After play-by-play announcer Tim Neverett announced he was leaving the Red Sox Radio booth, rumors of WEEI planning to turn the broadcast into a sports talk show quickly developed. Who will be calling Red Sox games on the radio in 2019 is still to be determined, but on Thursday WEEI quickly corrected any thought of transitioning away from a conventional broadcast.
During Chad Finn’s Boston Globe report of Neverett leaving the Red Sox broadcast on Tuesday, he wrote WEEI considered making their radio call sound more like a sports talk show. One day later, the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America sent a job posting to its clients confirming Finn’s report, even though WEEI PD Joe Zarbano said STAA never checked with him.
STAA’s initial email read:
“The Boston Globe has reported about plans for major changes to the broadcast format. STAA knows these plans to be true. WEEI wants to drop the concept of a conventional radio baseball broadcast to make the call of the game sound more like a talk show.
WEEI PD Joe Zarbano is eager to receive applications. However, he tells STAA he doesn’t want to be bombarded with email attachments.”
After Finn Tweeted about STAA’s job post calling for a talk show style broadcast for the Red Sox, WEEI quickly ended the sentiment. Station PD, Joe Zarbano responded to Finn on Twitter, saying “This is not true. If you checked with me I could’ve told you that. The only thing I sent to StaaTalent was a reply confirming that the job was open and people can apply.” WEEI contributor Alex Reimer soon wrote an article on the station’s website, titled “WEEI is not changing the format of Red Sox broadcasts.”
Once WEEI corrected the misnomer about plans for their Red Sox broadcast, STAA sent its clients an email stating they’ve updated the job listing and apologized to WEEI. The corrected job post, seen below, makes no mention of a sports talk format within the broadcast.
“Boston’s legacy sports radio brand and the winner of the 2018 Sports Station of the Year Marconi award, is seeking an experienced and talented individual to be the next play-by-play announcer on the WEEI Boston Red Sox Radio Network.
The candidate selected for this dream job opportunity will sit alongside Red Sox Hall of Famer Joe Castiglione in the broadcast booth.
The ideal candidate will have vast experience doing play-by-play for a professional team, an inherent understanding of the passionate Boston sports fan base, and an innate ability to be able to describe what’s happening on the field in an entertaining and compelling fashion.”
While WEEI’s direction for the Red Sox broadcast is now clear, Reimer still explained change can be brought to the booth without breaking away from a conventional broadcast.
“The discussion around this topic has been centered around extremes. “Albert in Rhode Island” is never going to call in after the 2-1 pitch and yell at Joe Castiglione about Deflategate. Nobody is suggesting that.
“But there is room for more opinion. Maybe some discussion around whether Alex Cora should’ve pinch-hit in a specific spot, or if the team is approaching the trade deadline properly.”
A habitually slow game with breaks between the action, baseball offers the opportunity to have conversation and opinion from its voices on the broadcast, but being conversational doesn’t mean the format has to change.
Merrill Reese: I Treat Every Broadcast Like Its Biggest of My Career
“As a radio broadcaster, you call almost every step and every yard line.”
Merrill Reese has been calling games for the Philadelphia Eagles since 1977, and he is in the midst of chronicling what could end up becoming a storybook season for the team. The Eagles are off to a 10-1 start, and many experts around the league surmise that the team could be a favorite to qualify, and ultimately win, Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
He recently participated in an interview with Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, during which the venerated radio play-by-play voice was asked if he feels he can still improve as a broadcaster.
Within his answer, he described a book he read about former New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, which divulged that “The Yankee Clipper” would feel as nervous before every game as he did during his rookie season in 1936. He can relate to the mindset approaching every game as he prepares to take the air. In fact, he views the weekly matchup as the most important game he has ever done in his career.
“I feel that way about a preseason game or a Super Bowl,” Reese said. “During the summer, I will go through three or four games and jot down notes how I used this word too often or I didn’t pick something up the way I wanted to. I don’t think my voice has changed. My eyesight is very good. I feel great. I’m doing what I’d rather do than anything else in the world.”
Although he had several opportunities to take his talents to the national level, Merrill Reese conveyed that he feels he has been fairly compensated enough not to leave the locale. At the same time, he also understands the unique facets of a radio broadcast that render it compatible with and enjoyable to the listeners.
“I love the fact that radio broadcasting is painting a picture,” Merrill Reese said. “I think the television guys do a great job, but it’s a little bit of a different job where you are captioning the picture. As a radio broadcaster, you call almost every step and every yard line.”
Damon Bruce After KNBR Cuts: ‘Radio’s Over, It’s Dead’
“A person who’s never listened to a show – not for a single day in their life – some accountant in another city somewhere just saw a number that they drew a red line through.”
KNBR in San Francisco recently engaged in a round of layoffs that has affected the on-air lineup. Various on-air hosts from competitor 95.7 The Game addressed the staff cuts both during their programs and in social media posts. Damon Bruce formerly worked for the outlet and was let go as part of a lineup change earlier in the year. Since then, he has hosted his own independent programming distributed via digital platforms and took time to comment on what took place at KNBR, a station he used to work for as a producer.
“I don’t know if there’s a good time to lay anyone off, but just about to get into the month of December in-between the holidays is the biggest dickhead move any corporation can make,” Bruce said, “and you can see that these radio stations are owned by dickhead corporations.”
Bruce listed the employees and areas of the radio station that were affected by the move, including a producer and the outlet’s digital department. In fact, he chided the outlet for eliminating this facet of their coverage, referring to them as “morons” amid an era where digital content has been substantiated and inculcated within various sectors of the industry. For Brian Murphy, in particular, he just lost his morning partner of 18 years, something Bruce affirmed McCaffrey should be saluted for.
“Now I can speak from experience as someone who’s been laid off by a terrible corporation that I guarantee you what happened to Paul McCaffrey is the same thing that happened to me,” Bruce said. “A person who’s never listened to a show – not for a single day in their life – some accountant in another city somewhere just saw a number that they drew a red line through. Goodbye, Paul McCaffrey.”
Since the layoffs were announced, Bruce has reached out to McCaffrey and Santangelo and stated that he planned to put a call into Hammer. Moreover, he spoke with Murphy, who he surmises is going to take a few days to cool down before returning to the station.
A part of the layoffs that particularly bothered Bruce was the end of the 6 to 10 PM timeslot, which he used to host while at the outlet. Within his commentary, he conveyed that if KNBR had found a way to fairly compensate him, he would have remained in the timeslot for 35 to 40 years and been content with his role.
“I love an evening of taking calls and talking to fans and doing interviews and having an entire day of sports to look back on and an entire day of sports to preview,” Bruce said. “I love that timeslot, and it’s gone.”
Bruce is disappointed in the ramifications these layoffs have for the industry as a whole and expressed his concerns over finding the next generation of talent. He did acknowledge, however, that there are a variety of prospective talent hosting programming in the evenings and working to prove themselves. His concern in all of this is where young broadcasters will be able to broadcast on the air due to the elimination of evening and weekend programming.
“If all you’ve got on a radio dial is morning, middays and afternoon drive, those are usually always occupied by experienced people,” Bruce said. “How do you get experience? So we now live in a world where YouTube is going to matter more than ever before to not just up-and-coming broadcasters, but broadcasters that have been disregarded; broadcasters that have been laid off and people who want to do this.”
Within his YouTube segment, Bruce spoke directly to hosts in the San Francisco market from his experience and explained how a round of layoffs from five to eight years ago that let well-compensated professionals let go caused them to be replaced by young, inexperienced decision-makers. Because of the lack of experience and proficiency in the craft, he affirms that the new people in charge do not know what they are doing because they have not done it long enough and are simply focused on profitability and the bottom line.
“Radio’s over; it’s dead,” Bruce said. “And if anyone at 95.7 The Game is listening to me right now, if any remaining host at KNBR is listening to me right now, if any actual radio host is listening to me right now, I’m telling you you get your backup plan ready because that red line is coming for you. And it’s coming for you because there is middle-management corporate bloat that is part of the reason why these stations can’t figure it out.”
95.7 The Game’s Bonta Hill, Joe Shasky and Matt Nahigian Address KNBR Cuts
Bay Area sports station KNBR parted ways with several staffers this week including morning show co-host Paul McCaffrey. The departures took many in sports media by surprise, including 95.7 The Game morning host Bonta Hill.
Hill, who worked at KNBR on the Murph and Mac show, felt obligated to discuss McCaffrey’s exit on The Morning Roast on Thursday, offering his condolences.
“Whenever I worked with him on that morning show as a board op or producer, I always left with a smile on my face,” Hill said. “They made me laugh, they treated me right, they taught me the ropes. And when you have an 18-year run together, that is legendary. Legendary.”
“Morning radio, that’s what we grew up on, and he was a pioneer,” Bonta added.
Bonta Hill shared that Mac was one of his favorite people at the station, and that he did and continues to look up to him.
“I just feel bad, man. Christmas is around the corner, and people are losing their jobs,” Hill said. “You never want to see that. You never want to see that, but Paulie Mac, Murph, those guys are one of one. They are. They truly are man.”
“Murph and Mac is the combo in this market in terms of longevity, excellence, what they symbolized with that Giants run and how we gravitated towards them,” co-host Joe Shasky chipped in. “All of my sports radio love came through those guys’ love for each other. And you could feel it.”
95.7 The Game brand manager Matt Nahigian echoed the sentiments from Hill during a video commentary on X. He said despite the two stations being fierce competitors, there’s a mutual respect between leadership, talent and staff.
“I think it’s important to point out that the stations compete against each other hardcore,” Nahigian said. “We want to beat each other every month in the ratings and the whole bit. But all of us for the most part get along really well.”
“KNBR didn’t gloat and celebrate when we made changes in March, and we won’t do that either,” he added. “Onward and upward. Great run by Paulie Mac, Murph and Mac.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.