By Steve Perrault – Follow on Twitter @Steve_Perrault
Dear Don Orsillo, Thank You.
In his last game as a Red Sox announcer at Fenway Park, the crowd gave Don Orsillo a phenomenal standing-ovation following a tribute video on the big screen before the top of the eight inning on Sunday. If you missed it earlier, here’s the very end of the tribute, as NESN decided to show none of the video that honored Orsillo during their broadcast (as expected): https://vid.me/e/ctme?stats=1&tools=1
“It was unbelievable,” Orsillo said on the ovation from the crowd. “I tried to talk. Nothing was coming out. I think I missed a batter.”
Orsillo has seven games left in his NESN broadcasting career. But just saying that this was his last game at Fenway Park as the Red Sox play-by-play announcer sounds wrong. Very, very wrong.
Without diving too much into the insanity of the decision to let Orsillo walk, just think for a second about how absurd it is to let someone of Don’s caliber go. Don Orsillo – the same man who thousands and thousands of baseball fans have invited into their homes on television sets across New England and all over the country for the past 15 years; the same man who has brought a spark and unique twist to the Red Sox telecast that hadn’t been equaled before in Boston; the same man who matched the significance of several Red Sox feats on the field with how well he called those moments from the booth – is being let go, in one of the most baffling sports-related firings in recent memory.
It’s been said that NESN wanted to part ways with Orsillo and replace him with current Red Sox radio announcer, Dave O’Brien, because ratings were down and they needed more entertainment in the booth. More entertainment in the booth? How is this not entertaining?
The chemistry that Don and Jerry have shown while calling games over the last 15 years is simply un-matched by any other broadcasting duo in Boston, on radio or television. They’re a reality show that takes place during each and every Red Sox game, as you simply never know what you’re going to get from one night to the next. Who else could make that scene of receiving a lamp that entertaining? It’s those little back-and-forth’s between these two broadcasting partners that Red Sox fans all over will truly miss.
You really notice Orsillo’s importance to the Red Sox telecast when you watch out-of-town MLB games. Not to throw every team’s broadcast into the same pool, but several of the baseball broadcasts don’t have anywhere near the same true rhythm that Don brings to the booth every single night. Filling 3+ hours of air space for about 150 games a season is EXTREMELY difficult, and you really notice this when watching a different network’s broadcast. Orsillo had the ability to effortlessly switch from breaking down a pitching matchup to all of a sudden talking with Jerry about how to properly use the wipers on his car. And it was must-see TV.
Just for good measure, here’s (arguably) the greatest Don and Jerry moment of all-time..
While Jerry drove most of the pizza throwing discussion, the banter between the two of them is something that you can’t draw up. It was those moments that you simply couldn’t script that will never be duplicated again in the Red Sox telecast.
Don had a great way with this team of surpassing the depth of a moment with how perfectly he called the play. A great example of this is David Ortiz’s 500th home run in Tampa Bay a few weeks back. Even though we ALL knew that that home run was coming, Orsillo’s call still (for most) gave you the chills.
Then, right when you thought the season was going to drag on to its inevitable underwhelming finish, we get this phenomenal catch by Mookie Betts to end the most exciting game of the second half of the season. And wouldn’t you know it, another outstanding call by Don.
One of the worst parts of Orsillo’s departure, is not just that the Red Sox television broadcast is losing one of it’s most coveted personalities, but that he is being replaced with one of the best radio announcers in the country, in Dave O’Brien. So, now fans lose Orsillo calling the Red Sox telecast for good AND they lose O’Brien from the radio broadcast as well.
When asked about how he has handled the overflow of support from fans since hearing the news that this would be his last season calling Red Sox games, Orsillo found a way to sum it up humorously by saying “It’s been like this for four weeks. The one place I thought I would escape it would be at my dry cleaners. The lady there has never said a word to me in English. I walk in the other day, she says, ‘Why you get fired?’”
It’s good to see that Don can still maintain his sense of humor during such a difficult set of circumstances.
At the very least, all signs are pointing to Orsillo becoming the next San Diego Padres TV play-by-play announcer, as legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg will be retiring following the 2016 season. Even though this is just a mini silver lining, it’s still refreshing to know Orsillo will be just fine career-wise following his departure from Boston.
So, while Orsillo still has a week of road games left to go this season, this was the true sign off. Fenway Park was Orsillo’s home for 15 years. The lengthy ovation and “Don Or-sillo!!” chants that filled Fenway in the home-finale on Sunday was the last assurance Don needed to confirm how much the people of Boston really have his back.
“Thanked the fans from the bottom of my heart,” Orsillo said. “I appreciate all of their support. Having grown up here as a Red Sox fan, to have that happen here as a Red Sox fan, I’ll take that with me to my grave.”
Thank you, Don Orsillo. You can never be replaced.