Boston Red Sox longtime TV play-by-play man Don Orsillo, a beloved figure among the passionate legion of fans who call themselves Red Sox Nation, will not return for another season after 15 years in the broadcast booth for NESN, the team-owned cable network that broadcasts almost all Red Sox games each baseball season.
While according to media reports, NESN had planned to keep the dismissal of Orsillo — technically, a non-renewal of his contract — hush-hush until January, the news somehow leaked on Tuesday and was made public by Gerry Callahan, a morning drive-time host on Boston’s sports talk radio station WEEI.
Orsillo and partner Jerry Remy, a former Red Sox second-baseman who has served as baseball analyst in the booth on Red Sox since 1988, were forced to go on the air for Tuesday’s Red Sox game without mentioning the fact that Orsillo was now announcing his final five weeks of Red Sox games.
The firing of Orsillo stunned Red Sox fans, who quickly erupted in outrage on social media, anger that appeared to stem not only from the sudden loss of a figure who seemed part of the Red Sox “family,” but by the seemingly inexplicable reasons behind it.
@GordonEdes I’m gonna make a change too. I’m gonna CHANGE THE CHANNEL!! They think ratings are low now? Just wait.
— nemo febonio (@nemofeb) August 26, 2015
According to rumors and media reports, the 46-year-old native of Melrose, Massachusetts was dismissed from his job for no other reason than the fact that NESN programming chief Joseph Maar — who had been in his job for only about three years — was “not a fan.”
The reason given to Orsillo, according to the same reports, was that NESN “wanted to make a change.”
Maar previously worked at ESPN, where he was in part responsible for the daily talking-head programs Pardon The Interruption and Around the Horn.
As fan anger over the Orsillo firing news quickly swelled on Tuesday, Marr changed the setting on his personal Twitter account to “private,” simply aggravating Red Sox fans further.
So the dude who fired Orsillo made his Twitter account private today after word got out. What a coward.
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) August 25, 2015
Though NESN reportedly wanted to sit on the news of Orsillo’s firing for another five months, Tuesday’s revelations forced the cable outlet to post an announcement online stating that respected broadcaster Dave O’Brien, who currently shares radio announcing duties on Red Sox games, would take over the play-by-play duties starting in 2016.
The shocking and seemingly pointless firing of Orsillo, apparently at the whim of an executive with one-fifth of Orsillo’s experience in the intense New England media market, has made national news, covered by ESPN, Vice and even the online edition of Forbes Magazine.
“It doesn’t matter that Orsillo was a consummate professional who did his job exceptionally well,” wrote Forbes contributor Alex Reimer. “A boss’ personal bias overshadowed logic and rational. Most of us have been there before.”
Don Orsillo has worked announcing postseason games for the national TBS cable network, and most observers expect that the Boston Red Sox announcer will quickly find another play-by-play job.
[Image: Darren McCollester / Getty Images]