcher, but it increasingly appears that he will have to go back to being a swingman, which is how he started his career with the Red Sox. The Mets and Astros are possibilities.
7. Chad Epperson, catching instructor, Red Sox — The Red Sox liked the work Epperson did when Gary Tuck was on leave last summer. Now that Tuck has retired, Epperson is the leading candidate to take his job, though the Red Sox have interviewed a few internal candidates. John Farrell indicated that no outside candidate had been interviewed yet. Tuck told some in the Sox organization that he had hoped to be the bench coach under Farrell, but Farrell chose Torey Lovullo instead. Epperson has used Tuck’s instructional methods, so the transition would be easier with him than others. Rich Gedman, who is a hitting coach in the Red Sox system, would also be a good choice.
8. Jose Valverde, RP, free agent — He is drawing interest from a few teams, including the Mets, as they round out their bullpens. The Tigers, Reds, Marlins, and Blue Jays seem to be the teams looking hardest for bullpen pieces before spring training begins.
9. Michael Bourn, OF, free agent — There has been speculation that the Mets are trying to get Major League Baseball to take the draft compensation out of the Bourn equation. The Mets have the 11th pick and would rather not give that up. But according to a Mets source, they are still trying to determine whether they can get Bourn to sign. Only if they determine they can would they go all out on the compensation issue. The Mets would love a pillow-type contract from Scott Boras on Bourn. It is the surprise of the offseason that a player of his quality has not yet signed.
From the Bill Chuck files: “In 2008, Felix Hernandez threw 2,093 fastballs at an average speed of 94.5 miles per hour. Last season, he was down to 746 fastballs at an average speed of 92.5. Batters hit .278 off the fastball in 2008, and .207 last season.” Also, “Last season, if a team scored three runs in a game, its winning percentage was .382, but if it scored four runs, the winning percentage was .570. If a team was ahead at the start of the second inning, it went on to win 70 percent of the time (837-358). Last season, 111 games were lost by teams entering the ninth inning with a lead, the most since 2006, when there were 118.” . . . Happy 61st birthday, Fred Lynn.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.