The video tribute at Fenway Park Sunday to Red Sox broadcaster Don Orsillo after the seventh inning was a nice touch, but it never aired on NESN. Beyond a brief mention by his partner Jerry Remy, it might as well have never happened for the ones who care the most, the folks watching on NESN, either at home or in the bars and nursing homes and workplaces where Orsillo has come to be regarded as a dear friend.
Of course, judging by how NESN has handled this whole ouster of Orsillo after 15 seasons, what the audience thinks has never been at the center of the conversation.
“Awful,” one NESN employee said. “We’re supposed to pretend that none of this is happening.”
But the fans at the ballpark let it be known, loud and clear, how they felt about losing Orsillo, a regular companion on so many spring and summer and early autumn days, during his last broadcast of a Sox game on Yawkey Way.
“Don Or-sil-lo,” they chanted for the kid who was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, grew up in Madison, New Hampshire, went to school around the corner at Northeastern, dreamed of broadcasting for the Sox and never wanted for another job.
Don Orsillo waved, and patted his heart, and looked down at the Sox dugout, where he saw that the players were standing on the top step, looking his way, and interim manager Torey Lovullo made a gesture meant for him, and that’s when the façade finally broke.
“It was unbelievable,” Orsillo said later. “I tried to talk. Nothing was coming out. I think I missed a batter.”
In another week or so, there will be an announcement out of San Diego that the Padres have named Orsillo to their broadcast team and as the ultimate successor to Dick Enberg, who last week announced that next season will be his last, at age 80. The Padres are thrilled to have Orsillo, and plan on locking him up for a long time at a generous salary. There will be a Fox network component to the new job as well, and the Padres, sensitive to how troubled Orsillo is at the prospect of leaving his young daughters behind, will make trips west for the girls part of the deal.
A great package, but the wound is still fresh. Even the Padres knew months before Orsillo did that the Red Sox were letting him go. That stings, and it also serves as another red flag that Remy, who has an option year left on his contract, is hardly assured of retaining his place in the booth. The Sox have told him, and said publicly, that Remy is part of the plan next year, but have been vague about what that plan entails.
The Don and Jerry Show had a long run, encompassing three World Series titles and a host of indelible memories, but not as long as the one imagined by Orsillo.
“I still can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “I still have this defense mechanism that I’m coming back.”
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