Red Sox Nation — Losing our voice

I’ve written about it before — the end of any Boston sports team’s season. How it hurts to see some of your favorite players for the last time in the Home Towne Team’s uniform.

I’ve mentioned how some players become “part of the family,” or at least part of the fabric of your life, especially if they have any kind of longevity with the team (in this day and age that means more than two seasons).

We all know it’s a business, and loyalties, on the part of ownership or the players, are by and large a fleeting moment in history.

But even more than the players, the teams’ TV and radio broadcasters don’t just seem like family or part of the fabric — they are.

If you think about it, an avid Boston fan, of which there are countless, spends more time listening to the broadcasters more in a season than they may real family members. And that’s not a slight to family members, especially in light of Pope Francis’ call to strengthen the family.

As a matter of fact, the extended family of broadcasters often entertain real family members gathered to watch/listen to a game.

As a lad, men like Curt Gowdy, Ken Coleman, and Ned Martin of Red Sox broadcasts (TV and/or radio) were like my uncles. Giants like Bruins announcers Don Earle, Fred Cusick, and Bob Wilson (radio), kept my winters warm and cozy.

Celtics legend Johnny Most (whose autograph I cherish on a baseball signed mostly by former Red Sox players), was the biggest homer, yet most passionate announcer I ever laid ears on. Like today’s Patriots, he was disdained outside of the northeast, yet adored in New England.

And not to be forgotten are Patriots radio broadcasters Gil Santos and Gino Capelletti who were far better than a pumpkin latte on a crisp fall afternoon.

All of these people warmed my heart and touched my soul. And as much as I can remember, none of the beloved voices were fired.

That leads me to Sunday’s final Red Sox game of 2015, which happened to also be the final game for the 15-year voice of the Sox, Don Orsillo.

As much as the aforementioned men, Orsillo was a beloved family member of most of Red Sox Nation. Yet, Orsillo was fired by the Red Sox and NESN, and most of Red Sox Nation doesn’t know why, except for hearing from the Red Sox brass, “We felt that starting next year it was worth going in a different direction reenergizing the broadcast.” More importantly a vast number of Red Sox Nation doesn’t like it.

Orsillo is a class act. He was always a gentleman on the broadcasts, and along with his sidekick, Jerry Remy, entertained Sox fans in good times and bad.

Orsillo was never vulgar; was never condescending; never berated a player, coach, or fellow announcer.

He criticized when criticism was warranted, but make no mistake, he was a homer, and that’s what most Sox fans, or any Boston fan, wants — someone to share in the teams’ ups and downs.

Orsillo and Remy could take a blowout game, or a meaningless game, and make it fun anyway.

He wasn’t the same no-nonsense broadcaster as some in Boston sports’ storied past, but he was always a professional, who never forgot his New England roots and the travails of following a minor league baseball team for nearly 10 years.

As Remy put it during Orsillo’s final broadcast, he and his compadre brought smiles to faces of people in nursing homes, hospitals and shut-ins.

Orsillo brought all of us into the booth with him each game. Next year we won’t have access to that booth. It won’t be the same. It may be time to mute the TV volume and listen to Joe Castiglione (Orsillo’s mentor) on radio.

Don Orsillo should not have been canned. Orsillo should have become a Red Sox mainstay of 40, 50 or 60 years, like the legendary Vin Scully with the Dodgers and Harry Caray of Cubs fame, or even the whacky Phil Rizzuto with the Yanks.

I don’t know why the Red Sox and NESN did what they did. And I don’t know what’s in Remy’s mind, but I don’t see him staying that much longer with the network. Why should he? He lost a comrade and a best friend. And so did we all.

Our friend signed off with, “Orsillo rounding third and heading for home.” 

And the call is .... safe at the plate, due to NESN interference.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts