Can You Believe It?: 30 Years of Insider Stories with the Boston Red Sox

Can You Believe It?: 30 Years of Insider Stories with the Boston Red Sox

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by Joe Castiglione, Douglas B. Lyons

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Joe Castiglione is one of a few select announcers whose voice harkens fans back to the home field of their favorite team. After 30 years, his commentary has become as much a part of Boston Red Sox lore as the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, and Yawkey Way. In this chronicle, the beloved broadcaster offers his insider account of one of the most

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Joe Castiglione is one of a few select announcers whose voice harkens fans back to the home field of their favorite team. After 30 years, his commentary has become as much a part of Boston Red Sox lore as the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, and Yawkey Way. In this chronicle, the beloved broadcaster offers his insider account of one of the most dominant baseball teams of the past decade—from the heartbreaking 1986 World Series and the turbulent 1990s to the magical 2004 American League Central Series and World Series, the 2007 championship season, and the state of the team today. Castiglione takes fans behind the microphone and into the champagne soaked clubhouse, hotels, and back rooms where even media had no access, and recounts such tales of his tenure as his friendship with Pedro Martinez and what it was like to ride in the Duck Tour boats during Boston’s victory parades.

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"This new book by long-time Red Sox play-by-play man Joe Castiglione (with an assist from Douglas Lyons) is a baseball fan's dream, rich in anecdote, full of humor and vivid memories."  —Stephen King on Broadcast Rites and Sites

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Can You Believe It?

30 Years of Insider Stories with the Boston Red Sox

By Joe Castiglione, Douglas B. Lyons

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2012 Joe Castiglione and Douglas Lyons
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61749-632-5


"Magical Mystery Tour" ::: 30 Years of Red Sox

2012 will mark my 30th year as a broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox. My friend Tom Shaer, longtime TV sports anchor at NBC Chicago and an Agawam, Massachusetts, native, calculated that I have seen more Boston Red Sox games than anybody else. Here's the math:

1983–2011: 4,718 regular season games.

In addition, I've see 469 spring training games, plus eight Red Sox games I broadcast when I worked in Cleveland (1979 and '82) and Milwaukee ('81).

That brings the total to 5,033. That number includes four midseason exhibition games, two Jimmy Fund games against the New York Mets, and one against the Cincinnati Reds sometime in the '80s.

Now add 93 postseason games: 30 American League Division Series games, 48 American League Championship Series games, and 15 World Series games.

Grand total through 2011: 5,288 Boston Red Sox games.

That's certainly a lot of games. But every game is different. That's why I'm excited every time I leave home to go to work. Who's pitching tonight for Boston? Who's pitching for the other team? Will there be an exciting play like an inside-the-park home run or a triple play? A no-hitter? Will some rookie make his debut? Will he swing at the first pitch and slam it for a home run? A walk-off home run?

Sometimes I hear people use the expression "meaningless game." Sometimes they are referring to the last two or three games of the regular season after a team has either clinched a playoff berth or been mathematically eliminated. But I've never used it. Every major league pitcher, in any game, is trying to get the batter out. Every batter is trying to get a hit. Every outfielder wants to make the catch or make the throw to keep it to a single. Every infielder is trying to field that bunt. I've never seen a player lay down on the field and not try his hardest just because the pennant race has been decided. And when a team misses the playoffs by just one game that 1–0 loss in April where somebody took a called third strike to end the game seems even more important.

Over the years I've been to a few minor league games. In 2007, I saw the St. Paul Saints, an independent minor league team, play the Grand Prairie AirHogs when the Red Sox had a night game in Minnesota. I've also seen the Ft. Myers Miracle play the Bradenton Marauders in the Florida State League on an off day in June 2011. The Miracle play at the stadium the Twins use for spring training games. And on four occasions I've watched the Chicago Cubs play day baseball while I was in Chicago to do a Red Sox–White Sox night game. People always ask me what it's like to sit and watch a game without broadcasting it.

It's a little different.

I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 2, 1947, the oldest of eight children, and I grew up in nearby Hamden. My father, Frank, the son of Sicilian immigrants, grew up in New Haven and walked to Yale University, which he attended on a full scholarship. He then went to medical school in New York City and later worked as a general practitioner in his old New Haven neighborhood. After serving in World War II, he decided to specialize and became a dermatologist, practicing until the age of 85, three years before his death in November 2003. My mother, Pamela, attended the Yale School of Music and played the organ at many New Haven churches before her marriage to Dad.

Dad taught me to read baseball scores and box scores before my ABCs. He was a Yankee fan back then. New York was much closer to Hamden than Boston.

I loved to play sports, especially baseball, but realized by the age of 10 that being a professional athlete was not in the genes. I became a baseball card collector and flipper, a fungo hitter, and a Wiffle ball player. Today I play in the Over-60 Winter Softball League during spring training and for the Silver Foxes of Rhode Island in the Roy Hobbs National Tournament, both in Ft. Myers.

Although my friends and neighbors thought I was crazy, I would pretend to broadcast my backyard fungo games daily. Even then, I knew my life's ambition: to be a major league broadcaster.

I went to Colgate University, where I majored in history. I walked into the school's radio station, WRCU-AM, as a freshman, and got a job doing a rock 'n' roll show. I was "Joey C, the Big Cheese!" More importantly, I got the opportunity as a freshman to broadcast Colgate football and basketball games. I did every football game, home and away. In 1965, we beat Army, and in '66 the Colgate team was 8–1–1. But Colgate baseball games were not broadcast. The games were considered too long and too dull. Also, the baseball field had no electricity for our equipment.

While I was at Colgate, I worked at WRUN in Utica. My first job in commercial radio was doing the third quarter of each Colgate football game, thanks to the kindness of Lloyd Walsh, the station's play-by-play announcer, who wanted to give a student a break. During the summer of '65 I did news at WELI in New Haven. But I never listened to WELI because they played only "middle-of-the-road" music. Then I did a morning rock 'n' roll show on WADS in Connecticut, where I was known as "Joe Anthony."

I started listening to Red Sox games on the radio in '67 when their broadcasters were Ken Coleman, Ned Martin, and Mel Parnell. That was the year I went to my first game at Fenway Park, standing in the bleachers to watch the Washington Senators beat the "Impossible Dream" team on a late-inning double by Hank Allen.

I was aiming toward a broadcasting career, either in sports or as a disc jockey. But even though I loved rock 'n' roll — especially Motown — and the '60s were a great time for rock 'n' roll music, I decided that being a disc jockey would quickly get repetitive and boring. I concentrated on a career as a sportscaster and I sent out lots of audition tapes. But when I got no good responses, I got a job broadcasting high school and then semi-pro football games and doing a sports-talk show in Meriden, Connecticut. Then, when no other job offer came, I went to graduate school and earned a Master's degree in TV and radio at Syracuse. I also worked at WSYR-TV Channel 3 in Syracuse, where I started out doing commercial tags and station identification. Later, I became a super-utility announcer doing spot duty on sports and news, and as a TV movie host. I also was a color analyst on Syracuse University basketball games. This was my first TV job and I enjoyed it. I was there for almost a year, earning $2.25 per hour.

After Syracuse, I moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where I did sports on WFMJ TV for $140 per week. Five nights a week, I did the 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm sports wrap-ups. I also covered Youngstown State football games and high school basketball and football games. I was making $15 per game.

Youngstown is about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and I covered several games of the 1971 Pirates-Orioles World Series. The Pirates' public relations director, Bill Guilfoile, welcomed me as if I were part of Pittsburgh media, inviting me to spring training and even to postseason games. I would go to Pittsburgh to do interviews and stories on the Pirates when the Youngstown station would let me have a cameraman. But my station was very cheap, so I continued to send out audition tapes to stations in bigger cities.

In November '70, I went to a ski club function where I met Jan Lowry. Neither one of us skied. Jan didn't like me at first because she thought I acted like a TV star, but Jan became my wife in '71.

One of my audition tapes went to KDKA in Pittsburgh, the Pirates' flagship station as well as the first station (in 1921) to broadcast a baseball game. They had an opening for a reporter to do sports updates and news. My tape got me an interview, and it also got me excited. Pittsburgh had four major league teams (Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, and Condors of the American Basketball Association). It would be quite a step up from Youngstown. But they never filled the position. Of course, if I had taken that job in Pittsburgh, I would not have met Jan.

Two years later, KDKA-TV offered me a job filling in for two weekends. I went to my station manager in Youngstown to ask his permission, which he refused to grant. He was afraid I'd be hired full-time and leave Youngstown. I should just have done the shows without asking. This only strengthened my determination to move out of Youngstown.

In August '72, I moved to Cleveland's Channel 3 WKYC-TV, as the weekend sports anchor. While I was overjoyed to get out of Youngstown, where there was no room for advancement, the friends I made there lasted forever, including, of course, Jan and her family.

We moved to Broadview Heights, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland in '72. At WKYC (which was owned by NBC) I made about $150 per week for just two days' work, about what I had been paid in Youngstown for five and a half days. Also, in Cleveland I joined the union (AFTRA — the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), through which I have continued to have health and pension benefits. The station paid 10 percent of my salary to AFTRA's pension and welfare fund. My benefits stay with me no matter which AFTRA station I work for.

Just down the street from our apartment in Broadview Heights was the headquarters of radio station WJW. I filled in there on weekends. Roy Wetzel, who hired me at WKYC, said that he liked my work because I didn't shout. I still don't ... unless the Red Sox win.

In addition to my sports duties at WKYC, I also worked on the NBC news desk, answering the phone and listening to fire and police radios. I was working from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am.

Jan and I were still living in a $150 per month apartment when our first child, Joe Jr. — whom we always called Duke — was born in '73. After two years in Broadview Heights, Jan and I bought our first home in Mentor-on-the-Lake. Four years later, I turned down a job offer in major league baseball as the public address announcer for the Cleveland Indians. The pay was terrible — just $15 per game — but more important, it would interfere with my job at WKYC.

On March 25, 1975, I was covering the heavyweight title fight pitting Muhammad Ali against Chuck "The Bayonne Bleeder" Wepner at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland. As we were heading back to the station at 2:00 am in the WKYC "newscar," I got a call that Jan was in labor. I was supposed to do a piece for The Today Show that morning about the fight but I canceled and went to the hospital in Willoughby, Ohio. Thomas Frank Castiglione was born at 12:30 pm. I was there.

Over the next few years, with changes in station management, I was demoted from a broadcaster to a producer, but I stayed with it because we needed the money. Football Hall of Famer Paul Warfield was hired for my on-air job. I also did news at a rock station, WGAR radio in Cleveland, for $5 an hour. In '76, I was on the air on the 4th of July, the nation's 200th birthday.

1978 brought more changes at the station. I was back on the air. I was also doing some events for the NBC network at $33 per report. That doesn't sound like very much money, but at the time it was pretty good. During one Cleveland Cavaliers–Indiana Pacers Thursday night mid-season game, I sent in six reports. That's $198 for one night's work. Not bad.

In '79, I did a series with Paul Warfield called Superstars to Superstars, for which I was paid about $10 per hour. Meanwhile, I'd applied for the job of television broadcaster with the Cleveland Indians. I submitted an audio tape, and I got an interview with Bill Flynn at Channel 8 in Cleveland, which was going to broadcast 40 Indians' games. Flynn, who answered his own phone, interviewed me on a Monday. He told me to call him the following Wednesday, February 14, at 2:00 pm to find out whether I got the job.

Paul and I flew to Florida and Texas to film episodes of Superstars to Superstars with Cypriot placekicker Garo Yepremian, pro-bowler Don Carter, and Roger Staubach, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. At precisely 2:00 pm on Valentine's Day, I called Bill Flynn, who told me that I had the job. He was going to make the official announcement in an hour. My salary would be $300 per game. That would be $12,000 per year, since his station would do only 40 games. I called Jan, my parents, and the rest of my family.

More than 100 letters and notes awaited me when I returned to our home in Solon, Ohio. Everyone who knew me knew how long I had dreamed of and worked toward a job broadcasting major league baseball.

In '79, I went to my first spring training as a major league broadcaster. The Indians trained in Tucson, Arizona, a city I had never visited. Although for economic reasons my station was not going to broadcast any spring training games, my family and I spent two weeks in Tucson. Jan was pregnant with our daughter Kate.

My first game as a big-league broadcaster, with my partner, 26-year-old Fred McLeod, was on April 5, 1979, prophetically from Boston's Fenway Park. During my first year with the Indians, their manager was former catcher Jeff Torborg. We have remained friends for more than 30 years. The Indians' starter was Rick Wise, who faced Red Sox starter Dennis Eckersley, a future Hall of Famer (primarily as a relief pitcher) and a future broadcast booth partner. My father and my Uncle Charlie were in Boston for my first game.

After one game in Boston, we flew home to Cleveland. Our plane was hit by lightning, a scary experience that reduced one player to tears. Because many of the Indians games were not televised, I watched but did not broadcast a lot of games, familiarizing myself with the players' names, numbers, talents, and tendencies. Unfortunately, the Indians also had a tendency to lose. They lost 10 in a row in June.

I had been present when our sons Duke and Tom were born, and I wanted to be there for our third child's birth. But we were in Chicago and United Airlines was on strike. Once I got word that Jan had gone into labor and that a neighbor had taken her to the hospital, I made other travel arrangements and arrived at the hospital just after 11:00 am. Mary Katherine (Kate) Castiglione arrived at 3:35 pm. I was there. Jan was not very happy that while she was in labor, the doctor in the delivery room wanted to talk baseball with me.

I rejoined the Indians in Seattle, where reliever Sid Monge saved a game for Cleveland. He handed me the ball, on which he had written: "This is in honor of your new daughter. To Katie. May she live to be 101." Katie, now married and the mother of two, still has the ball.

One of the Indians' games in '79 was rained out and fortuitously, as it turned out, not made up. The team finished the season 81–80, their second winning record since '68.

Toward the end of the season, Channel 8 was awarded a three-year extension on its contract to broadcast Indians games. But the two sides disagreed over money, and the extension was canceled. This was a severe blow to all the people who worked on the games: producers, cameramen, engineers, and me. Broadcasting Cleveland Indians games was virtually all I did at Channel 8. But after the season, the station found some other work for me as a sports reporter and a weekend anchor.

Meanwhile, the Indians did not have a TV outlet for the 1980 season. They eventually signed with Channel 43, which hired its own broadcasters. I continued to work at Channel 8 through '82, anchoring and reporting on sports. But in '80 I did manage to broadcast two Indians–White Sox games with Nev Chandler when Herb Score, the regular broadcaster, had to attend a funeral. The two games I broadcast were well received, but I was still trying to get back to a regular baseball broadcasting job.

In '81, I applied to be the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers. But I didn't get it. Although Milwaukee was not wired for cable TV, a number of Brewers games were broadcast on SelecTV, a pay TV system that required a box on top of the TV set. On St. Patrick's Day of that year the executive producer for SelecTV offered to pay me $300 per game plus $30 per day meal money. He also offered to fly me back and forth from Milwaukee to do Brewers games. I'd be working with Tom Collins.

I went to the library to find out about the Brewers — who were then in the American League — and about Milwaukee. I flew to Milwaukee the night before Opening Day, a game we didn't broadcast, and had dinner with Tom Collins. We really hit it off. Everybody I worked with in Milwaukee treated me very well, even though I was sort of an outsider. The Brewers' director of broadcasting, Bill Haig, was very supportive of me and gave me a fine recommendation later which helped me get hired to do games for the Boston Red Sox. Bill and I are still quite close.

SelecTV put me up at its corporate condo in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but I usually stayed with Tom Collins.

1981 was the year of a players' strike, so Tom and I did only 10 games. The Brewers won the second-half title and a playoff spot. My call when Rollie Fingers struck out Lou Whitaker in the clinching game: "The Brewers win the second half! The Brewers win the second half! The Brewers win the second half!" Not quite Russ Hodges', "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"


Excerpted from Can You Believe It? by Joe Castiglione, Douglas B. Lyons. Copyright © 2012 Joe Castiglione and Douglas Lyons. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Joe Castiglione has been the voice of the Boston Red Sox since 1983 and is a native New Englander. He lives in Fort Myers, Florida and in the Boston area during the season. Douglas B. Lyons is the coauthor of Curveballs and Screwballs and Out of Left Field. He lives in Scarsdale, New York. They are the coauthors of Broadcast Rites and Sites.

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Can You Believe It?: 30 Years of Insider Stories with the Boston Red Sox 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cicibaccala More than 1 year ago
A must read!!!