Tall Tom Lafferty has been the constant within Everett Memorial Stadium through all kinds of change. The AquaSox public address announcer joined the club when it was an expansion team that would become the Giants in 1984. Even when the Giants moved affiliation to Salem-Keizer and the Mariners became the new parent club to prompt a name change to the AquaSox, Tall Tom stayed in his PA seat in Everett. He's only missed a handful of games over the years, putting his total games at about 1,200. Tall Tom also works for KRKO 1380 AM, as a radio personality and the sports director. AquaSox Game Day Magazine sat down with Tall Tom to talk about the origin of his nickname, great moments in Everett baseball history, and his taste in music.
Game Day: How did you get your nickname?
Tall Tom: Bob Bavasi, our first owner, when I walked in and said I would be the PA announcer, he said, "God, you're tall." And then at the end we shook hands and he said, "OK, you're it. I guess I should hear some tapes, but you're it. Thanks, Tall Tom." Boom. That was it.
GD: What made you want to be the Public Address Announcer?
TT: I always loved baseball, loved doing the public address stuff, and had done a few things here and there. I thought this would be a good fit for me, and this was before I was in radio. I had read that the team was coming to town, so I walked into Bob's office and said, "I'm your guy." And that's worked for 32 years [laughs].
GD: You have that iconic line to open every game, "Welcome to Everett Memorial Stadium, where every day is Mardi Gras, and every fan is king." What inspired that?
TT: Again, Bob. Bob's dad was Buzzie Bavasi, who was the general manager of a few major league teams, including the San Diego Padres. At San Diego games they used to say that. "Welcome to San Diego Padres Baseball, where every day is Mardi Gras, and every fan is king." So I thought that was a good line and I stole that. I'll also do "How 'bout them Frogs?" which first was "How 'bout them Giants?" which was stolen because our first assistant GM had interned for the Utah Jazz and they used to say "How 'bout that Jazz?" I don't even know if they say that at Jazz games anymore, but I changed it to "How 'bout them Giants?"
GD: You grew up in the Everett area and still live here, so what do you like about the area? What made you want to stick around?
TT: I was born and bred in Snohomish. Just, this is where I'm from. My whole family is that way. I don't really know what I like about it. Home is home, I've never really lived anywhere else. I like the weather. It's never too hot or too cold, and if it is too hot, it's not going to be too hot in two days. It snows, but when it snows you slip around for a couple of days and when the snow is gone, that's it. One morning you wake up to snow on the ground, and in the afternoon it's gone. It rains a little bit, but other than that, this is it.
GD: Do you have any favorite players who you've gotten to watch over the years?
TT: The funny thing about the job that I do is that you don't really interact much at all with the players. You know, it's kind of funny because the way baseball works we knew Felix Hernandez was good, we knew Ken Griffey, Jr., when he played for Bellingham, was good. We knew who those guys were. You knew who (Mike) Zunino was, and he was here for five weeks, but if they're really good, they won't be here long. They just aren't. Favorite players is hard to say because with a lot of the guys, you knew when they were here that they were good, but then they're gone and three years later he makes his Mariner debut. Do you remember him? Well, no, do you know how many guys have been here since then? But really you'll see it all year. You just can't remember everybody, it's just different. We have to just put on the game.
GD: Are there any memorable moments that you feel like you'd only see in minor league baseball?
TT: The cat on the field, because there was video of that, and there were a lot of different things, like the sprinklers coming on in the middle of the game. The on-field stuff, of course Randy Johnson coming back and pitching here was the first time it really hit that we were so close, because then (Jay) Buhner was here after that and other guys down the line, but when Randy came here it was a huge, huge, huge event. It was prior to the internet, so it was word of mouth and 4,000 people descended on Everett Memorial Stadium, a place that at the time was only supposed to hold 2,500 because of the old configuration. The first opening night back in 1984 stands out because we had the fans sitting on the field, in the outfield on the warning track. Rocky Bridges, our manager, told Bavasi to just sit the fans in the outfield and let the players adjust, and they did! It's kind of like golf, the ball goes in, people lean out of the way, and a guy goes and gets it. But the Randy Johnson one was the first big appearance by a major leaguer. We've had them since, but not that magnitude. I suppose it would be the same if Felix came now. Buhner hitting a home run was cool. He hit one and none of us had ever seen a home run longer than that. He hit it and it went over the screen and when it went over the screen it was still climbing. Who knows where it went because there was no net there, but it was just a rocket.
GD: Are there any crazy promotions or on-field contests that stand out?
TT: Well the best ever on-field contest was "Beat the Walker" with Jim Averill, the grandson of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill [fans would have a speed-walking race with Averill on the basepaths]. The best games are anything where, A. I have a rooting interest, and B. It's simple. It's gotta be like Price is Right. You could watch with the sound off and know what's going on. But "Beat the Walker" was different because Jim took it so seriously that he wanted to win. So when he had kids running, sometimes Bob would say, "Jim, it's time to lose," and it was like pulling his teeth out with a pair of pliers. It was a little bit rigged, but it was awesome. People cheered beyond belief. If it's funny and entertaining on the way, that's great, but to me it has to be an interest in winning and losing.
GD: Your music choices during the games are meant to please the fans, but what is your favorite music?
TT: I don't think I have a favorite kind of music. That's just from doing this for so long, doing baseball for so long, and dances and receptions for so long, you just find a good song that will fit what you want it to do. If that's a country song, it's fine, if that's a classical song, it's fine, if it's a hip-hop song or rock and roll song… if it fits what I want it to do at the ballpark, that's the best. I just don't think I have a favorite kind of music. I've said this since the beginning: if you don't like the song that's playing now, just wait two or three songs, there will be one that will come up that you'll like. You're not going to hear anything with questionable lyrics or questionable taste. We do the walk-up music and every once in a while someone tries to slip one by. But the best ones are like in 2009, when Ben Billingsly's walk-up music was "Fishing in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and that became everybody's favorite song. He was good, he was here all year, and it was a good song. Those are the ones we like.