AUBURN — Larry Gowell is a fellow who can attest to the fact that you should always be careful what you wish for.

For years now, the Auburn man and former Yankee has been hoping to sing the national anthem to open a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston. Guess what? Next month, he’ll get his chance.

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a couple years now,” Gowell said Friday. “Now that they’ve accepted me, I’m kind of flabbergasted. I’m getting nervous.”

Not too nervous to recognize the enormous honor of it, though. On Juy 6, Gowell will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an audience of perhaps 35,000 screaming Sox fans, not to mention those watching on TV.

“I feel like I’m representing Maine here,” Gowell said. “I know I can do a good job if I can control my nerves. I think I’ll be all right.”

The invitation is huge — it’s not just a dream for Gowell, it’s also history. His presence before the microphone at Fenway will represent the first time a Major League player has sung the anthem for the MLB.

While Gowell’s career as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees lasted only three games at the very end of the 1972 season – his career record was 0-1 with an earned run average of 1.29 – Gowell was the last starting pitcher in the American League to ever get a hit during the regular season before the designated hitter rule was enacted.

How historic was his double against Milwuakee’s Jim Lonborg? The ball he hit is now encased at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Baseball has been very good to Larry Gowell, and vice versa.

Now there’s the matter of the anthem, said to be one of the hardest songs of all to sing live. 

His friends, unabashedly proud, think Gowell will do great.

“He will get the biggest cheer of the day,” said lifelong pal Phill McIntyre. “He is doing just great with his late-in-life career. He has been dabbling in music all his life and it is very much a part of who he is. You can’t separate him from his music and it’s about time he has his chance to represent us as a Maine icon.”

You can’t blame Gowell for being nervous, however. When it comes to a performance of such magnitude, the potential for catastrophe looms large.

“What if you open your mouth,” Gowell wonders, “and nothing comes out?”

And he’s combating those nerves with preparation. And after that, more preparation still. And it’s not like he’s never done this before.

For many years, Gowell has been playing everywhere from church choirs, to private parties to concerts at the Franco-Center. He sings at local events and for the folks at the nursing homes.

And it’s not like he’s never sung the anthem before. The question is, how to do it?

“You can sing it 50 million different ways. I’m trying to get the arrangement down,” Gowell said. “I’m definitely practicing a lot.”

He’s getting some inspiration from Josh Grobin, although Gowell said his version differs some from Grobin.

To get Gowell in front of the mic, several people lobbied the Red Sox on his behalf. Tentative invitations came and then fell through. When the Sox won the World Series (again) in 2013, suddenly everybody wanted to do the anthem.

Red Sox officials took a listen to Gowell’s work on YouTube, though, and eventually, they were sold. Gowell was notified that he was to sing the anthem before the Sox take on the Orioles on July 6. That’s a Sunday afternoon game, and the crowd will likely be huge.

Gowell was asked to show up at 10 a.m. to rehearse and prepare. He figures he’ll do some deep breathing or meditating before showtime. One way or another, he’ll give it all he’s got.

“I’ll be as prepared as I possibly can,” Gowell said. “It’s going to be a great experience.”

And a good day for baseball all around. Or as McIntyre put it: “Go Sox and go Larry.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: