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Jason Mastrodonato: Dennis Eckersley's humility is what made him one-of-a-kind in NESN's broadcast booth

Jason Mastrodonato, Boston Herald on

Published in Baseball

Run into Dennis Eckersley in the press box or media elevator at Fenway Park and chances are, he’s going to ask you a question.

He’s a Hall of Famer, MVP, Cy Young winner and World Series champion who spent 24 seasons in the big leagues and 20 more in the broadcast booth – you’d think there wouldn’t be a baseball question Eckersley didn’t already know the answer to.

But he’s always hungry for more. More information, more knowledge, deeper wisdom, another perspective. He’s a master at never pretending to know it all.

It’s his humility that was among the many reasons he became an Emmy Award winning broadcaster, and why millions of Red Sox fans across the country were surely saddened on Monday, when Eckersley announced that he’d be retiring from his broadcasting career at the end of the 2022 season.

“After 50 years in Major League Baseball, I am excited about this next chapter of my life,” said Eckersley. “I will continue to be an ambassador for the club and a proud member of Red Sox Nation, while transitioning to life after baseball alongside my wife Jennifer, my children and my grandchildren.

“I’m forever grateful to NESN, the Red Sox, my family and the fans for supporting me throughout my career and through this decision and I look forward to remaining engaged with the team in a variety of capacities for years to come.”

 

It was 50 years ago that Eckersley was Cleveland’s third-round draft pick as a 17-year-old out of Washington High School in Fremont, Calif.

He quickly became a sensation with the Indians, but was traded to the Red Sox in 1978 after his first wife, Denise, left him for his teammate and best friend, Rick Manning. The devastation fueled his success in Boston, where he was among the game’s best starting pitchers until he was traded to the Cubs in 1984.

Three seasons of playing day games for the Cubs in Chicago and enjoying the nightlife a little too much led Eckersley to realize he had a drinking problem, which he’s discussed openly throughout his life. And after sobering up in the ’86 offseason and getting traded to the Oakland A’s, Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa moved him to the bullpen and one of the game’s best-ever closers was born.

But for all the success Eckersley had in Oakland, where he won the American League Championship Series MVP and World Series in ‘89, put together one of the best relief seasons ever in ‘90, and won the A.L. MVP and Cy Young in ‘92, he often remembers his failures as being just as impactful.

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