in memoriambaritone robert merrill, star of opera and yankee stadium died saturday at his home in suburban new york city aged eighty-five or eighty-seven.
described in time magazine as «one of the met's best baritones» he became as well-known to new york yankees fans for his season-opening rendition of «the star-spangled banner» --a tradition that began in 1969. in his thirty-one consecutive seasons with the metropolitan opera, merrill performed virtually every baritone role in the operatic repertoire. his lifelong enthusiasm for baseball led to his long tenure at yankee stadium, where he sang the national anthem on opening day for three decades. he performed the same duty for the yankees during the world series, the playoffs and at old-timers' day.
merrill grew up in brooklyn and was first inspired by music as a teenager when he saw a metropolitan opera performance of verdi's il trovatore. as a young baritone he paid for singing lessons with extra money he earned as a semipro pitcher.
source: elizabeth LeSure / the associated press.