Sox pay tribute to Eck on final day in booth

October 5th, 2022

BOSTON -- A ceremonial first pitch would have been too much for an emotional Dennis Eckersley to handle for Wednesday’s Game No. 162 of the season between the Red Sox and Rays, his final game in the NESN broadcast booth.

After several discussions with a team official over the past couple of days, Eckersley politely declined the offer.

But he couldn’t avoid another flood of emotion when the Red Sox played a stirring video tribute in his honor prior to the bottom of the fifth inning at Fenway Park.

As it was winding down, the Red Sox players and coaches came out of the dugout and waved to him in the booth. The Rays did the same thing.

That was when Eckersley broke down in tears, wiping his eyes with a tissue.

Eckersley then stood up from his seat in the booth, put his hand on his heart and gave the fans a salute and a thumbs up.

It was a magical moment for a man who was wildly popular during his playing days and perhaps even more so as a broadcaster.

The video tribute hit all the right notes.

With the Eagles song “Take It to the Limit” playing, the video started with vintage moments from Eckersley’s pitching career in Boston. Then, there was a clip of his emotional retirement as a player from 1998, in which he was wearing a Red Sox jersey. From there, the video moved to Cooperstown, where Eck was inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004.

There were fun cuts played from his broadcasting career.

“Look at this piece of cheese,” Eckersley said with excitement as a Red Sox player went deep.

“It’s time to party!” Eck was saying with joy as Mookie Betts rounded the bases after a grand slam during the glorious 108-win season of 2018.

There was the poignant scene of Eckersley catching the ceremonial first pitch from his former teammate and broadcast partner Jerry Remy prior to last season’s American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees. It was Remy’s final public appearance at Fenway. He died later in the month following his latest bout with cancer.

Much like Remy, Eckersley turned into an institution in New England living rooms over the airwaves of NESN.

Eckersley announced two months ago this would be his last season as a broadcaster. The reason? He is moving with his wife to California so they can be closer to their grandkids.

“It is a privilege to be up in this booth,” Eckersley said. “It’s been 50 years since I first signed out of high school [with Cleveland]. Fifty years! Well, it’s been a blessing for me. It’s Boston and it’s passion and it matches my passion. It’s been a beautiful thing, to say the least.”

Though Eck is a Hall of Famer largely on the strength of his dominance as a closer for the Oakland A’s, he made it clear during Tuesday night’s broadcast what the Red Sox and Boston mean to him.

“[Red Sox chairman] Tom Werner came in here to say goodbye, and I couldn’t even talk,” Eckersley said. “I was so choked up, and I got choked up because I wanted him to know how good they were to me, the Red Sox, over the years. It was really special and I wanted him to know that I feel like I’m a Red Sox. And that’s coming from me to him, that meant a lot. That was a good moment.

“My point I was trying to make to Tom is that I played for the A’s, I went in the Hall of Fame as an [Athletic], it’s my hometown. But this is my home. I’m a Boston Red Sox. I’m a Bostonian. This place is in my heart. I will take this place with me forever. Life is short, man. I spent a great amount of time here.”

Eckersley will stay on with the Red Sox in an alumni role and will still make visits to Fenway in the coming years.