Most Royals fans would not be able to pick Mike McCartney out of a lineup.
He does not act in TV commercials. He does not get air time on Crown Vision during ballgames.
But if they were to hear his voice, that would be another matter. Kauffman Stadium visitors, used to relishing the baritone introducing “Yourrrrr Kansas City Royals,” would identify McCartney in no time at all.
McCartney is the Royals’ public-address announcer, the man in charge of calling players to the plate and reading tributes like the one the Royals did at their home opener on April 10 for pitcher Yordano Ventura, who died in a January car crash.
McCartney’s voice has rung throughout the corridors of the Royals’ ballpark going on 14 straight years now. He hasn’t missed a single home game in that span, not even after he spent the 2012 offseason being treated for prostate cancer. That’s 1,076 games since the 2004 season, for those counting at home (his streak is actually longer, but more on that later).
For now — and forever, if he’s honest — McCartney is OK knowing he’s a relative nobody outside the Truman Sports Complex. Sometimes he’ll be asked at the grocery store if he has heard that he sounds like the Royals’ announcer, but that’s about as close as he gets to being recognized in public.
McCartney wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is what’s going on here,” he said on a Sunday in mid-April, gesturing at the Royals on the field from his fourth-floor, walk-in-closet-sized booth above the stadium’s 200 level. “Everyone’s back is turned to me. … You don’t want them thinking anything. You don’t want them thinking about you.”
The Royals are playing their 45th season at Kauffman Stadium. McCartney, on the brink of 57, has been around the booth here nearly 20 years.
It might take a while longer for his name to became as synonymous with the stadium as Jack Layton’s did when he was the Royals’ announcer from 1969 until he died after the 1985 World Series. Layton worked for the old Kansas City Athletics, too, so it’s hard to replace him in Royals folklore.
That’s not what McCartney set out to do when he took the job anyway.
“I can still remember hearing his voice as a kid,” McCartney said of Layton. “He was there every game. It’s just one of those sounds that sticks in your head, and you don’t ever forget it. … My only throwback to Layton is in the group-welcome script: ‘It’s grrrrreat to have you with us.’ ”
McCartney backed up former PA announcer Dan Hurst for three years, then took over the gig in 2000 when Hurst got into hot water for refusing to Americanize Latin names like Carlos Febles and Carlos Beltran.
“It was very clear he had the talent to be really good,” said Hurst, who is bilingual and grew up in Honduras. “He was good at it from the beginning. He’s made a name for himself as one of the better stadium announcers in the nation.”
Hurst and his Latin flair returned briefly to the Royals’ PA booth for the 2003 season. McCartney had been fired in 2002, just two years after landing the starting gig, when then-Royals vice president of marketing Charlie Seraphin brought Chuck Morgan with him from the Texas Rangers. Morgan left after a year.
If a door had existed in the PA booth in the early 2000s — there isn’t one now, either, which is a running joke between the PA crew (a director and DJ Bobby Keys and the scoreboard operators in the split-level space beside the booth) — it would’ve been a revolving one.
But since McCartney retook the reins in 2004, the person behind the announcer’s switch has been a permanent fixture at The K.
He announced all 162 home games from 2000 to 2001. So McCartney’s personal streak of games worked actually stands at 1,238 straight.
By the end of this season, that number should be around 1,311.
“I have a backup,” McCartney said. “He doesn’t work much.”
You could say McCartney was bred for this job.
He grew up in Overland Park, graduating from Shawnee Mission South in 1978 before spending some time at Johnson County Community College. He has been a KC baseball fan as long as he can remember, back when the A’s played at old Municipal Stadium through 1967 and then when Kansas City was granted the Royals as an expansion team four years before Kauffman Stadium — then called Royals Stadium — opened for the 1973 season.
Back then, he thought he wanted to be a play-by-play announcer, like the guys he listened to every night in his bedroom via signals from stations as far away as Detroit and Texas. His voice had always been deep, even when he was a kid, and he’d spent plenty of time playing ball with neighbors and calling their games.
But after high school, he ended up taking odd jobs selling industrial parts or delivering water bottles off a beverage truck. Radio wasn’t on the table.
In fact, McCartney was unemployed when he stumbled into the industry one night at a tavern in Pittsburg, Kan. As they listed to music being played by a local radio station, a friend goaded the jobless McCartney into asking the station’s program director for an interview.
“That’s when the radio bug bit me,” he said.
McCartney went on to work for KKOW-AM and stations in Topeka and Fayetteville, Ark., before returning to Kansas City, where he got his start at KCMO doing the midday show in 1990. He stayed there almost 12 years, then worked a short stint at WHB from 2003 to 2005.
Somewhere along the way, McCartney realized he could sell his voice beyond radio. He announced greyhound races at The Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., through most of the ’90s — you’ll hear him calling the hot dog races at Kauffman now, asking for “final wagers, please” — and did voiceover work all over the city.
These days, McCartney also works UMKC basketball games, the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament and some NAIA tournaments.
Unlike the Royals, McCartney doesn’t have an offseason.
“It didn’t even cross my mind that radio was an opportunity,” he said. “I thought I’d find some sales job, settle in and live happily ever after. The radio was a complete 180 that changed everything.”
McCartney’s philosophy on announcing is simple:
“(Royals broadcaster) Rex Hudler is a personality. I don’t want to be that, but I don’t want to be a dud, either. You still have to have your own voice without being an out-front personality.”
On July 30, 2014, The Star published this letter to the editor headlined “The Royals voice”:
In the letters section, there are a few frequent absolutes. One includes viewpoints on Kansas City Royals commentator Rex Hudler.
Permit me to turn the tables in order to comment on someone I think most people will agree is outstanding — Kauffman Stadium’s public address announcer, Mike McCartney. He has been the sterling voice of the “K” for 15 years, and you also hear him on countless commercials in the area.
He really is a great announcer. So instead of grumbling about Rex at home, why not actually go to the stadium and listen to Mike instead?
—Ken Corum, Kansas City
Kansas City baseball fans can probably agree on one thing: Mike McCartney is not a dud.