October 22, 2013

Red Sox radio voices silenced in most of Maine

Because of contractual obligations, ESPN radio will tune out Boston announcers Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Around here, favorite voices Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione will be benched by ESPN Radio.

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Finn Dierks-Brown, 12, says the Red Sox don’t lose when he listens to WEEI broadcasts, and hopes the team won’t be jinxed by ESPN Radio coverage of the World Series.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Hardcore baseball fans will tell you how dangerous it is to mess with a streak.

And 12-year-old Finn Dierks-Brown of North Yarmouth has been on a streak this baseball postseason. Every time he listens to veteran Boston broadcasters Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione call a Red Sox game on the radio, the team wins. When he doesn’t, the Sox lose.

So here’s the problem: Finn can’t listen to his favorite broadcasters for the World Series, which starts Wednesday with Boston hosting the St. Louis Cardinals.

ESPN Radio holds the exclusive radio rights to the series, so the home radio team of “Joe and Dave” will be heard only around Boston and blacked out to the rest of New England.

That leaves legions of fans who listen to their beloved Sox on radio all season long suddenly without the comfortable voices and familiar phrases of O’Brien and Castiglione. Old friends “Joe and Dave” won’t be there to get them through the irrational pitching changes, the costly errors and the tense ninth innings.

Fans like Finn will listen to the ESPN Radio coverage of the World Series, broadcast on Maine stations, because they feel they have to.

But it won’t be the same.

“Joe and Dave are what I think of when I think of the Red Sox on the radio,” said Finn, whose family doesn’t own a TV. “I’m sad because those are the guys I like. They are the ones I know.”

Listening to baseball on radio, for many fans, is better than watching on TV. It requires imagination and a love of words, and it promotes a kind of inner peace that watching baseball on a 60-inch HD screen can obliterate. It allows freedom of movement while following your team, and it reminds many people of their childhoods, listening to the Sox on a transistor radio while on a porch swing or out by the lake.

“I love baseball, and I love fiction. I love novels because they allow you to visualize something that’s not in front of you,” said Caleb Mason, 57, of Portland, who runs the ebook publishing company Publerati. “And I think that’s the same with baseball on the radio. There’s more imagination.”

Mason’s love of baseball on radio goes back to his childhood. He was growing up in Providence, R.I., during the Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season of 1967. He has fond memories of staying up later than allowed, and listening to the Red Sox on a transistor radio that he smuggled into his bed.

Castiglione and O’Brien know listeners like Mason, and all listeners of Red Sox Nation, on a far more personal level than ESPN Radio’s team of Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser ever could. Castiglione is the man who coined the now magical phrase “Can you believe it?” after the Sox ended their fans’ 86 years of epic suffering by winning the 2004 World Series.

And O’Brien, a native New Englander, often peppers his radio commentary with childhood stories about meeting Luis Tiant in a hardware store in Marshfield, Mass., or some similar encounter.

“I dislike (the national broadcasters). I think it points out how fortunate we are to have the broadcasters we have. I think they are just better,” said Mason. “If the option existed, I’d watch the World Series on TV and turn on the local radio broadcast. But now that’s not an option.”

Another great thing about baseball on the radio is that you can get things done while listening. And that’s important to Mainers.

(Continued on page 2)

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