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Fenway voice Beane dies while driving

Carl Beane’s vehicle came to rest against a tree after hitting a stone wall as it ran off the road in Sturbridge Wednesday. Carl Beane’s vehicle came to rest against a tree after hitting a stone wall as it ran off the road in Sturbridge Wednesday. (Tom rettig/worcester telegram & gazette)
By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / May 10, 2012
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Red Sox public address announcer Carl Beane, whose warm baritone welcomed “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls’’ to Fenway Park for nearly a decade, died in a one-car crash in Sturbridge Wednesday afternoon after suffering a heart attack while driving. He was 59.

Beane, who became just the fifth PA announcer in franchise history when he won a competition for the job before the 2003 season, was pronounced dead at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge a short time after the crash.

Golfers from nearby Hemlock Ridge Golf Course called police at 12:39 p.m. to alert them to the crash, according to Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early.

A preliminary investigation showed that Beane’s 2004 Suzuki was traveling northbound when it crossed double solid lines, left the road, and hit a tree and a wall. There were no passengers in the car.

Red Sox personnel, in Kansas City, Mo., for a series with the Royals, turned somber upon receiving the news.

“I’m shocked, just shocked. I know it was his dream job, very similar to me,’’ said Don Orsillo, the Red Sox’ play-by-play voice on NESN.

“Every time I’d pass him in the hall, he’d always say, ‘We have the coolest jobs in New England.’ And I’d always say to him, ‘Yeah, we do. This is great.’

“To me, it’s going to be such a weird thing at Fenway Park not to have his voice, because I’ve been there 10 years and there’s been no other PA announcer than Carl Beane. His voice resonated.’’

Beane unabashedly cherished his role as the “Voice of Fenway Park’’ and took pride in following in the footsteps of the iconic Sherm Feller, who served in the role from 1967 until his death in 1994.

Beane told the Globe shortly after landing the job in 2003, “I will never fill his shoes, but I do get to sit in his chair.’’

Leslie Sterling and Ed Brickley held the position in the interim, but Feller and Beane’s elegant voices naturally linked them in Red Sox lore.

“We are filled with sadness at this tragic news,’’ said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino in a statement. “No one loved his role with the Red Sox more than Carl did his. He adored the opportunity to pay homage each game to Sherm Feller, and to contribute to the culture of Fenway Park, a place he loved passionately.’’

And a place he immensely respected, as he explained to the Globe in 2003.

“This is not one of those ballparks where you need fireworks and an announcer screaming at the fans to get them involved,’’ Beane said. “This is a special place. My job is to welcome them and get out of the way. Don’t do shtick. This is a baseball shrine, and it has to be treated as such.’’

But Beane did not take himself seriously, particularly with fans who upon meeting him would inevitably show surprise that such an authoritative voice came from such an unassuming 5-foot-4-inch man.

“The voice doesn’t fit the body,’’ he said. “I can mingle because people don’t know what I look like. Then I talk, and they say, ‘Oh, it’s him.’ ’’

Beane, a 1971 graduate of Agawam High School, was familiar at Fenway Park long before landing what he often said was “the only job I ever wanted’’ and earning accolades such as being the first voice in “The Baseball Experience’’ at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

For decades he was a prominent free lance radio reporter, producing audio feeds from interviews at Fenway as well as Patriots games. He began his broadcasting career at WMAS in Springfield in 1972, and also worked for WBZ-AM, WBRK in Pittsfield (1974-76), WARE in Ware (1976-94), and WESO in Southbridge (1994-98).

He provided national updates for ESPN Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, Westwood One, Associated Press, and MetroNetworks during his career. He even stepped in for Johnny Most on a Celtics game in 1979 when Most lost his voice after the first quarter.

“I knew Carl for years when he would cover the clubhouse for his radio stations in Western Mass.,’’ said Red Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione. “He was always so thrilled to be at the ballpark.

“He just loved his job. I don’t think anyone loved a job more than he did. He was a great part of Fenway Park since 2003, but he was there since before that.’’

Beane never lost his appreciation for radio; he filled in at WARE in Palmer Wednesday, doing the morning show from 6 to 9. He intended to do the same Friday. WARE owner and general manager Bruce Marshall said Beane seemed fine when he left the station and was going home to take a nap.

“One way or the other, all of us get to be a family - whether it’s you as a reporter, us as players, and the announcers - we get to be a family,’’ said Red Sox DH David Ortiz. “Once something like that goes down, it hurts, so my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.’’

Beane is survived by his wife, Lorraine; his daughter, Nicole; and his granddaughters, Maddie and Gena.

The following note was posted on his personal Facebook page Wednesday evening:

“The family and friends of Carl Beane appreciate all the heartfelt sentiments that we have received. This is a very difficult time for all of us. Please remember Carl as the man who had the best job in the world. Carl also loved to share his good fortune with everyone. He could talk to children as well as senior citizens as if they were all the best of friends. We will miss Carl so very much.’’

The Red Sox will pay tribute to him in pregame ceremonies Friday.

Michael Vega of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Kansas City, and material from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette also was used.

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