What does the future hold for Red Sox broadcasts on WEEI?
WEEI and Entercom’s consideration to turn its Red Sox baseball broadcast into more of a talk-show format — as reported in my Tuesday story on Tim Neverett’s departure, to a generally incredulous response — appears to be still in play.
In fact, one prominent sports broadcasters jobs website Thursday made it sound like Plan A.
Subscribers to the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America (staatalent.com) website receive emails with major job postings. The Red Sox radio broadcasting job was sent out Thursday.
Here are the first few paragraphs from the writeup in the STAA email about the job:
There is an opening on the Boston Red Sox radio play-by-play team following Tim Neverett’s decision not to renew his contract.
The Boston Globe has reported about plans for major changes to this broadcast format. STAA knows these plans to be true. WEEI wants to drop the concept of a conventional radio baseball broadcast to make the call of the game sound more like a talk show.
WEEI [program director] Joe Zarbano is eager to receive applications. However, he tells STAA he doesn’t want to be bombarded with email attachments.
The rest of the writeup is further specifics on how to apply.
Zarbano denied on Twitter that the station is planning a format change with the Red Sox broadcasts. “The only thing I sent to StaaTalent was a reply confirming that the job was open and people can apply,’’ he wrote from his @JoeZWEEI twitter account.
In another tweet, he said STAA was wrong. He did not respond to further requests for comment via email.
The idea was ignited by WEEI’s frequent mockery this summer of the broadcast on its morning show, then titled “Kirk and Callahan,’’ and it gained some traction with management. One concept was a three-person booth that would sound like a sports-radio show rather than a traditional broadcast while the game was going on.
Whether that meant talking about issues with the team and other Red Sox topics generated by what was happening in the game, or the self-referential discussion that permeates the station now (largely based on the morning show’s success with that approach) is unclear.
I’m skeptical of how the former would have played with its audience; even if a conventional radio broadcast can feel like it belongs in a different era, I’d bet that appeals to more listeners than an edgier alternative. Red Sox ratings were excellent this year as it was.
The approach makes some sense in the way it has been applied on the Patriots’ preseason broadcasts on Ch. 4, but that’s four preseason games, not 162 regular season games. And of course, on television you have the pictures to tell you what the broadcasters are not.
Dennis Eckersley has always seemed an obvious candidate for a documentary. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher who had several compelling phases in his life off the field and on, including two playing stints with the Red Sox as well as his current gig as an enthusiastic and stylistically unique analyst for NESN.
He had a walk-on role in arguably the greatest walk-off home run in baseball history. Heck, Eckersley, with his his own special lingo, even made the term walk-off part of baseball’s dictionary.
But this is also a guy who casually dropped a one-liner during a broadcast this past season about his first wife leaving him for a teammate. As a player and broadcaster, Eckersley has always been that way — accessible, authentic, and candid — and so even his most shocking and sobering stories have long ceased to be secrets.
When the MLB Network announced in late November that the documentary we’ve been waiting for, titled “Eck: A Story of Saving,’’ would premiere this Thursday (8 p.m.), the first reaction here was: It’s about time. This is going to be great.
The second reaction? But what more could we possibly learn, since he’s always been so forthcoming?
I’m glad to report that the first reaction was correct. It is great, with Eckersley animated and in peak storytelling form while he’s interviewed onstage at the Cabot Theater in Beverly.
And the second reaction? Nothing to worry about there. While most of the territory is familiar to those who followed him during his 24-year career and beyond — his early days as a hotshot with the Cleveland Indians, the stunning trade in the spring of ’78 to the Red Sox, his victory over substance abuse in the ’80s, and his baseball rejuvenation as a record-setting closer with the A’s into the ’90s.
But there is enough new stuff, and much more that feels new because it’s Eckersley telling the story.
When writing about something that hasn’t aired yet, I sometimes struggle with how many fresh details and stories to reveal, especially when the subject is already so familiar. So let’s keep it to one good one here — Eckersley’s telling of his no-hitter for the Indians against the Angels on Memorial Day 1977, when he was just 22 years old.
“We got one run in the first,’’ said Eckersley. “And I had to make that thing hold up. And I was dealin’ that night. I really was.”
The last inning, I got two outs, and Gil Flores [a spare outfielder for the Angels] was the next guy up. And the photographers . . . a guy kept running out by the coach’s box [near first base] and kept setting up his camera.
“Well, he was bothering Gil Flores. And I’m chomping at the bit. This was the last out! And he’s taking his time,’’ said Eckersley, becoming more animated. “I went off. I said, ‘Hey! They’re not here to take your picture. You’re the last out! Get in the [expletive] . . . ’ ”
Before he can finish the sentence, Eckersley leans back, breaking into laughter.
“And then I punched him out.”
Yeah, the doc does the Eck justice. The subject makes sure of it.