Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Bradfo Sho: Dennis Eckersley opens up for first time about David Price, calling it like he sees it, and life as a broadcaster

John Tomase
September 12, 2017 - 10:16 pm
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Over 24 Hall of Fame seasons, Dennis Eckersley took the bad with the good.

He closed out a World Series. He surrendered one of the most famous home runs in the history of the Fall Classic.

He won a Cy Young Award. He led the league in home runs allowed.

He partied at Studio 54. He battled alcoholism.

Now 62 years old -- though nearly as trim and energetic as during his playing days -- Eckersley could be forgiven for thinking he had seen it all.

Then came the night of June 29.

Speaking to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford on the Bradfo Sho podcast on Wednesday, Eckersley opened up for the first time about what happened when he stepped on the team's charter from Boston to Toronto after a 6-3 victory over the Twins. (To listen to the podcast, click here.)

David Price was waiting for him, supported by most of his teammates. The Red Sox left-hander lambasted Eckersley as a know-it-all who never made a mistake -- a laughable characterization for anyone who has spent five seconds listening to the self-effacing Eckersley broadcast a game on NESN -- and Eckersley took his seat in shock.

"I was humiliated, to be honest with you," Eckersley told Bradford. "As far as talking about this, I've never said anything. You're the first person I've really talked to about this. I don't want to make it anything more than it is."

Throughout the interview, Eckersley returns to the notion that this isn't about him, that he didn't ask for the unwanted attention, that he wishes none of it had ever happened. But at the same time, talking it through with the benefit of two months of separation sounds cathartic, particularly in light of the overwhelming support he has received from Red Sox fans.

"It's like hey man, that's wonderful, how can you not feel good about the attention you've gotten from it, but I didn't want this. I don't want this," Eckersley said. "This is not who I am at all. It's cool, I appreciate it, but I'm kind of uncomfortable with it. I just want to move on, man."

With the specifics of the incident already covered in great detail, Eckersley focused on his big-picture reaction.

"I've been doing this for a long time, not necessarily in the booth, but with NESN," Eckersley told Bradford. "The years are starting to add up, but there's been nothing like this year. You go back over it saying why, why did something like that happen? But to have enough distance from it now to say, well, things happen in this game. It just so happened to be me. I think it's very unfortunate for everybody that's connected with it, Red Sox, Price, me, whatever.

"It was difficult at first. I was on that road trip. That was the first game of that road trip. That was difficult, those 10 days on the road, trying to have it not have anything to do with your broadcast. I mean, you're only human. Especially when [Price] had to pitch. I think he pitched a couple of times, in Tampa, too. That didn't take anything away. I'm just doing the games and calling it like I see it and sometimes guys don't like the way you call it and see it."

Eckersley hasn't spoken to Price and probably never will.

"Ultimately this comes back to the dude doesn't like me," Eckersley said. "I get it. It's cool. Let's move on. . . . Why would I want to talk to him, you know? He's not the first guy that doesn't like me. I get it."

That said, Eckersley hasn't let the incident affect his approach to broadcasting. He tells like it is, and always will.

"Not that they're sensitive, but everyone wants to be talked about positive, make everything positive. It's not that way. I've got to do my job," Eckerlsey told Bradford. "I can't just be here, this flowery type commentary. You just can't.

"I remember sitting as a player, listening to it, because I used to be in the clubhouse for so long before the seventh inning," Eckersley added. "I used to watch three-quarters of the game before I went to the bullpen. I remember thinking to myself, if I ever do this, and it was just a thought, I want to make sure I know this game's not that easy. You don't want to get up there and just starting popping off, 'look at this middle-middle fastball, hanging breaking ball, the guy hit it out,' whatever. But after a while, once you evolve, you just say what you say. You can't sit there and say, 'Careful here, careful there. You don't want to hurt somebody.' A lot of these players think they want their mom and dad up here calling the game."

Eckersley acknowledged the impact of Boston's intense talk radio scene.

"There's some vicious stuff that gets thrown around," he said. "There is. I can see how players would get sensitive to it. But at the same time, I played. I gave up a lot of home runs. I had a lot of bad outings, so you've just got to understand that's the way it is."

That's just the start. Check out the podcast for the full picture, which includes Eckersley's thoughts on a prior confrontation with Jackie Bradley that he has written off as a youthful indiscretion, the belief that comments about an Eduardo Rodriguez rehab start prompted Price to act, and how long and how frequently he'd like to broadcast moving forward.

"This is what it comes down to," he told Bradford. "It sounds harsh, not necessarily harsh, but I'm trying to do my job. I can't worry about 30 guys in that clubhouse. The people I'm trying to talk to are the audience."

(To listen to the podcast, click here)

 

Bradfo Sho, Ep. 42: Eck opens up

Rob Bradford is joined by NESN analyst, and Hall of Fame pitcher, Dennis Eckersley. For the first time anywhere, Eckersley discusses the controversy involving David Price and the subsequent fallout. He goes on to explain how he views his job, his relationship with the players and how he views his entire 2017 season while filling in for Jerry Remy.

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