Friday, May 7, 2010

From Vegas to the Yankees, broadcaster recounts his career

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, May 7, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.

Paul Olden has two championship rings.

One is a large, diamond-studded ring encrusted with 113 stones. The other is a smaller ring with one large, single diamond in the middle.

On a spring day in the Bronx, Olden, the New York Yankees’ public address announcer, sat in his office in Yankee Stadium and reflected on the journey between the two rings.

“It was a long wait,” he said. “But I’m proud of the long wait it’s been.”

The first ring is a 2009 New York Yankees World Series championship ring. The second is a 1986 Las Vegas Stars Pacific Coast League championship ring.

“I cherish that one and I still do,” he said of the first ring. “It will always have a special place in my heart, and I’m happy it was in Las Vegas.”

From Las Vegas, where he was the play-by-play voice of the Stars for three seasons in the late 1980s, Olden made his way through the professional broadcasting ranks and is the successor to arguably the most legendary public address announcer of all time, Bob Sheppard.

“This is one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had,” he said over the phone before the Yankees’ second home stand of the season. “There’s no denying that working for a winning team with the Yankees has its benefits on many levels.”

Like his office. He recites the starting lineups and stadium announcements from an office that is “really a suite,” he said.

The 56-year-old Olden has a laundry list of play-by-play stops on his resume, ranging from baseball to football to basketball, radio to television, and from one side of the country to the other.

He came to Las Vegas from Spokane, Wash., with the Spokane Indians in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens erupting, which consequently hamstrung the team’s funds and led to the birth of the Stars.

“Just being able to broadcast Triple-A baseball in a great market was nice,” Olden said. “But it worked out on many levels because not only was it a great place to sharpen up your skills for the major leagues, but it was the crown jewel of the league.”

While in the PCL, Olden worked closely with current Oakland A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach, who succeeded ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd as the Stars’ broadcaster.

“We came up in the business together,” Korach said. “He’s been a great friend for a long time and I remember those days and our quest to get better.”

Since Las Vegas, Olden has been the voice of four American League teams — Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Cleveland and New York — and has broadcast the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and New Jersey Nets.

And for good measure, he has been the public address announcer for every Super Bowl since 1994.

After a handful of people were shuffled in and out of the P.A. booth as the 99-year-old Sheppard’s health declined in 2008, the Yankees awarded Olden with the job last season.

“The fact that I was a known quantity and established here in New York helped,” he said.

But so too did his relationship with Sheppard. They met in the 1990s, when Olden was broadcasting Yankees games on television. He said they still talk every couple of weeks.

“He enjoys talking and I enjoy hearing him laugh and his stories,” Olden said. “I’ll tell him something funny from the booth or someone that’s asking about him, and he’s always happy to hear that.”

Olden is comfortable outside of the play-by-play booth these days, enjoying the time at home to explore some of his hobbies, which include a photography blog he likes to update.

“I think at this point in my career, this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said.

Not bad for a guy who used to sneak a tape recorder into Dodger Stadium as a teenager, reciting broadcasts to an audience of one.

“He has done a marvelous job in a tough position,” Korach said.

And he has another ring to show for it.

1 comment:

Joshua M. Patton said...

Nice piece. I am going to follow your blog. We Pittsburgh boys gotta stick together.