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

(Continued from page 1)

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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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“You can do a lot of things while listening to baseball on the radio. Cook, split wood, sit around a campfire,” said Billy Voisine, 42, an alternative-education teacher from Deer Isle. “If I have a choice of watching on TV or radio, I’ll choose radio. I find it less stressful.”

When someone on the Sox makes a costly out, you hear it once on radio, Voisine said. On TV, you relive the mistake six or eight times, in HD.

Red Sox radio listeners around here will be deprived of their regular radio team because ESPN’s contract with Major League Baseball says the network has exclusive rights to broadcast the World Series around the country. The only exception is that the “flagship” radio station of each team in the World Series can use its own broadcasters to broadcast the games in its immediate area.

That means the Boston station that employs O’Brien and Castiglione, WEEI (93.7 FM), will still broadcast the World Series games and still use O’Brien and Castiglione. And since the station’s signal is fairly powerful, some listeners in southern York County may be able to hear it.

But most fans across New England listen to WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts on a network of more than 50 affiliate stations. In Greater Portland, the station that carries the games is known as The Big Jab, heard on 96.3 FM and 1440 AM. At least 10 other stations scattered around Maine carry the Red Sox most of the time.

The Big Jab’s general manager, Jon Van Hoogenstyn, said WEEI’s coverage of the World Series has been blacked out outside Boston for as long as he can remember. It just doesn’t come up as an issue every year because the Red Sox aren’t in the World Series every year.

He said that because of ESPN’s contract, his station wasn’t allowed to carry WEEI’s broadcasts of the World Series in 2004 and 2007, both of which were won by the Red Sox.

“I don’t recall too many complaints, but sometimes callers (to the station’s sports talk shows) will ask if we have the right feed. We tell them the ESPN feed is the only one we can get right now,” said Van Hoogenstyn.

He said his station will still air WEEI’s pregame show during the World Series, but will switch to ESPN Radio coverage when the game starts.

But when (not if, when) the Sox win the World Series, most Mainers won’t be able to hear Castiglione and O’Brien describing the moment. At least not live.

For 12-year-old Finn Dierks-Brown, listening to the Red Sox on radio during this unexpected postseason run has been a rare treat. He started really following the Sox only around 2009, and this is truly the best the Sox have been during that time.

The Red Sox are now just four wins from ending this fairy tale of a season with a championship.

And Finn and many more fans in Maine will have to hear how the story ends from strangers.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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