Photo by Candace diCarlo
Director, Financial Aid, School of Veterinary Medicine
Length of service:
Plays in Penn Recreation's softball league
"I'm just a chorus girl," said Barbara Davis, describing her role in the Savoy Company, the oldest amateur Gilbert and Sullivan company in the nation, and perhaps in the world. The chorus girl also talks five minutes of baseball on the local "Morning Edition" on WHYY radio (90.9), every other Thursday at 7:33 a.m., repeating at 9:33 a.m. And she charts the Philadelphia Phillies games for Total Baseball Daily, a part of Total Sports, and expects that some time this baseball season, the company will cybercast her play-by-play statistics live on the Web. But she doesn't want to give the wrong impression. She also loves her job, helping vet students with financial aid. And they love her right back. In the course of a half-hour interview, a student presented her with a t-shirt he had designed himself.
Q. How did you get involved with the Savoy Company?
A. Two things that I love are baseball and Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert and Sullivan satirizes the 19th century and is very silly. I get to be silly and dance around and sing.
When I first came to Penn 11 years ago, I worked with law and Wharton and fine arts students as a financial aid counselor. A student came to my office to beg for money. He said, "I'm the director of the Law School Light Opera Company. Why don't you sing with us?" I said, "I don't sing," but I was looking for something to do and I like Gilbert and Sullivan.
When they stopped doing Gilbert and Sullivan, I stopped.
I saw the Savoy Company and they looked like they were having such a good time on stage.
To audition, you had to sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." I got accepted not by my singing, but they bought my act.
The people in this group are so talented, I'm in awe.
Q. And how did you get involved in the baseball work?
A. I work now for Total Sports. I met a man named Gary Gillette. He was a baseball commentator on WHYY. My haircutter knew I was into baseball, so he told me he cut Gary Gillette's hair. Gary said he would take me to the press box [at the Phillies]. He did.
Gary's business, Baseball Workshop, on AOL [America Online] was growing. He was busy at the business end. So he asked me if I wanted to take over the Phillies.
In August '96 I began charting games, taking statistics, writing notes. Last year, Gary Gillette sold his business to Total Sports and moved down to Total Sports headquarters in Raleigh.
He said, "I want you to take on the radio."
I said, "I can't do that." But I did it to challenge myself. It was in November , prior to the baseball expansion draft.
Q. Are you on WHYY just during baseball season?
A. I was on during the winter for major transactions, hirings, firings. You just missed me [for the 9:33 a.m. airing]. It's so hard to listen to myself. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It's my opinion, my material, and it's pretty scary.
Q. What kind of response have you gotten?
A. I have learned that much of my audience is here in the Penn community. I have heard from people I haven't heard from in a really long time.
They like hearing a woman talking about baseball, which I don't think about. I just do it.
If it gets more people to think about baseball, that's my mission. It's really the most beautiful sport there is. It's a game of tension and release. It offers the opportunity for social interaction with your friends, family interaction, watch the game and really develop relationships. There's nothing like going out on a summer evening or a sunny afternoon and watching a baseball game.
Q. Are you only a spectator or do you also play?
A. I play in the Penn Recreation Department's softball league. All bat, no glove. I'm terrrified in the field. Last year I took a line drive [in the thigh] in the field, and I didn't cry. I won't play that position, defensive pitcher, again. I was wearing shorts and [the late, great] Richie Ashburn saw the black and blue mark. He said, "What's that?" I said, "Whitey, I'm a girl. My instinct is to cover my face."
Q. To do your job, do you have to go in the locker room?
A. The club house is where players are supposed to relax, after and before the game. The media are just swarming. The Phillies are very modest. They wear towels. Occasionally a guy starts dropping his drawers and I just turn away.
I couldn't have done this in '93 with Hooligan Row. They were just macho animals. Last year they were just great to me. I just hope they do better. Opening day was one of the most exciting games. It just had the wrong ending. The Philly organization is very good to me.
Q. And your work here at Penn?
A. I love the vet school. I've been here for three years. Before, I was assistant director of financial aid for Wharton, law and fine arts. I love the students in the vet school. I love the passion they have for what they want to do with their lives.
Davis will perform -- in the chorus -- of "Ruddigore" with the Savoy Company at the Academy of Music, May 15 and 16, for the benefit of the American Cancer Society's Childhood Cancer Program and About Face. The company will perform at Longwood Gardens May 29 and 30 for the benefit of Camp Hill Communities of SEPA, the Center for Autistic Children, Daemion House, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and the Stratford Friends School.
If you missed her this morning, Davis' next on-air date on "Morning Edition" is April 30.
Originally published on April 16, 1998