Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pox on the Sox

I grew up listening to baseball on the radio. Like many of us 40-somethings, we cut our baseball teeth with a transistor radio and in New England, the play-by-play of longtime radio fixtures, Ken Coleman and Ned Martin, with the third man in the booth being a former Red Sox legend like Mel Parnell, or Johnny Pesky. While there was plenty of Sox games being broadcast on television during the late 60s and early 70s (courtesy of Schaefer Beer, btw—“Schaefer is the one beer to have when your having more than one.”), it just seemed like baseball was meant for transmission via WHDH-850 AM, over a transistor radio.

The Red Sox radio team of Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano were in the same class as the old Coleman/Martin partnership. Who could forget “Trup’s” classic call, “Swing and a drive! Way back, Waaaay back! Home run!” whenever one of the Sox players homered?

Of course, that call has been silenced, as Trupiano was unceremoniously let go, two weeks prior to Christmas, by New England’s team. After 10 years of stellar work forming one of baseball’s best play-by-play teams on the radio side, team president, Larry Luchino saw fit to bring in his own guys. Castiglione is still in the booth, albeit on a part-time basis, but the new radio personalities; Dave O’Brien, who comes over from ESPN, where he’ll continue to do games and the lackluster—no, fucking pathetic—Glenn Geffner. It seems as though quality and commitment to the integrity of baseball that Joe and Jerry brought to the booth are no longer in demand at Fenway, any longer.

This change has been bothering me since opening day, when, while driving home and listening to the amateurish Geffner, who reminded me of the hacks that call high school sporting events on low-power local stations found in rural parts of states like Maine, I had to call my buddy, who was watching the game on television and tell him, “turn the radio on!” He was like, “Why?” I told him, “Because the Red Sox have the worst announcer I’ve ever heard calling the game with Castig.”

I haven’t written about it until now, simply because I’ve been so busy and every time I meant to look up what happened to Trupiano, I got sidetracked, or pointed in some other direction of importance.

While O’Brien is passable, he sounds like just another “cookie cutter” announcer (epitomized by his lackluster call on Big Papi's homer today) that one finds calling sports on national networks, like the God-awful Fox baseball team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to root for the Sox for several seasons, going back to 2002, when corporate milqetoast, John Henry (certainly no steel-drivin' man), purchased the club from the John Harrington and the Yawkey trust. I find that everytime Henry finds his way into the booth with Remy and Orsillo, I like the team considerably less. Henry, who epitomizes so many monied white males, who were the last guy off the bench on his Little League team and never played the game competitively after they were 12, reveal their lack of baseball pedigree every time they open their mouths to talk baseball. Of course, who the heck am I to criticize him, as his pocket change is probably greater than my total financial assets.

I know that Red Sox Nation (a corporate media driven commodity in its own right) continues to gain converts, particularly after finally winning the World Series in 2004, but with the team’s embrace of the corporate mindset that is professional sports, the co-mingling of NASCAR with baseball (Henry is a co-owner with Roush Fenway Racing) and the Trupiano incident, I think I’ve officially left the Nation for good. Add to that the fact that most of the team is a combination of right-wing, flag-waving Bush supporters and members of the “God squad” and I don’t find the Red Sox a very compelling team any longer.

It might be time for me to throw my allegiance back to the senior circuit and begin watching Braves games again (as I did through much of the 90s).


LC said...

Very Nice. I agree. If you don't mind, I've linked your comment over at, where we discuss the whole issue just abolut every day.

Jim said...

I guess my letting loose with an f-bomb indicated how strongly I feel about Trupiano getting the shaft. As I mentioned, this has been bothering me since opening day.

I don't mind the link and I'm glad you stopped by.

I'm a huge baseball fan, but often write about many other things. From time to time, an issue pushes me over the edge and I have to weigh in on some aspect of the sports world.

I'll check out your site and am looking forward to reading the perspectives of other Sox fans.

weasel said...

The new radio team is terrible: firing Trup was such a shame, and so shortsighted. I can't let go of the Sox over this though: I think you and I have laughingly discussed before how you have to practice doublethink in baseball! For eg, 'Tek is a born-again Georgia-based turtle-neck-under-suits-wearing, smiles-when-he-meets-Dick-Cheney kind of guy, but I love it when he comes to the plate with that "C" on his chest and that look in his eye...

Its a sad truth- millionaire athletes, only some with a true education rather than some scholarship fakery, trending towards jock-y politics and megachurch religious beliefs, are playing a game which almost by its very definition will never be as good as it used to be in the minds of the fans. And the personalities in management and the dugout are the same from Seattle to Miami, it seems.

And then these over-paid religious right wing idiots do something small but awesome (like the two bunts in a row followed by a steal on Saturday, or the four homers back to back last night) that makes me forget all that other stuff and buy into the bullshit for just a little bit.

Changing teams though- perhaps its cultural (after all, teams will change fans if a town is offering a stadium) but to a transplanted Brit sports nut, that's like divorcing one's spouse because you don't like her boss!

Joe said...

Agreed that I miss Troop. He was a buffon, but he was our buffon, and his rapport with Castiglione was terrific. I also despise the Red Sox Nation phenomenon. I consider myself a Red Sox fan who is not a member of Red Sox Nation.

I also agree with Weasel that complaining about right wing Christian ballplayer on your team is similar to complaining that your manager never lets the starters throw more than 110 pitches. No matter which team you switch to, it's going to be the same thing.

As for using this rant as a springboard to switch to the Braves - what are you thinking? Sure, the Red Sox are owned by a nerdy, probably-throws-like-a-girl money man. Who are the Braves owned by? Time Warner Cable. Who is the face of that franchise?

Don't like religious zealots on your team? The Braves hosted several "Faith Nights" last season, featuring John Smoltz talking about how great Jesus is. John Smoltz also compared gay marriage to bestiality at one time in his life. I'm sure there are other evangelicals on the roster as well.

All baseball teams are owned by rich white guys, except I think for the Angels. If you're going to switch allegiance, why not the Angels. Or maybe Orioles, who are owned by a guy who made his money fighting the good fight for the working man as a labor lawyer.

I'm not trying to tell you to stick with the Sox, of course. But the Braves? Yucko.

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Braves. Yes, yes! (I won't Pox the Sox, though, since I live in American League territory and by default they're my local team.)

The Braves are the team of my heart. My recurring dream/nightmare is a Braves-Red Sox series. I get really weird in September and October if both teams are competing for a division championship.

The Braves were my husband's family's team when they were in Boston. Then the family and the team (in that order) transferred to Milwaukee. My cherishes a baseball from the Braves' Series appearance in the 50's.)

Then the team moved South to Atlanta to become my team--and "America's Team". My man never quite recovered.

I will ignore Joe's parting shot.

Joe said...

The parting shot was meant to be taken in the context of choosing to root for the Braves in light of the rationale presented for abandoning the Sox.

Still, the Braves have the racially insensitive Tomahawk Chop on their side. And I believe that TBS must be held accountable for its implicit complicity in perpetuating Don Sutton's afro.

Other than that, they are fine. Mostly.

Brendon said...

Wow, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I've been so angry about this. I can't even listen when Glenn is on. I really thought I was listening to a high school game, or some other amateur radio station broadcasting the game. Just awful. I hate it. Is there anything we can do? I can take Dave O'brien, but no Troop? It's so sad. He was great.

Anonymous said...

O'Brien, as I'll bet you have since surmised, is a superb baseball announcer. The writer of "Pox on the Sox" spoke far too soon, never really hearing Obie call games into the season. He has been warmly received by Red Sox nation and already has proven more popular than Trupiano ever was. You should hear the great reviews he has received on talk radio in Boston. Now that we are close to the All-Star break, the writer should take a fair look (or listen) to the Joe Castig-Dave O'Brien chemistry. Trupe isn't missed - on the contrary. This was a major upgrade, hiring O'Brien. Red Sox fans have gotten quite lucky.