'Voice of Fenway' silenced

BOSTON -- Carl Beane loved the job, and even more reveled in the perks that came with it, such as showing off his two World Series rings. He was not only the public address "voice" of the Boston Red Sox, but "The Voice of Fenway Park," an encomium he happily advertised on his website, where he offered his extraordinary pipes to introduce your wedding party, host your birthday or bar mitzvah, or record a message for your answering machine.

He was not shy about telling you who he was and what he did, this gnomish figure from a small town in western Massachusetts who had landed a job as a nighttime DJ a year out of Agawam High School, hustled for the next three decades as a radio sports announcer in small-town bleachers and big-league arenas (in the '70s, on WARE in small-town Ware, he did high school games under the name "Rocky Rhodes") and in the spring of 2003 won an audition to sit in the catbird's seat in Fenway Park.

That was what gave police Wednesday afternoon their first clue to the identity of the driver of the 2004 Suzuki SUV that had crossed over to the wrong side of Holland Road in Sturbridge, Mass., then plowed into a tree and stone wall, the violence of the crash alerting golfers out for a midday round on a nearby course to call for help.

The black tire cover on the back of the wrecked vehicle was adorned, in the shape of a horseshoe, with white baseball stitches, and in the middle, in flowing red calligraphy, "Carl Beane," and the number 26, which was worn by Beane's favorite Red Sox player, Wade Boggs. That was what came out in the first news reports, the ID made of the car. Nothing, initially, on the driver.

A short time later, after his broken body was taken by ambulance to Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, Carl Beane was pronounced dead at the age of 59. Later reports indicated Beane had suffered a heart attack behind the wheel.

"His voice was pretty unique," David Ortiz said Wednesday night in Kansas City. "I'm pretty sure everybody is going to remember that forever."

Outside the control room in Fenway Park, where Beane sat for every game, there is a photo of Sherm Feller, who was the Red Sox PA announcer from 1967 until he died, a beloved figure, in 1994.

Before taking the same seat with the same view Feller had those many years, Beane reverently touched that photo. He also picked up the phone outside the control room.

"He would speak to Sherm every game," said John Carter, who as director of Red Sox Productions shared space in the control room with Beane. "Carl truly believed Sherm was watching over him … and guiding his every word.

"The exact words varied nightly, but the theme was constant. It was like he was seeking a pep talk from Sherm, asking Sherm to oversee his performance each night. Carl was a very spiritual person."

And then, Beane would begin his night's work by intoning the very words Feller did, words that resonated to every corner of the ancient yard.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park."

Tom Shaer, a longtime sports broadcaster who now runs his own media consultants business in Chicago, also is from Agawam. Shaer's older brother Joe graduated from Agawam High, home of the Brownies, with Carl in 1971.

Shaer called Beane on Tuesday.

"We talked for 15 minutes," he said. "I told him what a great job he did on 'Fenway 100' day. My compliments were very technical and detailed, which made him feel good. He said, 'Broadcasters notice those, so it means a lot. I am so happy you called me.' He said Larry Lucchino and Charles Steinberg had complimented him a lot.

"Carl went on to tell me Fenway 100 was his greatest thrill because the team could always win another World Series, but there will be only one 100th anniversary celebration.''

Beane did not become a wealthy man as PA announcer, a job that paid him $50 a game when he was first hired. That's why he continued working as a radio freelancer, showing up at sporting events all over town feeding sound to his clients, which included ESPN. He also wrote columns for a string of small weekly papers in western Mass., where he still lived, in Holland.

Most nights, he was among the last to leave the press box at Fenway, where he first began covering the Sox in 1977, and the same held true in TD Garden or Gillette Stadium.

On the day he died, Beane had worked the 6-9 a.m. shift at WARE. The station's owner told the Worcester Telegram that Beane told him he was planning to go home to take a nap.

"Western Massachusetts is often overlooked by Boston media," Shaer said, "but believe me, everybody out there is so proud of him. It's as if one of our own became a Red Sox player.''

Indeed, Beane looked forward twice a summer, once in Fenway Park, once in Yankee Stadium, to dress in full Red Sox uniform, No. 26 on the back, of course, to manage the Boston media in their biannual games against the New York media. Everyone else was dressed in sweats, jeans and T-shirts. Not Carl.

There's a hilarious photo of Beane being restrained by his friend and another radio reporter, Mike Petraglia, after Boston's Spanish-language broadcaster, Uri Berenguer, had been beaned by the New York pitcher. Beane was ready to rumble, but Petraglia, who towered over Beane, had other ideas.

As much as Beane drew inspiration from Feller, he found a friend and mentor in Bob Sheppard, the legendary Yankees PA announcer. When Beane was hired by the Red Sox, he called Sheppard with the news.

"Bob Sheppard had the right idea," Beane liked to say. "Clear, concise, correct.''

Shortly after taking the Sox job, Beane told his local daily about how his father, Alfred, had taken him to his first game and pointed out Ted Williams to him. He couldn't have been more than 5 years old at the time, Beane said.

Years later, after his father died, Beane walked out to the left-field wall, and in front of the scoreboard where it says, "AB," he took nine steps to his left -- No. 9 was Williams' number -- pulled out a trowel, and carefully dug a small hole where he placed his father's ashes.

"I think of my father every game," he said at the time. "He loved this place."

So did Carl Beane. "This is so sad," Shaer said. "He was so happy in this job. Loved it.''

Carl Beane used to say no one comes to hear the PA announcer. But every ballpark has a voice, and when the Red Sox return home to play Thursday night, the silence of Fenway's departed voice will be deafening.