Do you know what I’m really missing about baseball these days?


The voices.


The voices of those who in normal times would be bringing us the

play-by-play action and color commentary of the games on television and

radio. I miss the professionalism of Dave O’Brien, the insights of

Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley, and the familiarity of Joe Castiglione,

whose lack of a classic broadcaster’s dulcet tones is more than made

up for by his expertise and by his hours of preparation.


The rhythm of the broadcasters’ voices has seen me though all the

summers of my life, and I miss hearing them more than I thought I would.

Like a lot of things these days, that void is going to get worse before

it gets better. God, I hope it doesn’t last too long.


I clearly recall, more than thirty years ago, reading a local writer’s

description of then Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman. He called him “the

voice of summer,” and so he was; so were others in the long line of

exceptional baseball announcers whose voices have been heard through the

years across New England, relaying to us the triumphs and the tragedies,

the joys and the heartbreaks, of the Red Sox as they’ve played their

way through the seasons of our lives.


Coleman, Ned Martin, and Curt Gowdy have all been dead for some years

now, but I can still clearly hear their voices in my mind, just as I

could hear them on the long ago nights when I’d have a portable radio

tucked under my pillow to catch the final innings of a late night game.


I can even hear the silky smooth voice of Jim Britt, who back in the

forties called the home games of both the Red Sox and Braves. Neither

team aired road games back then.


In the late eighties, when I was based in Washington, DC, I used to make

the nine hour drive to Wellfleet on Cape Cod every Friday in July and

August to spend weekends with my family which was ensconced there for

the summer. On one particular Friday the Baltimore Orioles were playing

an afternoon game at home, the New York Mets had a late afternoon game

on the west coast, and the Red Sox were at Fenway Park for a 7 PM game.

As I left the district, I tuned into Jon Miller and the Orioles game.

His was a very familiar voice since he’d worked alongside Ken Coleman

doing Sox games in the seventies. He kept me company all the way through

Maryland, across the Delaware Memorial Bridge and onto the New Jersey

Turnpike. When the Orioles game ended, I punched up the Mets game, which

was just starting out west. There was the voice of Bob Murphy, who had

been Curt Gowdy’s sidekick back in the fifties. When I got onto the

Merritt Parkway, I tuned into Ken Coleman and Ned Martin, first on the

Connecticut outlet of the Red Sox network, then, when I crossed into

Massachusetts, on their flagship station, finally flipping on the Cape

Cod outlet when I crossed over the canal. The Sox game ended just about

the time I was pulling into the driveway.


I have no memory of the outcome of those games, or even who the

opponents were, but I clearly recall being kept company for the entire

ride by the games and by the familiar voices coming from the car radio.

The drive along the northeast corridor of Washington and Boston is

normally a stressful one, filled with traffic, trucks, and impatient

travellers, but I remember the drive that day as the most enjoyable nine

hour trip I ever took.


About a year ago I was out running errands one Sunday afternoon and

turned to the Sox game on the car radio. I was pleasantly surprised when

I heard the voice of Sean McDonough doing the play by play. He hadn’t

done Red Sox baseball for fifteen years, but I instantly recognized his

voice, just as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. He’s slated to

partner with Joe Castig on a regular basis this year, and I, for one,

can’t wait.


Baseball play-by-play men are often singled out for iconic calls: Dave

O’Brien’s dramatic call of Big Papi’s grand slam in Game Two of

the 2013 ALCS; Curt Gowdy’s picturesque description of Ted Williams’

last at bat; but even more than those calls it is the fingerprint of

their voices and the rhythm of their speech as they describe for us the

day by day happenings on the field of play that become the musical score

of a baseball season.


Ten years ago was, for me, a time that had a lot of similarities to this

year. I had been through a winter and early spring of chemotherapy,

radiation, and various operations to treat throat cancer and was

embarking on a long, slow healing process, a virtual shut-in. Thank

goodness I had the Red Sox and their announcers to lean on and to

distract me from myself during those dark days and nights. I also had

the example of Jerry Remy. He had been treated for his first bout with

cancer the year before and had attempted to return to the broadcast

booth before he was fully recovered. It resulted in depression and

forced him to step back again. He openly talked about his condition

which was not an easy thing for an old jock to do. Locker room culture,

then as now, is to deny or even belittle depression. “Waddaya mean,

you’re depressed? Deal with it!” That didn’t deter Remy from

calling attention to the issue, and his frankness helped me greatly in

dealing with my own condition. I am forever grateful to him.


I am happy to report that, ten years out, I am fully recovered from the

cancer I had and I feel fine, other than the fact that, without baseball

and the Red Sox, and without the announcers that are its messengers,

there is an emptiness to life that I hope and pray will soon be filled.