Voice of Bates is remembered

Ahhh, the Voice.

It was arguably the best in Nashua, and when Bob Bates used those golden pipes and spoke into a microphone, people in the stands at Holman Stadium, Stellos Stadium, Conway Arena, and a few other spots always listened.

Proof of that was when, as he recounted in an article he wrote four years ago for the newsletter of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers, he once tested the crowd at Conway Arena.

It was right around all the Tom Brady-DeflateGate controversy.

“In light of recent events,” he said into the microphone, “we are pleased to announce that our game pucks have been examined and tested for proper inflation.”

As he wrote in the article, “It worked.”

Yes, there was that noted Bob Bates quick-witted sense of humor. He got the crowd’s attention, as he always did, whether he was the public address announcer at Holman Stadium, Stellos Stadium, Conway Arena, or countless other youth sports venues in Nashua and around the area.

Bates was the best PA guy in the area, but we only heard him infrequently the last few years, after he decided about five years ago he was going to take it easy and enjoy life.

Of course, the lure of the mike and the love of the events he worked would pull him back in for fill-in duty here and there. Heck, he hated in some ways moving to South Nashua with his wife Sharon the last year or two ago after downsizing. It took him further away from the ballfields he would frequent.

The local sports community is in mourning, for sure, after Bates passed away due to cancer late this past week. We last heard from him in early April, when he informed yours truly via email of the passing of his sidekick, Larry Hodge. Bates considered Hodge a brother and took him to whatever games he could the last couple of years after another Hodge sidekick, Bill Neverett, passed. Now the community is sadly without all three.

We’ll miss that Bates twinkle, a great sense of humor. Had to chuckle when I re-read that NASPAA article and Bates had recalled when he made a slight gaff during a football game.

“You’re apt to do some goofy things as a P.A. Announcer,” he wrote. “Because the game you’re announcing may be intensely interesting – or intensely boring – your mind can begin to wander.

“One evening as I (announced) a football game, in the excitement I reached to pick up my microphone, but no sound came out. In my enthusiasm I was speaking into my water bottle instead of the microphone.”

Gotta love it. You see, Bates never took himself too seriously. But what he did take seriously was his public address announcing. His advice in that article for anyone who did the work was basic but to the point: Be prepared, be yourself, but by all means, have fun. Bates never failed on the job to do all three.

The North and South football teams loved hearing that voice. “We were always trying to do his voice,” former North coach and current Stellos PA announcer Jason Robie said. “The best Bob Bates impersonation. He had that signature voice. … A lot of people know that voice.”

Robie said that at least 50 percent of the announcements he does come from notes he kept that Bates left behind at Stellos.

“I used his notes as a tribute to him,” Robie said. “He was always very complimentary.”

Yes, there are a few “young fellas” that try to match the Bates pizazz. Impossible to do, but yes, a tribute nonetheless. As Robie said, Bates was “kind of like the grand poobah” of announcers.

As state American Leagion baseball chairman Rick Harvey said in an email to the state Legion baseball world, ” When you heard his voice over the microphone, you knew it was Bob Bates.”

The tributes have been coming in fast and furious on social media. But perhaps one tweet said it best: “Great voice and a great guy.”

Hopefully the city or school officials will honor Bates’ memory by naming one of the press boxes he so frequently worked in after him. Sadly, the last time yours truly saw Bates was when he was leaving Conway Arena in late February after filling in for his good friend Bill Thorp to announce and score a high school hockey game. He stopped by the media room to reveal that his cancer had returned, and he was in for a bit of a battle.

It brought back the thoughts of a few years earlier, when Bates was gingerly leaving the scorer’s booth on the ice at Conway, careful not to slip.

His hands were full with all sorts of parting gifts as the just concluded high school hockey game was to be his last regular public address announcing gig. He had a huge grin, and then turned reflective.

“I don’t want this to end,” he said back then. “But it’s time.”

We never wanted Bob Bates’ time behind the mike to end. Those golden pipes are now silent, but will be forever heard in our minds and memories.

Farewell, old friend. You were blessed with a voice like none other, and in turn we were all blessed to have heard it – and to have known you.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.