Saturday, 2:15 PM
Back story: Inside the Red Sox radio booth
(Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
Red Sox radio broadcasters Dave O'Brien and Joe Castiglione in their booth high above Fenway Park.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
It was not the view that struck me when I entered the radio announcers' booth perched 50 feet above home plate. Television had prepared me to see Fenway Park unfurled at my feet, a panorama stretching from Pesky's Pole to the Green Monster. The vista over those walls is well known: The Citgo sign ablaze in pink and orange from the setting sun; the glint of the John Hancock tower; the MIT dome; and greater New England on the horizon, dissolving into the purplish haze of a summer night.
What struck me was the sound. The booth is just high enough above the stands that the voices of the 37,000 individual fans are lost and reactions of the crowd coalesce into a single, mighty noise. During lulls in the game, the crowd is a tinderbox murmuring below. A hit or a Red Sox run ignites an explosion. The game I watched from the radio booth was a 1-0 thriller. When Manny Ramirez singled home that only run in the eighth inning, the roar rattled the walls, sounding like the crashing of a thousand waves. A little shaky, I stepped away from the open windows overlooking the field and found a seat.
Journalism can be a passport that takes a reporter to places most people don't get to go. For the Globe's Rites of Summer series, I wrote about the omnipresent sound of Red Sox games on the radio in New England. That meant watching a game from the radio booth with announcers Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien. For an avid listener, it was a treat.
The booth is behind home plate, slightly to the first-base side. The walls are sparsely decorated with a handful of framed photographs of Red Sox luminaries the likes of Pedro Martinez and Ted Williams. An ink drawing from 1997 commemorates when Nomar Garciaparra shattered Johnny Pesky's 1942 record for most hits by a Red Sox rookie. A sky watcher's chart depicts 36 different types of weather clouds. Near the back of the booth, a closet door is plastered with bumper stickers from some of the 60-plus Red Sox radio affiliates scattered across New England, from WDEA 1370 AM in Ellsworth, Maine, to WEMJ 1490 AM in Laconia, N.H.
The 12-foot wide booth is split into two levels, with Castiglione and O'Brien occupying the lower section closest to the field. Other than a laptop used by an intern, the duo is surprisingly low-tech. They do not stare at computers or read advertisements off teleprompters. Pitches for Volvo or Giant Glass are recited from index cards and folded pieces of paper. Messages are passed on yellow Post-it notes. Sitting on rolling, black desk chairs at a counter, they look out of two oversized windows that do not have screens. The windows are almost always open and exposed to the elements, except for a few chilly spring games and those lucky, crisp nights in October.
O'Brien sits on the left side of the booth, speaking into a large black microphone on the counter. He tracks the game on an oversized paper score sheet with an array of colored markers. Positions are written in red; players' names scribbled in purple, black, blue, and green. O'Brien gesticulates as he talks, making motions with his hands that go unseen on radio. He swivels at the shoulders as he describes Manny Ramirez twisting to avoid an inside pitch.
"Just a lovely night," O'Brien says between pitches. "Bright blue sky overhead, sun slowly setting here in New England."
On the right side of the booth, Castiglione juggles a baseball scorebook; a notebook for tracking pitchers and conditions of all Red Sox home runs; and a three-ring binder with an index card for every player in the league, in which he collects anecdotes about hobbies and hometowns. An arm's length to his right is a bulletin board where he tacks a half dozen printouts lined with statistics. Castiglione wears a headset so he can be mobile as he announces, rolling to find a batting average with his finger on the bulletin board and then gliding back to the counter.
Castiglione leans on his elbows or literally twiddles his thumbs as he delivers his play-by-play. His words keep time with the ball, following the arc of the popup and not saying "out" until the exact moment it smacks into the glove. He speaks almost without gestures, but will silently pound the counter when a Sox fly is caught at the wall or give a single shake of his head when a batter pops up with the bases loaded. He gets excited by rare plays (a two-strike bunt), but his body stays motionless as he describes a diving catch in left. His voice quadruples in speed when he calls a big a home run or a dramatic stop, his tone racing like an auctioneer.
"People tell my they know the score by the tone of my voice," Castiglione says. "For a network guy, that would be an indictment. I take it as a compliment."
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