When in 2000, it was announced that Bob Rodgers would not be returning to the NESN broadcasts, the search for a new play by play man was on.
Don Orsillo grew up in New England (Melrose, Massachusetts) as well as attending Northeastern University learning under current Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione. He had been a minor league announcer broadcasting for the Pittsfield Mets in the early nineties before moving on to the Pawtucket Red Sox, where he was the radio play by play man from 1996-2000. The job search yielded Orsillo the job.
His first game with NESN was in 2001, where he was behind the microphone to announce Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter. He would later call three more Red Sox ho-hitters, which included Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007 and Jon Lester in 2008. Aside from the calling history, he also was the lead play-by-play during the Red Sox World Series run in 2007.
His easy give and take with Jerry Remy made tuning into Red Sox games as entertaining as actually being in the ballpark. They would laugh and share stories and make the length of that night/days game as fun and enjoyable as they could. When Remy was unable to call games, Orsillo continued to have that ability to make the broadcast booth a relaxed and enjoyable experience for whoever was sitting next to him.
Then the bombshell happened. It was August 25th, 2015 and though there had been rumors about a potential change, the shoe dropped that NESN was indeed replacing Orsillo. It was later announced that Dave O’Brien would take his place.
It was suggested that ratings were down and that NESN wanted to reinject some “life” into their broadcasts and to do that they chose to promote O’Brien to replace Orsillo. This was, and still is one of the worst decisions that John Henry and the rest of the ownership have made in their 15 years of owning the team.
Since 2015, Red Sox TV broadcasts on NESN haven’t been the same. Remy due to health issues has missed his share of games and O’Brien has had to be partnered with numerous sidekicks, but nobody could have the same effect that Orsillo had in his tenure in the Red Sox booth.
Orsillo since living Boston in 2015, has continued to broadcast games both nationally for TBS during the playoffs as well as locally for the San Diego Padres for whom he replaced a legend in his own right in, Dick Enberg. While Dave O’Brien is a decent broadcaster in his own right, calling college basketball games for ESPN, he will never have what Orsillo had when it comes to broadcasting our beloved Red Sox.
Growing up in New England and now living in Florida, being able to listen to Red Sox broadcasts is something that brings back memories of being a kid, imagining what was being described to me over the radio or when lucky to watch on TV. To have that “voice” be able to bring the action and nuances of baseball to you, there really aren’t ways to describe it.
Orsillo, like Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Harry Caray are the type of talent can’t be duplicated. As a Red Sox fan, I was lucky enough to enjoy the entertaining, love, and joy that Orsillo was able to bring to the broadcasts.
Don Orsillo is greatly missed and NESN has never been the same.