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The Vanderbilt Whistler Will Not Be Silenced

Photo: Nati Harnik (AP)

Vanderbilt beat Mississippi State 6-3 on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the College World Series, and they pulled off their second win in Omaha despite The Man’s best efforts to keep a crucial person from making an impact: 72-year-old Preacher Franklin.

Franklin’s face may not be famous, but the noise he makes will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s watched a Vanderbilt game. He is the Vandy Whistler, and at key moments in the Commodores’ games, he’ll start to make a noise like a white-throated sparrow sending a morse-code distress signal.

Personally, I find it beautiful and soothing whenever Franklin’s cheeps invade my skull without mercy, but some less cultured college baseball fans seem to disagree. On Sunday, during Vanderbilt’s win against Louisville, Franklin was the subject of “an onslaught” of guest complaints both in-person at the stadium and over phone and email, according to the director of communications for the ballpark’s manager. A park official approached Franklin on Sunday and told him he’d be kicked out if he didn’t stop. But the whistler, who had driven 780 miles in his van from Tennessee to watch Vandy in the College World Series, refused to go mute.

“Legally, I don’t see how they can shut me up,” he told ESPN before Wednesday’s game. “They’re making their own rules as they go. I think they ought to leave me alone.”

During the Mississippi State game, even as he tried to stay on the straight and narrow, Franklin fell off the whistling wagon:

He said he meant to behave Wednesday, but just before the game, he couldn’t help himself. He chirped and then started to show off, imitating a police whistle.

But for the most part, he picked his spots. He whistled just before Vandy outfielder J.J. Bleday’s at-bat in the fifth inning, and Bleday promptly doubled to deep center, putting the Commodores up 2-0. Though Franklin sat near the concourse, his whistles could be heard all the way up in the press box.

At one point during the game, the same stadium supervisor from Sunday approached him again and gave him one warning.

It was hard to do much else, though, because at least three other Vandy fans seated by Franklin started whistling too. They told him they had his back.

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So thanks to all this interference Vanderbilt now has at least four whistlers, and possibly another major one coming into town—Jeff Pack, Franklin’s partner in crime, who’s hoping to get to Omaha for the weekend. If you strike a whistler down, he shall become louder than you can possibly imagine.

Correction (6/21 11:08 a.m. ET): A previous version of this post used photo and video of the other Vanderbilt whistler, Jeff Pack, and not Franklin.

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