Petition on Change.org now has over 50,000 protesters
By Joel Alderman
Shortly after NESN (New England Sports Network) effectively fired Don Orsillo, by saying that it would not renew his contract after the end of this season, countless internet posts, social media comments, and sports reporters, especially in New England, almost unanimously showed support for the Red Sox TV voice, and vehement opposition toward NESN and Red Sox heads.
The news stunned Red Sox Nation, and has already generated several petitions of protest. The most popular petition is directed at John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox, and has pulled 50,349 names as of August 31st at 1:30 pm.
I recently contacted Joe Castiglione, the Red Sox radio voice by way of Hamden. Joe, an old friend, has aired Sox games since 1983, mostly on WEEI-Boston (the flagship station of the network that includes WTIC-Hartford, the only affiliate in Connecticut). His early career included two stints in New Haven on WELI, which is where I met him in the mid 1960’s. He now has an obvious double interest in the impending changes.
Orsillo’s successor is Castiglione’s current side-kick
Replacing Orsillo on NESN next year will be Dave O’Brien, who for the past nine seasons has been Castiglione’s co-announcer on radio. By a strange coincidence that I haven’t seen picked up anywhere, O’Brien and Orsillo have the same initials.
Castiglione has been close to both of them. O’Brien is his current air partner, and Orsillo, a former understudy.
“I feel for Orsillo, who was my student at Northeastern and our booth intern,” Joe wrote in a recent email. “He should (have no problem to) get another job.”
As for the impending change in the radio booth, Joe wrote “sad to be losing Dave…We had good chemistry and worked well together. He is also a good friend.”
O’Brien said all the right things about both the man he would leave behind and the one he will probably join (Jerry Remy).
Referring to Castiglione, he called him “the best guy I know. We know that he’s a great announcer, and he’s a better human being,” he told Boston beat reporters. He added that “he’s a Hall of Famer in every sense. It’s been the single most part of this for me, knowing I’m not going to sit next to Joe anymore.”
Assuming that Remy will be back on NESN, and at this point that is only an assumption, O’Brien added, “Now, I get to sit next to Jerry Remy, and he’s a Hall of Famer, too. So I don’t lose out in that sense.”
After several days of no comments from NESN and the Red Sox, it finally came out that O’Brien’s availability is the main reason for Orsillo’s forced departure. The heads at NESN simply wanted O’Brien before another TV outlet grabbed him up.
Orsillo still working
Usually, when an announcer is informed that his days are coming to an end, he is immediately taken off the air, in fear that he might vent some feelings that would offend the management during his “lame duck” period. But Orsillo is being allowed to finish out the season. It is a tribute to his professionalism that he has made no changes in his style of broadcasting and shown no outward display of anger or disappointment.
Will Lou Merloni be the new radio voice?
Meanwhile, in what may be an audition of sorts for next year, Joe Castiglione emailed that former Red Sox infielder, Lou Merloni, will do some play-by play with him over the next few weeks.”Sweet Lou,” as he was known as a player, had flings with the Red Sox from 1998-2003 and went up and down to and from Pawtucket so many times that the phrase “Merloni Shuttle” was popularized.
Merloni is already a fixture at WEEI, where since 2001 he has been doing talk shows. Two years ago he had a few shots in the Red Sox radio booth on some regular season games and even ALCS and World Series contests that year. Expect to hear him soon with Castiglione on WTIC and maybe next year.
Jerry Remy cried for Orsillo
Jerry Remy made no effort to hide his emotions when he first faced the press after the news broke last Tuesday. The former Red Sox second baseman was reduced to tears. He and Orsillo have been together for the past 15 years, the last few of which Orsillo was of great support to Remy in the face of his family tragedy.
In the wake of losing his partner, Jerry is saying “I’m sure they’re going to be lining up for his services. …He’s terrific at what he does. He’s been absolutely fabulous to work with. I love him. He’s going to do just fine.”
Comments by players (gleaned from Boston Herald, Boston Globe and Twitter)
David Ortiz: “Me, personally, I think Don Orsillo is really good at it. I can’t really criticize Mr. Tom Werner’s (Red Sox chairman) decision because I don’t want to sound like a jackass criticizing something I have no idea about. He probably has his reasons why he doesn’t want to bring a guy like (Orsillo) back. Me, as a fan watching him, I think he’s fun, and I think people love watching him and Jerry go back and forth and doing their thing and not just focusing on baseball. They’re talking about all kinds of different things so it doesn’t turn out to be boring. … No one is safe unless you are your own boss.”
Dustin Pedroia: “I’ve been around him for the last nine years and he’s been first-class, man. He’s the best. His personality — he’s hilarious. It’s not just me, but everyone gives him a hard time. Just a fun guy to be around. We’re going to miss him. I’m definitely going to miss him.”
Clay Buchholtz: “I’m pretty sure he’ll have his pick on where he wants to go, he’s pretty darn good. I’m just going to miss seeing him every day. I think anybody who has ever watched a Red Sox game knows who he is, how good he is, and recognizes his voice. He’s been here a long time and he’s one of the best at what he does. It’s a big loss for the fans and for the guys in the clubhouse.”
Opinions from fellow announcers
Michael Kay, Yankees: “If Don Orsillo is not leaving NESN on his own, this decision baffles me. Class man, awesome announcer, and respect throughout the sport.”
Dave Goucher, Boston Bruins: “Great guy. Scary part is, he’s as good as it gets, did all that was asked, loyal. And got shown the door.”
Sean McDonough, Red Sox announcer before Orsillo: “I know he’s devastated and it is devastating. When you are a guy like Don … and you put your heart and soul into it, and you think you’re good at it, and you don’t see this coming at all and all of a sudden you’re gone, it’s a really difficult thing.”
Kevin Millar, MLB Network, ex-Red Sox player: “What a great guy. Really is one of those guys in the game that’s great for baseball. And he’s been great for the Red Sox for a number of years … He’s got a great personality. More than just the announcer telling you the balls and the strikes. He’s entertaining, and that’s big news.”
Quotes from writers
Michael Silverman, Boston Herald: “Shabby and awkward barely convey how poorly the Red Sox handled the dismissal of their still-popular, still-beloved, still-talented play-by-play voice Don Orsillo … Welcome to another chapter in a Red Sox season chock full of bad baseball, bad news, bad ideas and bad timing.”
Chad Finn, Boston Globe: “.… the support for Orsillo is overwhelming. It says something about the man, I think. It’s a remarkable tribute.”
Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal: “So now in this season that never really was, this season that’s a monument to underachieving player and inept management, we now have the designated scapegoat, right there beside the departed Ben Cherington. Don Orsillo. Perfect.”
Chip Malafronte, New Haven Register: “The fact that people are tuning in at all to watch an otherwise unwatchable team is a testament to the brilliance of Orsillo and partner Jerry Remy. So too is the unilateral outrage over the move from Red Sox fans. … Orsillo will land on his feet. He’s too good. But in a Red Sox season defined by incompetence and mismanagement, this may be the front office’s crowning achievement.”
Jeff Otterbein, Hartford Courant: Orsillo “has a smooth delivery, a great voice, a sense of timing and a sense of humor as the Red Sox play-by-play announcer on NESN. The brother-in-law of Rock Cats announcer Jeff Dooley will not be back after this season …. He will be missed.”
Providence Journal editorial: “Mr. Orsillo has already worked his way to a national reputation. TBS used him for several years for its coverage of playoff games. So it seems doubtful he will go very long without finding another job. But, as thousands of fans made clear when news of his departure leaked out last week, he will be missed.”
Howard Herman, berkshireeagle.com: “In all my years of media watching, I have never seen a response like the one that has overwhelmed New England since Don Orsillo got his walking papers.” —
A barrage of posts on the internet
Social media and New England newspapers are filled with posts, most, but not all, strongly critical of NESN’s actions. Following are edited samplings:
“Why break up an entertaining team? All through this agonizing season, the only reason to watch the game was Orsillo and Remy.” —Francis Moran
“Warner is a fool and does not know baseball. He also does not know how loved Don is in New England. There will be hell to pay when they get back to Boston from the fans. Watch the signs in the stands, Warner!” —To Lap
“SHAME ON NESN! Don Orsillo is an outstanding broadcaster, and I doubt that O’Brien will come even close to equaling Don. Best wishes, Don! NESN doesn’t deserve you!” —Ed Swanson
“Orsillo absolutely is to blame for the low ratings, because real baseball fans watching on TV are sick and tired of the endless exchanges between him and Remy about their clothes, their hair, where they ate the night before, etc. If you want that kind of a program, watch The View . . . The contrast is unbelievable with O’Brien and Castiglione, who provide great historical analysis and statistical information every game. Can’t wait for O’Brien next season — he is the best. Next best thing is if Remy quits.” —Matt Collins
“I’m sure he’ll join Tito’s team in Cleveland or Jon Lester’s group in Chicago . . . He’ll be unemployed about 24 hours. Red Sox loss. Too bad ownership doesn’t have any pull in Boston.” —Brad Smith
“He was the better of the two in what is the worst broadcast team in MLB. Half the time the two of them are giggling like 10-year old girls and talking about their clothes (?!?) instead of paying attention to the game.” —Frank Jones
“The Red Sox continue with their endless list of monumental blunders. —Nancy Phillips
As a Yankee fan, I loved Orsillo. He called a great game. —Michael Padilla
“Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Don & Jerry are the only reason I tune in when the Sox are in last place. Say goodbye to another viewer.” —Cliffe Raymond
“I’ll enjoy this last season of watching baseball on NESN and if they don’t reconsider and give Orsillo a new contract I’m done. The only reason for watching half the time was the laughs from Don and Jerry about the people in the stands or the guests they had….The chemistry cannot be replaced.” —Peg Horrigan Pomphrey
“Shocking. Dumb. John Henry, go, go. The best duo in baseball broken up. No more NESN for me.” —Ronald Graves
“Cowards! That’s what they all are. Soulless corporate toadies. And arrogant to boot. There will be a price to pay for this arrogance. NESN brass and John Henry may not even care. But we fans do. Boycott their advertisers and see how they respond to that.” —Southshore Rick
“This is a complete disgrace, a Harvard business school textbook case on how not to run a business. To describe NESN as callous is a compliment. …This is clearly a personal vendetta that someone at the network has for Orsillo. I really hope they lose significant viewership. Cowards!” — Cisco Kid
“I know NESN told (O’Brien that Orsillo), won’t be back whether you take the job or not,’ but I’d respect him a whole lot more if he told NESN to stuff it.” —Elcamino
Fans in New England will boycott Sox advertisers like Hood, Jordan Furniture and Bob’s Discount Furniture as long as they continue to support this group of creepy folks. We will lose all respect for John Henry, Tom Werner and the jack rabbit from Minnesota, Joseph Maar of NESN. Dollars mean everything to these folks. They will be the big losers. —Vermont Reader
I think this will cause Jerry Remy to retire. I have felt for years that he was a nice, likable guy but that he only survived as a broadcaster because of Orsillo’s support. Given his health, history and friendship with Orsillo I think he will be gone too. —N-Tropy
The final words
This is our favorite post of all. It perfectly sums up the feelings of many:
“AND GET RID OF ‘SWEET CAROLINE” WHILE YOU’RE AT IT.” —jkzander