It seems oddly fitting that I sit down to begin writing this on an off day for the Boston Red Sox. The absence of Don Orsillo’s low, smooth tenor is something to ruminate on going forward into a future without him. We all know by now, that the NESN brass, particularly Joseph Maar, have elected not to offer Orsillo a new contract after his current one ends this season. It has been made public knowledge that Maar has never cared much for Don and this appears to be the driving force behind the decision. There are no icky skeletons in Don’s closet like Jared from Subway, this is purely grade-school level maturity in decision making.
The decision to dismiss Orsillo will clearly bite NESN, and the Sox, in the butt. Public outrage has already rolled through New England in tsunami-esque fashion. Outcry does not stop there, as Jerry Remy – Orsillo’s longtime partner in the booth – was said to be tearfully answering questions after the game during which the news broke.
I love him.
In another lost season full of defeats, illness, and bad player/personnel moves, the ouster of Orsillo feels like the finishing move in Mortal Kombat, tearing the heart out of fans and the team alike. So, I guess Joseph Maar is Kano? Never did like that guy.
But, I am not here to simply recount the journalistic facts and conjecture upon the rumor mill that churns at an insane pace in Red Sox Nation. Nay, I am here to pay my respects to Donatangelo Orsillo. It is unlikely I’ll ever meet him in person, but I have considered him a friend for many years now. So, without any morbid sense, as Don, himself, is clearly still alive, I offer a very personal eulogy for the voice of the Sox, which will soon be ushered to memory alone (good thing we have YouTube).
Back on Tuesday, I was at work when the news hit: Don Orsillo would no longer be calling play-by-play for the Red Sox after this season. I wish I had been busy enough not to be able to check Twitter and Facebook. I would have greatly preferred to be sitting down with a beer and a whisky when I read that. I swallowed the pain privately, knowing that my coworkers at hand – not baseball fans – wouldn’t understand. In fact, they might even find me a touch dramatic in my reaction.
It was like I had just gotten the call that a family member had died. Not somebody old or unhealthy, but somebody I rightly assumed would be around for a long time. I went to a quiet, enraged, but also mournful place. You might think that sounds a bit cliché or overdone, but, like so many other residents of Red Sox Nation, I had made my home open to Don and Jerry almost every game I could possibly watch. They had become story-tellers, delivering the oral history to my baseball family. And now one of this seemingly inseparable duo would be gone. Orsillo’s vanishing from our ceremony will become startlingly evident when Spring Training begins next February.
So, that got me to thinking, “What will I miss about Orsillo, once he’s gone?”
I will miss his self-effacing sense of humor. That’s something I can relate to, being able to laugh at yourself. I’m sure that many a Sox fan appreciates this about Don. It reveals something about him, that he does not see himself as ‘above’ anybody else. He perceives, clearly, his own fallible, yet completely affable nature and place in the universe. He makes you want to be around him; to listen to him. His ability to recognize the fact that he’s no John Travolta on the dance floor seems as good of an example as any to illustrate this.
I will miss his laugh. Despite having a deep, clear voice, Orsillo’s near-wheezing giggling cascades into fits of louder laughter. You can hear his shoulders convulsing in authentic loss in laughter, even when he’s not on camera at these moments. It almost reveals this cherubic, carefree side of Orsillo, which is often masked by a very professional demeanor and snappy wardrobe. Sometimes, you wonder if he’ll be able to regain control, or if he’s done for the game. It’s occasionally laughter like hiccups, as you have to entertain the idea that he might never get back on track. Kind of like the way he could barely get through saying, “Nick Markakis…takes strike one.”
I will miss his exquisite pairing with Jerry. The Internet is already full of famous duo comparisons like Batman and Robin, so I won’t make that particular comparison. I do, however, feel like these two crown jesters play off of each other so well that they could be the Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd of baseball broadcasting. I wonder if they would approve of or appreciate that?
I’ll miss his ability to downplay the importance of fan interference. This must surely be the greatest baseball food fight ever captured on film. Who better than Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy to call such an incident. “The Pizza Affair” might be one of those pinnacle moments in anybody’s career, but to call it with such aplomb and grace.
All humor and emotional roller-coaster-ing aside, I will surely miss his class. He has, for the last couple games, remained his normal self; what Sox fans are used to. Truly a professional and a man of real class, he refused to be derailed by the news and continued to call games, also maintaining the light atmosphere he and Remy have created night after night. He has even had the ability to help keep recently spoiled, yet disheartened Sox fans interested in a disastrous season. It would be shocking if Orsillo didn’t continue to behave in exactly the same manner on-air for the remaining 35 games of the season.
In response to reporters after Tuesday’s game, Orsillo again flexed his class by echoing a sentiment of Red Sox Nation as a whole.
I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing.
So, Don, if you ever read this, know that – and yes, I’m going to speak on behalf of Sox fans – we love you and consider you an indispensable part of the community. And as for myself, I would happily buy you a beer if the opportunity ever arises. If only to make a small gesture of appreciation for all the laughs, through high and low.