While the product on the field may be tough to watch at times for the Boston Red Sox, the announcing booth is in top form. The addition of Dennis Eckersley to the Red Sox booth in 2009 was one of the best decisions NESN has ever made and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Eck’s candor, knowledge of the game and unique vocabulary make him a absolute joy to listen to regardless of how bad the game is going (sometimes he’s even better when the game is a blowout).
When thinking about the best color commentators in sports, there are some similar qualities that run between them. One of the most illusive qualities is someone who is knowledgeable, ideally with experience playing the sport, but not too cocky about his or her abilities. Eck fits that category like a glove. He’s clearly a confident person, but he isn’t afraid to admit when he is wrong and be self-deprecating despite being a Hall of Famer. He tells stories from his playing days, but doesn’t brag or hang on his reputation, he does it to comment on, or relate to, the game or current situation.
Another quality that’s important to an announcer is someone who isn’t afraid to tell stories and fill space, especially during a 4-hour baseball broadcast. There are so many announcers who love to leave lots of silent space in a broadcast, and while some silence can be useful, baseball needs announcers who can be entertaining and teach you something along the way. Eck checks those boxes. In a long pitching change or a slow inning, he’ll tell stories of his playing days or give his take on some of the newer headlines in baseball. His energy is contagious and makes me want to tune in just to hear his commentary.
Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of Eck in the booth is his unique vocabulary. On any given night you’ll hear gas, splitage, cheese (also educated cheese, easy cheese, and cheddar), hair, and salad (also educated salad) all describing pitches thrown. In addition to describing pitches, Eck has lots of other phrases he loves to use to describe HRs (i.e. Johnson, slam Johnson, dead central, going bridge), masterson to describe an expert in something (gas-masterson, stat-masterson), and the phrase jump street to describe the beginning of something. How can you not smile when an announcer gets excited and says “That was some educated cheese on the paint” to describe a well-located fastball on the outside corner?
With the Red Sox season spiraling in a depressing way, there is a comforting voice to narrate the journey. As far as I’m concerned, the more Eck the better.