After Carl Beane earned the full-time PA gig at Fenway in 2003 after sharing it in his first season, he said to me, “Mike, I want to do what Sherm Feller did.”
“What’s that?” I replied.
“I want this to be my final job. I want to die doing this, because it’s really my dream job. I’ve gone through so much to get to this point. I feel like this job was meant for me.”
Boy, he got that right.
Carl Beane is gone, and I don’t have that fatherly voice and brotherly bond to help me through so many of the times he held my hand over the past 20 years of our friendship.
He was “The Voice of Fenway Park” to millions of Red Sox fans around New England and the world. And with the “Voice of God” he possessed and honed, it was a position made for him. He embraced it with full glory, passion and dedication.
To me, though, he was much, much more.
He was my first mentor at a time where I badly needed one. I was an outsider who came to Boston in August 1993, and he taught me how to make friends -- more importantly, he taught me how not to make enemies in a town and industry littered with those who have made the wrong step at the wrong time.
He was a confidant. Fenway, for those of you who don’t know, is a pattern of intricate and delicate relationships, woven more intensely than any of you could possibly imagine. I’m not talking about the team, but those who make their living running around the place trying to cover a story, work in the press box or control room.
My deepest friendships have their roots inside Fenway, and Carl was both my father and brother inside, giving me advice on how to handle a crisis when it arose. He was also there to share in great times, like when he would compliment me on a line of questioning postgame or he overheard one of my live radio reports and said, “Mike, that was really good -- quick, concise and to the point.”
He attended the baptism of both of my daughters. He had girls of his own. He gave me fair warning on what it would be like to raise them.
We took on the Yankees’ scribes every season in ballgames at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, and he was my manager for those games. I was his pitching coach. He was incredibly proud of the fact that we closed out old Yankee Stadium with a win in 2008 and opened it in 2009 with a victory.
There’s a new “Voices of Fenway” collage on the outside of the fifth floor level this year, pictures of those who have sat behind the microphone and called games, on radio, television and inside Fenway as a public address announcer. Carl was intensely proud of the fact that he was in a fraternity that included Feller and Bob Sheppard. And his idol was Sherm.
From the second he flipped on the switch in the control room, and his booming voice was heard inside Fenway, fans thought they had been brought back in time to a place when Fenway was host to a baseball game, with the public address announcer serving as an authoritative voice to guide the fan through two or three hours of enjoyment.
I would always stand like a star-struck little kid whenever a player would come up to Carl and tell them how much they loved the way he did what he did: Terry Francona, David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling. The list goes on and on. All of those Red Sox personalities loved the way he would enunciate their names to the tens of thousands inside Fenway every game.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Carl Beane. Stepping up to the plate at Fenway won’t be the same. #VoiceOfFenway, Ortiz tweeted from Kansas City before Wednesday’s game.
Just last week, Ortiz was joking with Carl in the Red Sox clubhouse about a shirt he was wearing. Carl was loved by the Red Sox in ways spoken and unspoken. He was loyal to the team in good times and bad.
“If something’s broke, this ownership will fix it,” Carl would always tell me.
But, like anything, there are those who think change is inevitable. You can’t blame them. Marketing people in all sports are trying to keep their games interesting and fast-paced.
The Red Sox were no different.
Just two weeks ago, Carl mentioned to me that some people tried to convince him to go a little more NBA in his presentation. With great disdain he used phrases like “spice it up,” “more energy,” and “uptempo.”
“That’s not me,” Carl insisted.
More to Carl’s point, that’s NOT Fenway either.
“Mike, I know what Fenway is. It’s a baseball park, not a rock concert, not an amusement part, not an NBA game.”
Know this about Carl: he could be stubborn about a lot of things. He wasn’t particularly fond of the computer age, and not especially happy with change when the old way worked so well for so many decades before.
I would help Carl with his computer, telling him it would make his job easier and faster. But when it came to how a game sounded inside Fenway Park, the man had a point and I knew it.
Carl also held my hand at the old Boston Garden, as well as the old Foxboro Stadium and Boston College. He was the first man to help me through my first years on the beats of the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox and Boston College.
He loved his hockey and he loved the Canadiens. But more to the point, Carl loved the way sports were played in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
There was something else Carl and I both loved – rock and roll. A classically trained jazz drummer, he was immensely proud of the fact he played in a “Battle of the Bands” against Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Aerosmith in the early 70s.
I was as awestruck by this than any athlete he ever covered.
We would sit and just talk about the best drummers and his favorite – Buddy Rich.
If you ever wonder where Carl’s precise timing came from when it came to his public address skills, look no further than his skills as a drummer.
He was precise and wanted to know from every athlete or coach how a particular name was pronounced, a habit he learned from Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium.
When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, I remember vividly the first person I felt the happiest for. John Henry, in all of his generosity, decided to distribute World Series rings to support staff behind the scenes. Carl Beane was one of the first support staff to get fitted for his ring.
Carl would show it off proudly at public events hosted by parties that wanted the “Voice of Fenway” to serve as the Master of Ceremonies. He was as proud of that ring as anything in the world, save for his daughter Nikki and his grandkids.
I will always be thankful to Mr. Henry for deciding to share in the wealth and glory of that moment with someone like Carl, because he appreciated so much.
I would often ask Carl about the ring and what people thought of it when he showed it off. He would tell me, “Mike, they love the ring, and I love how the ring looks on me.”
He got another in 2007, but it’s that first one -- and his appreciation of it -- that really makes me smile as I type this hours after the worst news a best friend could possibly hear.
He always asked about my father in Cincinnati and how he was doing on his own. And Cincinnati is something Carl knew I held near and dear to my heart. One of my very favorite memories of Carl came in 2005, when the Reds visited Fenway for the first time since the 1975 World Series. It was interleague and Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster and friend Marty Brennaman came to Boston. I had the pleasure of introducing the two in the Fenway dining room and I beamed like a proud parent of two kindred brothers meeting for the first time.
Marty and Carl, two peas from the same pod. That night, at Fenway, I had a seat in the front row and remember vividly looking down the way and there was Marty writing something down with his left hand. And just down the way, there was Carl in his PA perch, prepping for the game and munching on popcorn with his left hand. I was struck by the similarity. Marty is to me what Sherm Feller was to Carl, and he knew this. Carl had a way of making me howl by impersonating Marty and greeting me with a, "Mike! How are you, son?!" Guaranteed smile and laugh every time.
Everyone remembers his or her final moments with a best friend. I’ll never forget my last conversation with Carl as long as I live.
It was 1:30 a.m. on May 3; just hours after the Red Sox dropped a 4-2 decision to the A’s. We were on the main concourse near the vehicle exit of Fenway onto Yawkey Way. We were both tired and ready to head out for the night.
I was feeling down and dejected about things that had little to do with baseball and more to do with life’s problems. He knew me as well as anyone, and spent 20 minutes just chatting with me, lifting my spirits and telling me to be sure I was in shape to get ready to handle his pitching staff on July 6 at Fenway, the first of our two media games this season.
I shared with him what had been on my mind, and told him that Fenway is a great place but it can wear you down unlike anything else: The games, the long hours and the aforementioned personal relationships can make any high school look like kindergarten.
The ridiculously long hours, my kids, the future. I told him coming to Fenway on top of all of that was draining me.
“It’s the people, Mike. You know you have people here who care about you and love you.”
He reminded me Fenway isn’t really all about the games and the long hours. Fenway is more about the people you meet there and in some cases, the friends you make for a lifetime. People you love and love you back.
He reminded me that friends are why you keep coming back to a place that can be so insanely crowded, cold and uncomfortable.
Carl has been with me through my entire 20 years in Boston and is with me now as I try to put into words what his life and friendship meant to me.
I loved the man and always will. He wasn’t just the “Voice of Fenway Park.”
He was my voice of reason in good times and bad, and that’s what will always ring through my head whenever I hear the words “Carl Beane.”
God bless you, Carl.