In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports reporter Mark Monroe talked with public address announcer Bobb Vergiels. The Monroe, Mich., native has been the Toledo Storm's only announcer for 16 years. Vergiels also holds the PA duties for the Detroit Tigers and presided over 87 games this past season as the team made a remarkable run to the World Series. Vergiels also is the announcer for University of Michigan basketball and Eastern Michigan and Wayne State University sports.
Bobb Vergiels may be the only person in sports who loves to be booed.
About 36 times per year, Vergiels is greeted with a hardy heckle from Toledo Storm fans when he announces his own name at home games.
But Vergiels, who began his career as a public address announcer when the team was founded in 1991, has formed a unique bond with the fans at the Sports Arena.
Vergiels has since parlayed his first PA duties into a career that has taken him to Comerica Park and the World Series last fall. He also has announced at the All-Star game there in 2005.
Vergiels said he announces at about 200 games every season, including Michigan basketball games at Crisler Arena and football and basketball games for Eastern Michigan and Wayne State universities. He also has been the PA voice for the Toledo Mud Hens, Ice Diggers and Cherokees. Vergiels also serves as the press box announcer for the Detroit Lions.
But Vergiels, 54, also works full time as a communications strategist for Detroit Edison and has a wife and three grown children. He is an official with the Miss America pageant and works with candidates from Monroe County about 40 weeks per year.
Vergiels was born in Toledo and moved to Ida when he was 11 years old. After graduating from Ida High School he went to Monroe Community College and then to Western Michigan University where he majored in broadcast communications. Vergiels worked in radio at various stations in Michigan before becoming the police reporter for the Monroe Evening News in 1974. He returned to radio in 1984.
Vergiels grew up watching the Toledo Hornets and Goaldiggers at the Sports Arena and now has become a fixture there with his unique catch phrases as the team's announcer.
"A LOT OF PEOPLE think it's odd that the fans boo me. It goes back to something a former Blade sports reporter wrote. He thought it was horrible that I introduced myself because most announcers don't. So in one of his columns he encouraged people to boo me. I think they were booing me to spite his suggestion. But that's how it started. I took my dad to a game and I told him the fans really like me. When they all booed me he said, 'Robert, I thought you said they liked you.' I told him if they didn't like me, they wouldn't boo me every night.
"STORM FANS ASK me why I started announcing the team by saying 'Hey T-Town here they come, your Toledo Stooorrrm.' I used to do the Storm part much shorter. But one night I had a guy who probably had a few too many pops come up to me and tell me that I had cost him a buck. He bet his buddy I'd say 'Storm' longer than 15 seconds. So I told him, 'Next time bet your buddy that I'll go more than 25 seconds.' So I squeezed off 27 seconds and a signature was born. The longest I've ever done it is 41 seconds.
"I GOT MY FIRST public announcing job innocently enough. I met with [Storm founder] Barry Soskin at the Bob Evans in Monroe in 1991. After we were done eating I told Barry I really wanted the job and I asked him if he wanted me to send him a tape. He told me, 'I have sat here for an hour while you talked with your mouth full and I understood every word you said. You're my announcer.' That's when I learned that it may be impolite to talk with your mouth full, but sometimes it helps you get a job.
"WHEN I ANNOUNCED at the All-Star game in 2005, I got to introduce Ernie Harwell. The network wanted to go back to the game, but the players and fans would not sit down and stop cheering. I could not announce the next batter. That was a real Detroit moment. Ernie is someone who will be forever linked to Detroit. The same thing happened when I introduced Alan Trammell and Sparky Anderson during the World Series. That still brings goose bumps to me. The ovation was so overwhelming that I'm sure nobody heard a word I said.
"I WAS WALKING along the concourse early in the season when I heard two young boys imitating me - 'Your 2006 Detroit Tigers.' What a great feeling that was. No one really knows what I look like or who I am. In fact, people tease me up there [at Comerica Park] and call me 'probably the most well-known anonymous guy in Detroit.'•"
"We discussed what would happen if the Tigers would win the American League championship series. We had to be ready for anything. But I knew how the Tigers would respond. About 14 of the 25 guys had won it all in Toledo. Guys like Inge, Thames and Monroe came out and sprayed the fans with champagne and took a victory lap. That's exactly what they did here. That was a tremendous sight to see. Probably the biggest highlight came when I announced, 'Ladies and gentlemen, your Tigers are going to the World Series,' and then - and only then - did it occur to me that I was going to the World Series, too.
"WITH MICHIGAN and the Tigers everything is scripted. It is understood that if it is not on the page, it's not going to be said. Most of my time is spent getting maximum crowd involvement. I put the emphasis on the home team and when I announce the other team I am blas. With the Storm, I write most of my own stuff. I don't just show up and talk. I put about an hour and a half into every game. I think up different rhymes. Whenever I have something with Carty's name in it, it's always a winner.
"One of the neatest things about the Hens was when Deion Sanders came to Skeldon Stadium. He had put out a rap CD and because I'm an incessant bargain shopper I bought it for a buck. He was with Louisville and for his walk up song, we played his CD. Sanders stopped about five steps from the plate, looked up to the press box and he had the biggest smile on his face. We had leaned out to see his reaction and we were laughing so hard. Sanders was just roaring down there. I also remember when John Rocker came to town we played the song 'Wild Thing' which was his nickname. He then went out and mowed the Hens down.
"ONE OF THE COOLEST things was when I got a police escort to the final game of the American League championship series. I had a Wayne State football game at noon and the baseball game was at 4:30 the same day. I was afraid I would be caught in traffic. So Wayne State lined me up with a police car and escorted me from the football game and dropped me off right at the gate of Comerica Park.
"ONE TIME I had a gentleman who was in the service come up to me and said he saw 20 guys wearing baseball caps during the national anthem. He said that wasn't why he went into the military. I told him at the next game I would tell the people to remove their hats. I've done that at every game since then. I'm a traditionalist. I'd rather hear the national anthem with no frills. I've come to accept when the fans yell 'Hit somebody' during it. It's a Toledo [hockey] tradition. I can't remember them not doing it.
"I WAS THE ANNOUNCER in Oct. of '93 when Erin Whitten became the first woman to get a victory in a man's sport. She was the Storm's goalie when they beat Louisville. It was a novelty to have her. She played in just a handful of games. The other goalie skated by me and I heard him say, 'I can't believe I got beat by a girl.' After the game, I traded a 12 pack of beer to [coach Chris] McSorley for the starting lineup sheet. I still have it and someday I want to give it to the NHL hall of fame. It's not for sale.
"There's one more carrot out there that I haven't been able to reach and that is the Red Wings. That's my dream job.
"I DO GET NERVOUS. But nerves can either destroy you or take you to a different place. Here I am just some guy from Monroe and I thought, 'My gosh, I'm announcing at the World Series.' It was the first time that TV used the local PA guy to introduce the players. I had people all across the world listening to me announce. They cut it right into the national broadcast. But I just tried to treat it as a game in April against Kansas City. You can't get hung up on the hype or you'll make a mistake.
Contact Mark Monroe at: