Thank God for Irish tenors

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

"WHILE THE STORM CLOUDS GATHER FAR ACROSS THE SEA, LET US SWEAR ALLEGIANCE TO A LAND THAT'S FREE,

LET US ALL BE GRATEFUL FOR A LAND SO FAIR,

AS WE RAISE OUR VOICES IN A SOLEMN PRAYER."

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THEN AND ONLY then does Dr. Ronan Tynan, the Irish tenor from County Kilkenny, boom out God Bless America.

The tunnel leading from the Yankee Stadium dugout toward the clubhouse is narrow.

The 6-foot-4 Tynan, with the shoulders of an offensive tackle, almost fills it as he walked up the small incline after singing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch against the Boston Red Sox on the weekend.

Why sing the first verse, which so few singers sing, we asked?

"Irving Berlin wrote all the words so they all could be sung," Tynan answers.

"They asked when I first sang here in 2001 whether I was worried about feedback. Not when 55,000 are singing with me."

POLITICAL TIMES

These are political times in the Bronx, as in 1918 when Berlin wrote the lyrics or in 1938 when he re-wrote them.

Vice-president Dick Cheney was booed in June when he was shown on the Jumbotron as Tynan sang.

Yankee fans boo Carlos Delgado, who does not stand in front of the dugout, when the song is sung, as a silent protest to the war in Iraq.

Yankee Stadium is the only place where the tradition, which began after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York three years ago, continues nightly.

Whatever your beliefs --pro-war or anti-war, pro-Delgado or anti- Delgado -- Tynan is one amazing man.

Now, besides being one of the three Irish Tenors, Tynan is to the Yankees what the late Kate Smith was to the Philadelphia Flyers: A good luck charm.

But he's much more than a singer. So much more.

Tynan was born with a lower limb disability and had difficulty walking. That didn't prevent him from winning equestrian competitions in Ireland.

Eventually, his lower legs were amputated at age 21 after an auto accident. That didn't stop him from obtaining degrees in physical education and medicine at Dublin's Trinity College.

From 1981 to 1990, Tynan competed internationally in track and field with records in the discus, shot put and long jump for bilateral amputees. In all, he had 18 world records.

Before beginning his singing career at his father's urging in the mid-1990s, he ran a medical practice specializing in sports injuries.

BIG RING

Now, he sports a World Series ring large enough to choke a horse, with glittering diamonds on a blue sapphire background.

"Mr. George Steinbrenner gave it to me for Christmas," Tynan said. "It's from 2000 when we beat the New York Mets."

We? Well, in 2003, both Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little knocked Tynan's elongated version of the anthem as a Yankee weapon. Gardenhire claimed the in-game delay lasted 15 minutes and iced pitcher Brad Radke causing wildness.

Against the Florida Marlins in the World Series, a moment's silence for U.S. troops around the world and Tynan's singing took six minutes.

"I give up paid engagements to sing for the Yankees, we knew about the Yankees in Ireland," said Tynan, who has two albums coming out -- The Impossible Dream and My Life Belongs to You.

"Carlos Delgado? I don't have any opinion on Carlos Delgado's opinion," Tynan said. "No, sir, I don't have an opinion at all."


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