Carl Beane in the studio at Fenway Park showing off a World Series ring. Friends recalled this week how much Beane was involved with charity, and how he would often let kids try on the championship rings to “watch their faces light up.” (click for larger version)
May 10, 2012To millions of Boston Red Sox fans, Carl Beane was "The Voice," the public address announcer who welcomed them to Fenway Park.
To those who knew him, Beane was a genuine, one-of-a-kind man who loved broadcasting and sports, especially the Red Sox, enjoyed making people laugh and cared about others.
"He was part of my family. I've got one less member of my family now," said John D. Ryan, a former Southbridge Evening News editor who worked with Beane at WESO-AM 970 in Southbridge.
Beane, a resident of Holland and former News columnist, suffered a heart attack Wednesday, May 9, while driving northbound on Holland Road in Sturbridge. His 2004 Suzuki crossed the center line, left the road and hit a tree and a wall. He was pronounced dead at Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge shortly after the crash. He was 59 years old.
According to Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr., golfers at the nearby Hemlock Ridge Golf Course called police at 12:39 p.m. to tell them about the accident.
Early said there were no passengers in Beane's vehicle and no other vehicles involved.
A DREAM COME TRUE
Beane had been the public address announcer at Fenway Park since 2003, after winning a competition following the end of the 2002 season.
It was a dream come true for Beane, according to Russ Dowd, who had known Beane since the mid-1970s and also worked with him at WESO.
"When he was asked to [do] the job of public address announcer at Fenway Park, I don't think if you offered Carl a million dollars that he could have been any happier," Dowd said.
A native of Agawam, Beane graduated from Agawam High School in 1971 and the Career Academy School of Broadcasting in 1972. His broadcasting career started at WMAS in Springfield and included stops at WBZ Radio in Boston, WBRK in Pittsfield, WARE-AM 1250 in Ware from 1976-94 and WESO from 1994-98. He provided national sports updates for ESPN Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, Westwood One, the Associated Press and Metro Networks.
Beane taught sports broadcasting and play-by-play classes at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting in Needham. He was a national spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, and served as a narrator for Talking Books at the Perkins School for the Blind.
Beane was on WARE Monday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 9 with station Vice President and Managing Partner Bruce Marshall as they did the 5-9 a.m. shift.
"He was just here this morning," Marshall said Wednesday night. "He was here, he was fine and happy to be here and happy to fill in."
Marshall said Beane enjoyed the shows so much he agreed to come back to WARE's Palmer studios Thursday — despite having a Red Sox game to announce Thursday night.
Marshall said Beane also did the play-by-play for high school basketball and some high school football games for WARE.
According to Marshall, Beane left the WARE studios around 9 a.m. Wednesday and said he was going to go home and catch up on his sleep.
WARE did a tribute to Beane during the morning shift on Thursday. Likewise, the Red Sox honored him before Thursday night's home game vs. the Cleveland Indians.
Marshall, who has owned WARE for nine years, said former WARE general manager Richard "Dick" Vaughn hired Beane to work at the station. Vaughn, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, is now the general manager of WESO.
It was at WESO and its former sister station, Q100, that Dowd and Ryan really got to know Beane. Ryan worked with him from 1994-97.
"He was one of the funniest men I ever met," Ryan said. "He was profoundly funny, and also one of the best friends I ever had. He was a tremendous help to me. I looked up to him. I still look up to him. He was one of the best radio professionals I've ever seen. Carl was always helpful and someone always willing to get the job done. He was a real friend. I'm as sad as I could ever be right now."
"I think the first word out of my mouth would be, he was a character," Dowd said. "As an individual, as a human being, Carl was very warm, very sensitive, very caring about his fellow human beings. And yet he has this very rough exterior that sometimes it took people time to get to know him and understand how deep and how real he was inside. He had an incredible sense of humor and loved playing tricks on fellow announcers."
Ryan recalled a couple of times at WESO where Beane showed his sense of humor. One involved former News editor Joe Capillo, who did a segment on Ken Sawyer's morning show. Ryan said "Carl would do the Joe Capillo Show before the Joe Capillo Show" — doing an impression of Capillo that cracked him up.
Another time, Ryan said, Beane "made up a funny voice" and called Dowd's "Cracker Barrel" show offering to sell a rhinoceros. Ryan said he had "just tears coming down my face. I couldn't breathe, I was laughing so hard."
'REALLY GOOD ROLE MODEL'
The Rev. Tom Crouse, pastor of Holland Congregational Church, said he'd been good friends with Beane for 19 years, and recalled how much "that voice he had" added to Christmas, Easter and other services.
"He had a true love for the Lord," Crouse said. "A lot of people don't know that, but he wasn't bashful of afraid to talk about it."
Like several of Beane's other contacts, Crouse also had a radio history with him, sharing a Friday sports show for six years on WVNE-AM 760 in Worcester.
"There are so many stories about Carl," he said. "A lot of funny stories over the years I probably couldn't tell you."
His sense of humor is probably the most common thing people recall about Beane, whether it be his quips during Red Sox broadcasts, one-liners he used to help promote the Food Share Radiothon in Southbridge, or just everyday conversation.
"Usually he would tease people, jokingly, not in a mean way. He liked to have fun with people," said Holland Town Clerk Kristin LaPlante. "I loved Carl Beane. He was our local celebrity, and we were proud to know him. He did a lot for charity."
As an example, she recalled that he offered to help her with a fundraiser for a young friend fighting cancer by having people make donations for photos with him and his World Series ring. They ended up not having the room to do that, but she noted Beane did similar things for other children.
"He was a really good role model," she added.
Ray Fournier saw that working with him on the Radiothon over the last several years. For that annual event, Beane would return to his roots at WESO, something he'd started doing long before Fournier did.
"It wasn't 30 years ago, but well over 20," Fournier said. "It won't be the same Radiothon without him. I'm really glad I got to see him last month."
Ryan and Beane were both on the Food Share Board of Directors. The last time Dowd and Ryan had contact with Beane was at the April 5 radiothon.
"We always kept in touch on the phone and shot e-mails back and forth," Ryan said. "I felt the same I did for him than I did in '97. There was no change."
Dowd said Beane had invited him to visit Fenway Park and see him perform his announcing duties.
"I can't tell you how much I regret not doing it," Dowd said.
Fournier learned of Beane's death when a reporter randomly encountered him leaving the food pantry. He was visibly stunned by the news, describing it as "a shock."
Shaun Moriarty knew him under similar circumstances.
"Today, most people will think of him as the 'Voice of the Red Sox,' but I've always thought of the Carl Beane from WESO. … I'll remember him as a local guy in the post-game coverage of various sports in the background."
Moriarty, Southbridge Little League president and a former News reporter, recalled being in Florida on vacation during the spring of 2003. He said he tried to "get to as many spring training games as possible," and happened to go to the one at which Beane was auditioning for the public announcer's role he later became famous for.
"It's not that I saw him there, but when I heard the voice, I recognized it," Moriarty recalled.
Curiously, he also recalled Beane mistook one player for his older brother on another team, but that apparently didn't hurt him — "he still got the job."
Beane even got into the game itself, both before and after he became the Fenway Park announcer, by being manager of the Boston team when teams of sports media folks from Boston played those from New York in exhibition games.
"The celebrity that came with being the Red Sox P.A. guy he used very well in dealing with kids," Moriarty added. "He used to put his World Series ring on other people's fingers and take pictures of it. … He did that kind of stuff all the time."
Dowd recalled the times when Beane brought his Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series rings to the radiothon and show them to children in the studio, or even put the rings on their fingers.
Dowd said Beane loved "watching their face light up. That was a real thrill for him. The look on their face was just amazing when they realized they were wearing the World Series championship ring and they were actually talking to public address announcer at Fenway Park."
Beane would visit schools and show off his collection of sports memorabilia, which in later years included the Red Sox World Series rings.
Holland Recreation Director Erik Iller remembered Beane for the several times he volunteered to announce Little League games.
"It was really kind of cool, but I think the parents got more of a kick out of it than kids did," Iller said. "He was a professional. He wanted a popcorn, diet soda and the microphone. It was very impressive."
Beane is survived by his wife, Lorraine, daughter Nicole and granddaughters Maddie and Gena.
"I've lost a very dear friend, and my heart goes out to his wife and children," Dowd said. "It's a loss that's going to be felt by literally by thousands of people. He had become an icon at Fenway Park, and his delivery, his style was unique and he touched a lot of people in his lifetime."
In many instances, Dowd added, Beane "did it privately" and chose not to publicize it.
Crouse said he is coordinating the funeral arrangements, noting they would probably involve a big public service at Fenway and a smaller one for immediate family and friends, probably at the Holland Congregational Church.
Contributions in Beane's memory may be made to the Holland Congregational Church Building Fund, 11 Sturbridge Road, Holland, MA 01521 and the American Diabetes Association (via www.diabetes.org).
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