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A Giant Hit : Sherry Davis Makes History as Major League Baseball's First Female Stadium Announcer

April 26, 1993|JENIFER WARREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — She tried out on a lark, really, because . . . well, because spring was approaching and she's a baseball fanatic , and when she heard the San Francisco Giants were holding auditions for stadium announcer she thought it would be very, very neat --just once--to hear her voice sail out over the mound and home plate and right field and all those bright orange seats, including the one--in Row F, Section 9--where she has loyally sat for a dozen good and sad and always memorable seasons.

She got the job, of course. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Because there's never been a woman at the microphone in major-league baseball. Until now. Until Sherry Davis.

It's wild how it all happened--"surreal," in her words, "kind of like an episode of 'Twilight Zone.' "

One day, Davis was your garden-variety San Francisco legal secretary, working hard and weathering life's gifts and punishments in anonymity like the rest of us.

The next, whammo : 36 messages on the answering machine, appearances on "Good Morning, America" and "Entertainment Tonight," 81 other interviews, a proclamation from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and autographs--yes, lots and lots of autographs--to sign.

Suddenly, she was a celebrity. Suddenly, she needed an unlisted number.

"I was stunned by the reaction," says the fortysomething Davis, her striking blue eyes widening at the memory. "I still am. I was the happiest person in the world when this happened, and I guess it inspired other people to see a woman break into baseball. That's what they say in their letters."

Some of them, at least. Others haven't been such good sports about it.

Take the fan from San Jose who wrote the Giants in a fury and canceled his season tickets. This man said he goes to the ballpark to "escape women." Hearing Davis over the loudspeaker clearly spoiled his fun.

Another fellow griped that Davis is just a Giants gimmick, a publicity stunt along the lines of a ridiculous former team mascot called "The Crazy Crab."

"That one was truly insulting," says Davis, who, like most other self-respecting Giants fans, detested the ill-fated crustacean. "Imagine, comparing me to the Crazy Crab!"

So there has been a bit of grumbling, some hate mail, some nasty calls and snide remarks. But for the most part, Sherry Davis has been welcomed warmly by the Bay Area, and the team's owners say they couldn't be more pleased. Hiring Davis, after all, got them almost as many headlines as hiring mega-star outfielder Barry Bonds. Bonds will gobble up $43 million of the owners' profits over the next six years; Davis gets a parking pass, free popcorn and $75 a game.

"I wish I could say hiring Sherry was a great marketing strategy we dreamed up," says Giants Vice President Larry Baer. "I wish I could take credit for being that smart. But the fact is, we really just liked her style."

*

It's 15 minutes before game time, and things are mildly chaotic in the cramped announcer's booth. Rain is falling on Candlestick Park, so it's unclear when--or if--the Giants will take the field against the Atlanta Braves.

A phone rings, and Davis grabs it. "P.A.!" she barks, authoritative yet cheerful. There's a pause. "OK, I'll do the anthem at 1:03, then the lineups, then the umpires, then first pitch and play ball. Right."

That settled, Davis reaches for some organic low-fat cheese puffs, which she keeps--along with peppermint tea, sweetened slightly with fruit juice--at her feet. Her days in the booth are long, and there's no time for trips to the snack bar.

Davis looks relaxed. The tools of her trade--microphone, binoculars, stop watch, walkie-talkie, score book, scripted announcements--surround her. It's her sixth game and she hasn't made any colossal blunders yet. She no longer grips the mike so hard her knuckles turn white. She is, by all appearances, getting the hang of it.

A stadium announcer is a team's public signature, the voice that defines the fans' experience at the park. Good announcers accentuate positive moments and give fans a road map through the game. They also develop a style, be it the refined enunciation of Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium or the guttural growl of former announcer Pat Piper at Wrigley Field.

Davis wants, more than anything else, to sound natural and "not irritate people. My job is to welcome fans and be informative," she says. She aims to be enthusiastic but dreads being viewed as "a homer." That, she said, would be tacky.

It is 1:03 p.m. Davis introduces the national anthem and announces the lineups, her voice clear and professional, with a tendency toward extra oomph in the pronunciation of certain names, such as "Willieeeeee McGeeeeeeeeee!!!" Just then a new squall rolls in, turning the infield into oatmeal. The cranky crowd howls; the grounds crew scurries about. Davis thanks the fans for their patience. They boo a hearty reply.

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