We won’t be able to judge the result until deep into the fall, when Bob Socci, the new radio play-by-play voice of the Patriots, has settled in alongside analyst Scott Zolak and provided listeners with substantial aural evidence regarding his approach to calling an NFL game.
But we can already judge the process of how CBS Radio Boston and 98.5 The Sports Hub went about finding a successor to the legendary Gil Santos, who retired following the AFC Championship game in January after 36 seasons as the voice of the Patriots.
And based on what they did as well as what they didn’t do, it seems they took a very well-considered path to hiring Socci.
The easiest thing would have been to choose someone already known and established within the market. Gary Tanguay (who hosts the pregame and postgame programs), Dale Arnold (who called Patriots games from 1988-90), and Jon Meterparel were all candidates to some degree, with industry sources saying Tanguay’s candidacy in particular generated both strong support and skepticism from Patriots management.
None would have been an inspired choice.
As the search progressed, it was written here that the best result would be to find the Patriots version of Bruins voice Dave Goucher: someone who was sharp, talented, had paid his dues, and wouldn’t arrive with any preconceived notions attached. Goucher himself expressed interest in the position.
Socci seems to fit the profile. In fact, the Milton resident who has called Navy football games for 16 years and Pawtucket Red Sox games for roughly three weeks, brought up the similarity (unsolicited) during a conversation Wednesday.
“Having become familiar with Dave Goucher listening to Bruins broadcasts, that is the kind of guy I consider myself similar to,’’ Socci said.
While Socci was raised in Auburn, N.Y., and has lived in Massachusetts for just five years (his wife’s family is from the Sudbury area), his affinity for Boston sports — and admiration of Boston broadcasters — goes back to his childhood, when a certain channel was available on upstate New York cable television.
“I was a Boston fan because of TV38,’’ he said. “In Auburn, we had a superstation like everybody else, we had CBC out of Canada broadcasting the Expos, and we had TV38. So I watched the Bruins with Fred [Cusick] and John [Peirson], I watched the “Movie Loft’’ with Dana Hersey, I listened to Ned Martin first with Hawk [Harrelson] — that was my exposure to the Red Sox on TV — and later Monty [Bob Montgomery].
“So there was always this longing. You dream about having a major league play-by-play job and the markets you’d like to work in, and Boston was always it.’’
Socci, who interviewed with The Sports Hub Feb. 15 and took the PawSox job in the interim (he’ll be leaving July 1), has called Navy games since fall 1997. Many Patriots fans have asked if he has a connection to Bill Belichick, whose father, Steve, was a revered coach and scout at the Naval Academy for 34 years.
Socci said he met the Patriots coach once, when Belichick came to Annapolis to make a donation to the library and answered a few questions for a segment on the radio broadcast.
“The only other time I was in his company was after his father died,” said Socci. “He came to the annual football banquet and sat in the crowd with his mother but never came up on stage.
“But I knew Steve. He was a regular presence. It’s a tight-knit community in Annapolis, a small community in the Naval Academy family, and he was revered.
“Coach would stop by the football offices every day, get his cup of coffee, get his newspapers, and often I was set up there waiting for an interview with an athlete. Coach and I would talk.
“He gave me a lecture here or there about something I might have said. I joked to Mike Thomas and Mark Hannon [of CBS Radio Boston] during my interview that I’ve been coached by a Belichick.’’
Socci believes his 16 years in the close-knit Naval Academy community will serve him well in his new role.
“I recognize how much scrutiny I’m going to be under,’’ said Socci. “But people at the Naval Academy care so much about their traditions and their programs that having flourished in that setting gives me the confidence that I can take this opportunity and serve Gil’s legacy well.’’
No way on Elway
The standard for ESPN’s “30 for 30” films is extremely high, and I thought “Elway to Marino,’’ which premiered this week with a look at the legendary 1983 NFL draft, was somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of entertainment value. But there were a couple of interesting Patriots-related revelations. New England pushed very hard to acquire top pick John Elway when he made it clear he had no intention of playing for the Baltimore Colts. But Colts GM Ernie Accorsi had no intention to trade him within the AFC East, and the Patriots ended up with Tony Eason, taking him 12 picks before the Miami Dolphins chose Dan Marino. It was also revealed that an offer the Patriots made to the Colts included future Hall of Fame guard John Hannah . . . I haven’t often had the kindest things to say about their program, but sincerest kudos to WEEI morning drive hosts John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, and Kirk Minihane, who have had consistently compelling conversation and guests (such as the heroic Carlos Arredondo and Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau) in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings. It’s helped.