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Carnett: Finding my own basso profondo

June 04, 2012|By Jim Carnett

Longtime Boston Red Sox public-address announcer Carl Beane died last month.

Referred to by many as "The Voice of Fenway Park," he was in his 10th season as Red Sox announcer. His affable but measured style exuded class.

In a moving tribute to Beane, Sports Illustrated depicted announcers generally as "voices from heaven." That, I believe, is a perfect description for those who toil at press box microphones. They're disembodied beings — seraphim, if you will — who help set the character and tone for every stadium and arena in the land.

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Many, frankly, are not actually gainfully employed as P.A. professionals. They do their work for free because they love it. If required, they'd probably pay their team for the privilege of announcing.

The late Bob Sheppard, the legendary New York Yankees announcer for more than half a century, offered this sage advice for those who ply the trade: "A P.A. announcer is not a cheerleader, or a circus barker, or a hometown screecher. He's a reporter."

Tell that to NBA public-address hacks who fall below Sheppard's enlightened standard. They'd be wise to heed his counsel. Watch a playoff game on TV. NBA screamers swallow their microphones.

Sports Illustrated reports that some NBA P.A. types are hired to serve as "hype men" and "carnival barkers."

I wanted to be an announcer when my voice changed at 13. I'd hold a rolled-up magazine to my mouth: "Now batting. No. 14. First baseman, Gil Hodges."

I'd speak in deep stentorian tones, mimicking my hero, Los Angeles Dodgers' announcer John Ramsey. Ramsey called Dodger games from 1958 to '82. He also announced for other L.A. professional and collegiate teams.

Filling the firmament above the stadium like rolling thunder, his voice was certain to trigger goose bumps and high drama. The simple phrase, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers," could cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.

I first heard him on the radio behind Vin Scully's masterful play-by-play. I encountered Ramsey "live" for the initial time at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1958. The Dodgers were playing the then-Milwaukee Braves.

"No. 44. The right fielder, Henry Aaron."

I announced Costa Mesa High School football games during my junior and senior years, in 1960 and '61, after writing an essay about my dream of one day becoming a sports announcer. My English teacher got me the gig.

I clumsily tried to replicate Ramsey's rich basso profondo.

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