June 26, 2009


Eckersley's delivery a real hit (Chad Finn, June 26, 2009, Boston Globe)

As his comfort level has grown during his seven weeks since sliding over from his usual gig as a studio analyst, the better he has become. With his energy, candor, self-effacing humor, and easy rapport with play-by-play voice Don Orsillo, he has been a revelation.

He hasn’t replaced Remy in the hearts of Red Sox fans, and partially out of deference to the man whose spot he is filling, Eckersley laughs off the suggestion that a three-man booth would be a treat for NESN viewers. But he has earned his own legion of admirers, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone who appreciates insightful baseball analysis wouldn’t enjoy the perspective the 54-year-old Eckersley brings.

Having endured his share of valleys during his playing career, he can relate to successes and hardships on the field. His I’ve-been-in-his-spikes monologue as 20-year-old Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello melted down against the Sox earlier this season was downright compelling.

Yet he also has an uncanny knack for echoing a fan’s feelings as a moment unfolds. On more than one occasion, with barely contained exasperation, he has implored the maddening Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch aggressively.

“When I was in the studio talking about whatever big thing happened in the game, I always tried to have the same reaction as if it just happened,’’ said Eckersley. “I gave my honest feelings. I don’t sugar-coat it. But when I’m in the booth, it really is instant, you know? It’s right there in front of you, and you’re getting my immediate reaction.

“Sometimes that leads to mistakes - and I’ve made them,’’ laughed Eckersley, whose four-letter slip of the tongue earlier this season might have briefly elevated NESN’s telecast to a PG-13 rating.

Accidental expletives aside, sometimes Eckersley does fall into a lingo all his own, most often by repeatedly referring to a fastball as “cheese.’’ But that’s the thing - it is all his own, and if it’s shtick, it’s the same shtick he’s used since he arrived in the major leagues in 1975 as a cocky 20-year-old fireballer for the Cleveland Indians.

This is, after all, the man who coined the term “walk-off’’ for a game-ending homer, someone who was paid homage by Peter Gammons in the 1986 classic “Beyond the Sixth Game’’ with a glossary of “Dial-Eck.’’

It is not an act, his own one-man show.

“I’m just who I am,’’ he said.

...because Don Orsillo lives in near terror of what Eck might say next--he's the most honest color commentator ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2009 6:31 AM
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