BOSTON -- In 37 years as a radio broadcaster for the Red Sox, Joe Castiglione has called four no-hitters, wild comebacks, thrilling walk-offs, tape-measure homers, jaw-dropping defensive plays, milestone moments, tear-jerking retirement ceremonies and much more.
But he doesn’t hesitate for even a nanosecond when asked what his favorite call is.
“Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke!” Castiglione recently recalled by phone, narrating the start of his most famous call.
On the night of Oct. 27, 2004, the Red Sox finally won the World Series after an 86-year championship drought.
For the man behind the microphone, the opportunity was surreal -- no Red Sox radio broadcaster had been able to call the final out of a game that won the World Series.
Back in 1918, before that whole “curse” began, there was no such thing as a baseball broadcast. Games didn’t air on the radio until '21.
By the time of Castiglione’s big moment in 2004, he had been waiting for more than 20 years to see the Red Sox win it all.
Castiglione and his partner Ken Coleman were certainly ready on the night of Oct. 25, 1986, when the Red Sox were one strike away from beating the Mets in what would have been the clinching Game 6 of the Fall Classic. After Dave Henderson belted a homer and Marty Barrett drove home Wade Boggs to put Boston ahead in the top of the 10th -- Castiglione’s inning to do play-by-play -- Coleman came on for the bottom of the frame.
Castiglione wanted Coleman, a revered veteran by that point, to be the one who made that historic call. Instead, Coleman was left to call an ill-fated wild pitch by Bob Stanley and a crushing error by Bill Buckner.
Eighteen years later, Castiglione was the veteran of Boston’s radio booth, and he was ready to make the most important call in the history of the Red Sox.
“I thought about it for years, especially after the near-misses,” Castiglione said. “I had all kinds of thoughts: What I would do? And I just came to the conclusion that you can’t script it because you don’t know how it’s going to end.
“I’ve heard of broadcasters who have tried to script it and either blown it or it just doesn’t fit. And it was probably that day -- after Game 3, going into Game 4 -- when I said, ‘Hey, you’ve just got to roll with it.’ I was just hoping it wasn’t a check swing -- ‘Did he or didn’t he?’ -- or it wasn’t a diving catch -- ‘Did he catch it or didn’t he?’ Of course, this was before [instant] replay, so I didn’t have to worry about that. You just hoped it was something definitive.”
Definitive it sure was. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Red Sox up 3-0, Edgar Renteria tapped a grounder to reliever Keith Foulke.
And here is how Castiglione described it, with perfect tone. You could hear his genuine excitement, but not in an over-the-top way.
“Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it, he underhands to first -- and the Boston Red Sox are the world champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship. Can you believe it?”
In short, Castiglione nailed the call.
“A ground ball to the pitcher was definitive, simple, and that was it,” Castiglione said. “Same thing with ’07 with the strikeout of Seth Smith by [Jonathan] Papelbon and the same thing in ’18 when [Chris] Sale struck out [Manny] Machado. I was just hoping it would be something very definitive when it was over.”
This has become old hat for Castiglione, who has now called four World Series-clinching wins for the Red Sox. He was on the mic for the final out in all but one of them (2013).
“The other thing that was totally unexpected is that that Sunday -- the day after the parade -- in Sunday’s paper, they had a big color photo in the Globe sports [section] and it quoted my call,” Castiglione said. “The photo showed Foulke with the ball throwing it to first, [Doug] Mientkiewicz jumping up and down and the Globe had my call written out. That also made it more memorable.”
There were also some unique ways for fans to relive the call.
“[The recording of the call] was on a bottle-cap opener. I don’t know how many bottle caps were sold, but that was a nice little payday,” Castiglione said with a laugh.
It’s hard to imagine Castiglione will make another call that compares in magnitude to that Wednesday night at Busch Stadium in 2004.
“There have been other walk-off moments. I thought [Todd] Benzinger’s home run during Morgan Magic was huge. Of course, there was the [Andrew] Benintendi catch at the end of Game 4 of the ’18 ALCS where I fell out of my chair,” Castiglione said. “But nothing can compare to the final out of the first world championship in 86 years.”