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A superlative year in Boston sports media


For this year's edition of Boston sports media superlatives — all right, so it's the first edition of such a thing — I'm keeping it all positive.

Chalk it up to the spirit of the season, or perhaps the spirit of the seasons, considering the Red Sox are world champions, the Patriots and Bruins are contenders, and the Celtics are better than anyone expected.

The teams are doing well. More relevant for our purposes, so are the vast majority of media covering them.

No lumps of coal here, at least this time of year. Let's deliver some gift-wrapped plaudits.

 Best play-by-play voice: Whether we're talking Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox or Celtics, television or radio, a high-quality play-by-play voice can be heard wherever a Boston fan chooses to tune in. Sure, some personalities bring more gripes than others — after his "Merry Bleepin' Christmas" joke Monday, Jack Edwards is the current leader in that category in my inbox — but for the most part, we're blessedly buffoon-free around here. From this perspective, the gold standard remains Mike Gorman on CSNNE's Celtics telecasts, and it deserves acknowledgment that his degree of difficulty has grown this year with Tom Heinsohn handling color only during home games, leading to a rotating cast on the road. Runner-up: Dave Goucher, who makes calling hockey on the radio sound effortless when it's actually the opposite.

 Best color and studio analyst: Insightful, energetic, and armed with his own amusing lingo, Dennis Eckersley has been far and away NESN's best studio analyst since debuting on the network in 2002. What we've discovered in recent years when he has been called upon to fill in for Jerry Remy is that he's as good as it gets as a color analyst as well, national voices included. Eckersley has a contract with TBS on top of his NESN duties, but he'd be ideal as Fox' replacement for Tim McCarver.


 Best newcomer: Pedro Martinez's charisma and sharp humor (in his second language, no less) came through in abundance during his stint on TBS's postseason studio programming. And yes, I'm counting him as local because of his Red Sox ties. But if you demand a regional alternative, here's one: Bob Socci has done fine work as the steady play-by-play voice on the Patriots' radio telecast. Replacing the iconic Gil Santos isn't easy, nor is finding the right balance with the knowledgeable but excitable Scott Zolak. Socci has handled both tasks with aplomb.


 Best exit interview: A few minutes before 6 p.m. on April 13, Pete Sheppard sent this tease to his Twitter followers: "Hey all, got something special for you at 6:15 on WEEI . . ." He wasn't kidding. Sheppard, who built a following with his blustery but affable everyman style, all but spontaneously combusted on air, quitting his job at the end of the show while blasting the changes made at WEEI by then-Entercom Boston market manager Jeff Brown. It may not have been the best career move — Sheppard is now at WCAP 980 after a brief stint at WUFC 1510 — but it was both mesmerizing and authentic.

 Best third voice added to a program: Speaking of Brown, the buzz keeps growing louder that many of the changes he made during his controversial tenure could come undone early in the New Year. But one thing that went right on his watch: the addition of Kirk Minihane to "Dennis and Callahan" in February. He's a relative radio novice, but his sarcastic sense of humor and disarming candor have added a fresh element to the revitalized show. Let's just hope Stockholm Syndrome never sets in.


 Best radio program: There's simply no pairing in the market with better chemistry than The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich." Both hosts' talents are apparent individually. Fred Toucher is a quintessential caustic wit, while Rich Shertenlieb is a production whiz who can mine laugh-out-loud humor out of almost any scenario. But together, the whole exceeds the sum of their vast individual skills, and that's extremely hard to find. Runner-up: The Sports Hub's "Felger and Massarotti," an engaging show on the occasions when they aren't trolling their listeners with Chicken Little scenarios. (A recurring midsummer favorite: "The Red Sox are closer to last place than first, Mike.")

 Best call using a player's name as an exclamation: I'm going to cop out and call it a tie between Goucher's "Bergeron! Bergeron!" and O'Brien's "David Ortiz! David Ortiz! David Ortiz!" Should you require an explanation on the specific circumstances of either call, I'm going to presume you stumbled into the sports section by accident.

‘Hub’ stays on a roll

For the fifth straight three-month ratings period, 98.5 The Sports Hub finished first overall in the Boston radio market in the men 25-54 demographic, according to Arbitron/Nielsen data released Thursday.


The CBS Radio-owned Sports Hub had a 10.9 share in the fall, which covers the period from Sept. 12-Dec. 4.

WEEI (93.7), the Red Sox flagship station, was third with a 6.6. Rock station WZLX, which like The Sports Hub is owned by CBS Radio, took second.

For the sixth straight period, The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" program finished first in morning drive (6-10 a.m.), checking in with a 12.2, up from a 10.8 in the summer. WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" finished a strong second with a 9.0, ascending from a 7.2 in the summer and a 6.0 in the spring.

In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), the Sports Hub's "Felger and Massarotti" was also tops for the sixth straight period with an impressive 13.4 share. WEEI's "Salk and Holley" was third (6.0), up from fifth (5.4) in the summer.

During midday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), the Sports Hub's "Gresh and Zo" took second (10.0), up from fourth (6.7) in the summer. WEEI's "Mut and Merloni" remained seventh (4.1).

In the evenings (7-midnight), WEEI was second with a 10.5 share. That includes its Red Sox game broadcasts and "The Planet Mikey Show." The Sports Hub, which features Bruins and Celtics broadcasts and "The Adam Jones Show" in the period, was third with a 9.0.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.