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.
Jim Doepke, aka “Mr. Trumpet,” returned to Allen Field House Feb. 3 to play the alma mater and national anthem before the KU-Oklahoma State men’s basketball game. It’s Doepke’s sixth time performing before the Jayhawk faithful, but he insists it never gets old—especially when his return coincides with the anniversaries of the 1988 and 2008 NCAA National Championship teams and the basketball program’s 120th anniversary.
“That just adds to the excitement,” says Doepke. “It’s just so cool to be part of that.”
Doepke, d’74, a retired high school band director who lives Florida, arrived in Lawrence on Friday with his son, J.P. Their first stop was Allen Field House, where father and son toured the exhibits and interactive displays in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. “I’ve never really had time to do that,” Doepke says. “We really enjoyed it.”
Later, with trumpet in hand, Doepke visited the Adams Alumni Center, where he surprised staff with a special performance of the alma mater.
Doepke, who has set a goal to play the national anthem at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, is scheduled to perform Aug. 2 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Aug. 4 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which will raise his ballpark tally to 19.
Jim Doepke, aka “Mr. Trumpet,” is making progress in his quest to play the national anthem at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. On July 22, Doepke, d’74, belted out “The Star Spangled Banner” on his trumpet at Safeco Field in Seattle–the 10th Major League ball park he has appeared in.
A high school band director in Wisconsin who retired in Florida in 2007, Doepke began carrying his trumpet into the stands when cheering for his hometown Milwaukee Brewers. He was soon adopted by the team and was chosen to play the anthem at the opening of Miller Park in 2001. After multiple appearances in Milwaukee, he hit on the idea of taking his show on the road.
“I’ve always gotten a lot of satisfaction from playing the national anthem, and I decided it would be a kick to do it at every Major League park,” Doepke told Kansas Alumni magazine in 2009. He also plays for military honor ceremonies and has sounded taps at Arlington National Cemetery. Also high on his list of trumpet triumphs: playing before KU basketball games in Allen Field House.
Jayhawk fans will have two opportunities to catch Doepke this season: Dec. 10 at the Alumni Association’s pregame tailgate at the KU-Florida game in Gainesville, and Dec. 21 at the KU-Georgetown game in Lawrence.
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