Posted on Sep 18, 2019 in Alumni News and News
Jim Doepke, the retired high school band director who 11 years ago launched a bid to play the national anthem in every Major League Baseball park, will wrap up his quest Thursday when he performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” at SunTrust Park in Atlanta before the Braves’ noon game with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It’s been a great, fun experience,” Doepke, d’74, said Wednesday, as he prepared to board a flight to Atlanta for the 30th and final stop on his Anthem Across America tour. “Once the momentum picked up, it’s been even more enjoyable to put all the pieces together.”
Doepke’s quest started slowly—he convinced only three teams, the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Rockies—to host his solo trumpet performance from 2008 to 2011. Momentum began to build after baseball leaders like MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly got behind him. Doepke played seven ballparks the previous two seasons and 10 this season to finish strong.
“So many people have come on board supporting my efforts,” he says. “I’ve met so many fun, supportive people on the way. It’s just a real good feeling.”
Baseball is all about the round trip from home and back again, and there will be some special significance to finishing in Atlanta, Doepke says. He grew up in Milwaukee attending baseball games with his father, Howard, back when the hometown team was the Braves. (The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, leaving Milwaukee without a Major League team until the Brewers arrived in 1970.) It was his father’s military service in World War II that inspired Doepke to play the anthem. Howard died in March, at the age of 103. His birthday was Sept. 17.
“It’s nice to be able to cross the finish line in Atlanta, because there’s just some real cool connections there,” Doepke says. “I have some neat feelings about that.”
For more on Mr. Trumpet’s quest, check out Kansas Alumni’s coverage over the years, as well as the USA Today story by William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications alumnus David Dorsey, j’94.