Longtime Fenway Park Public Address (“PA”) announcer, Carl Beane, tragically died last month after having a heart attack while driving. Beane had held the job since 2003 and was beloved by fans and the Red Sox players. His voice, thought by many to be unique and iconic, welcomes fans in the “The Baseball Experience” exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. (And I can say, having visited the Hall last year, if you know the Sox at all you know immediately upon hearing his voice that it’s him.)
Unfortunately for the Sox, this means that they have to look for a new PA announcer. Recently, in the Extra Bases blog on the Boston Globe’s website, they posted an article about the search. Red Sox President Larry Lucchino stated that they “are going to be auditioning a number of people” and that the try-outs would be on an invitation-only basis. Well, being the smart-ass feminist that I am, I of course wondered if the Sox would be inviting any women to audition for the role of Fenway PA announcer. My email to the general Red Sox address went unanswered (just try finding an email address or phone number for a media contact there – seriously, it’s absolutely impossible), so instead I wrote to Pete Abraham, Red Sox beat writer for the Globe and asked him if he thought any of the candidates were female. The response was awesome, and Abraham totally schooled me: not only is the PA announcer for the San Francisco Giants female, but the Sox actually had one of the first-ever female PA announcers, Leslie Stirling. In an AP article about her first day on the job, her voice was described as a “stark contrast” to the prior announcer, Sherm Feller, who held the job from 1967 until his death in 1993. She was the first African-American woman to hold the position, and had the job from 1994-1996.
Jesse Temple recently wrote a fantastic article about female PA announcers in Fox Sports Wisconsin. It’s really worth the read: in it, he focuses on Chrissy Scaffidi, one of only three female PA announcers in major or minor league baseball. Scaffidi, 23, is the voice of the Beloit Snappers, a Single-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. She pulls quadruple duty as part media-relations director, part marketing and community-relations director, and on game nights, disc jockey and PA announcer. Scaffidi jokes in the article about the mistakes she has made, but it really does sound like she’s doing a great job. Temple goes on to discuss how these women got their positions:
Breaking into PA announcing as a woman, however, can be a daunting task. In 1994, there were four female PA announcers among 201 teams in the country: two in the big leagues and two in the minors. Now, there are three full-time female PA announcers among 190 teams: Scaffidi, Brooks-Moon [for the San Francisco Giants] and Adrienne Roberson, who is the voice of the Class AA Bowie Baysox in Maryland. A few minor-league teams employ women as backup announcers. “I think it’s truly working your way from the bottom up,” says Roberson, who has worked in Bowie for nine seasons. “You’ve got to get your foot in the door and be in the right place. More females could be doing it, but they’d have to be already working for the ballpark or know somebody. When I first got there, I did camera work to get my foot in the door.”
Women really are starting to get a foothold in sports media: both the Red Sox and the Yankees have had female sideline reporters, and the Yankees have a female color commentator on the radio. A lot of female former athletes have found homes as broadcast commentators for their former sports, especially during the Olympics when their specialized knowledge is incredibly important for insight into obscure sports. I still don’t know if the Red Sox are considering any women for the PA announcer position, or if they have asked any to audition. And it remains true that women have not made a lot of progress in this (very) specialized section of sports media. But it’s nice to know that the Sox management at one point thought that a female announcer was a viable option, and makes me optimistic that they would consider it again.