Fans in attendance at the 81st MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday in Anaheim along with millions of viewers at home will hear the recorded voice of Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankees’ public address announcer who died on Sunday, introduce Derek Jeter prior to the shortstop’s at-bats. The effort is a tribute to the man Reggie Jackson famously dubbed “The Voice of God.”
It has been nearly 13 years since Baltimore lost its own legendary public address announcer. Rex Barney, the man who made “Give that fan a contract” and “Thank Youuuuuu” as much a part of every local fan’s summer as a trip to the Eastern Shore, died on Aug. 12, 1997.
Barney moved to Baltimore in 1965 after then-Orioles GM Lee MacPhail encouraged him to do so. He started working Orioles games as a fill-in public address announcer in 1967 and took over full-time duties in May 1973.
His tenure included stays at both Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium, where he delivered a “Thank Youuuuuu” following the team’s final game there in 1991 from a hospital bed. Having been hospitalized with exhaustion, he made the appearance on the stadium Jumbotron.
The Orioles paid tribute to Barney on Aug. 12, 1997, by playing their 8-0 victory over the Athletics without a PA announcer. Stadium flags were flown at half-staff and a plaque bearing Barney’s uniform number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 26, was unveiled behind his traditional press box seat, where a scorebook and Dodgers cap rested for the evening.
Here are some things that were said or written about Barney after his passing:
Instead, he turned it around. He laughed with the world at the humor of a man being given a 100 mph fastball and the worst control on earth. Instead of being bitter about what he couldn’t get, he was perpetually grateful for what he had. Because of that gift of temperament, he spent the last 30 years being a kind of role model — and, sometimes, a standing reproach — to every Orioles player. Could you take the game’s best punch and still turn out like Rex?”
-Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post, Aug. 14, 1997
“It’s going to be different without hearing his voice. When you think of Orioles tradition and Orioles baseball, you think of Rex Barney’s name. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
“I looked forward to seeing him every day and hearing him. I thought we got here early, but he was always earlier.”
“He was always happy. He wasn’t in the best of health, but he always had a smile on his face. I’ll miss him. It’s a great loss. He was a great friend. I don’t now if there’s a higher compliment that you can give him than that.”
“You’re never prepared for this. There are certain constants that are always supposed to be there, and Rex is one of them.”
“I never met anyone as caring as Rex who would take time to acknowledge a little person like me.”
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