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Correction to This Article
A March 24 Metro article incorrectly said that Charlie Brotman was the Washington Senators' public address announcer from 1956 to 1971. Brotman served as announcer from 1956 until 1961 and then continued to announce the opening-day game each season through 1971.

At the Capital's Ballpark, a Voice Vote

22 People Pronounce Themselves Most Able to Handle Public Address Duties

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2005; Page B03

The nervous young applicant had an eclectic résumé that he thought just might work. He'd been a college radio DJ, an auctioneer and a stand-up comic, and is gifted with a rich baritone and what he thinks is a flair for pronouncing Latino names.

So he grabbed a plane from Atlanta and drove to Prince George's Stadium in Bowie yesterday to take a shot at the big leagues.

Steve Boland is among the 22 people sitting at the microphone and reading from a script prepared by the team. (Michael Williamson - The Washington Post)

After a long wait hunched in a folding chair, foot tapping like a jackhammer, Adam Harreld thundered in his best prize-fight cadence:

"And now, the starting lineup for your 2005 Washington Nationals!"

The Nationals are bringing pro baseball back to Washington, and with it comes openings for all manner of employment. Yesterday, the team hosted an audition for the job of public-address announcer, the authoritative voice that introduces players, conducts contests between innings and lets fans know when their missing child has been found or their headlights have been left on. By the end of the week, Nationals officials said, a winner will be crowned.

From 1956 to 1971, that voice belonged to Charlie Brotman, the announcer for the Washington Senators, who said the job paid $10 a game when he started. Brotman, 77, will be back for the first two Nationals games next month, then will cede the duties to his successor. Along with team officials and Z104.1 radio morning show hosts Mathew Blades and Whitney, Brotman was on hand yesterday in Bowie to lend his discerning ear to the contest.

"Most people look for voice only. I don't look for voice," Brotman said. "You've got to be informative but also entertaining."

The audition, however, allowed scant opportunity for improvisation. The 22 would-be announcers sat at the microphone in a drafty, leaky press booth and read from a script prepared by the team.

"Many of you remember those proud days when the Senators strolled this emerald diamond," they read in the mock Opening Day speech. "To those lifelong fans, welcome back."

Some went heavy on the inflection and rhythm, sending their basso profundos booming out over the empty seats and puddles gathering on the infield. Others were gentler, enunciating a slight emphasis to the home team roster over the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

There were minor mistakes. A few announcers tripped up pronouncing the name of Arizona pitcher Javier Vazquez, and others couldn't remember, despite the reminder, to stress the second syllable in the surname of Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen. The name of Esteban Loaiza, a Nationals pitcher, came out several ways likely not accepted in his native Mexico.

"That was a tough one," acknowledged Harvard University graduate Victoria Gordon, 33, whose mellifluous delivery has been honed over the past year as the voice of the Frederick Keys, a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Gordon, a "recovering lawyer" from Falls Church who narrates audiobooks for the Library of Congress, was one of two women who tried out. She believes understatement is crucial to being a successful announcer.

"In a way, you should be part of the ambient noise of a stadium and not particularly noticeable," she said. "Baseball's about the fans and the players. The announcer is not the star."

Sherry Davis, a legal secretary who was Major League Baseball's first female announcer during her stint with the San Francisco Giants in the mid-1990s, has endured the taunts of misogynistic radio sports-show callers. But she just loves the job, and the national pastime even more, so she flew in for the tryout.

"I was just moved to do it," she said. "I'm just not rational when it comes to baseball."

Staff writers David A. Fahrenthold and Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company