O'Brien reflects on Red Sox's magical run in '13
Broadcaster discusses club's chances of repeating as Series champions
Through the decades, the Red Sox have had some memorable radio play-by-play voices, from Curt Gowdy to Ned Martin to Jim Woods to Ken Coleman to Joe Castiglione. Dave O'Brien, who is entering his eighth season on Red Sox radio, is another one of those voices who is leaving his mark.
In a recent sitdown with MLB.com, O'Brien reflected on the joy he gets in calling Red Sox games, while also talking about the memorable 2013 season and his thoughts on the '14 Red Sox, who start their season Monday at Camden Yards.
MLB.com: How much fun is it as someone who grew up in Quincy, Mass., to be going into your eighth season as a Red Sox radio broadcaster?
O'Brien: It's such a labor of love to call the Red Sox on radio, particularly on radio because I grew up with the Red Sox on radio. I grew up with Ken Coleman and Jim Woods and Joe Castiglione, my partner right now, believe it or not. At least in my early days of my developing as a radio broadcaster, I learned so much from those guys.
And to come to Fenway Park every day, knowing that's my office. And you might feel the same way. I think a lot of us who cover the Red Sox are, at least once every couple of nights, you look up and see the skyline and you see the Citgo sign, it's a gorgeous night in June, and you realize you're really, really lucky to be doing this, especially in seasons like 2013 when the club was so good.
MLB.com: How enjoyable was last year for you as a broadcaster?
O'Brien: I don't know if I've still quite come to grips with it. I woke up one morning a few days before Christmas and said to myself, 'It really did happen.' The Red Sox were, without question, the best team at the end. They deserved to win.
But it was because it was such a dramatic flip from a winning percentage of .426 the year before to being undoubtedly the kings of the hill at the end -- I never saw that coming. I knew the Red Sox would be dramatically better if A, B, C and D happened.
But the fact of the matter is, they got every break a team could get. Every time they needed a three-run homer, they got it. Every time the other guy made a key error in the seventh inning, the Red Sox capitalized and wound up winning that game. I've never seen anything quite like that. I've covered a number of world championship teams. This team capitalized and stayed with its focus better than any team I've ever seen.
MLB.com: Was there a point in the season last year where you realized something special was happening?
O'Brien: Probably around the ninth or 10th win in their last at-bat. I think there were a dozen of them last year. There were too many of them to think this was just dumb luck. I think they knew how to win games when they had to win them and that's a big reason they didn't lose more than three in a row all season. That's another number I kept kicking around over the winter. How does a team do that? Even the best teams lose four, five, six in a row. A couple of starters go down. A couple of key guys down in the lineup.
And also the ALCS against the Tigers. I don't think an opponent could have pitched any better against an opponent than Detroit did against the Red Sox. The Red Sox won in six games.
MLB.com: You had a couple of calls in the postseason that are going to go down as signature calls in your career, and perhaps the annals of Red Sox history. "David Ortiz, David Ortiz, David Ortiz" after his grand slam against the Tigers and the "Boston Strong!" after the World Series clincher. Did you get to go back and hear them?
O'Brien: I heard them a lot over the winter. If I'm sick of them, I'm sure everybody else is. But I think you're right, there are so few opportunities in our business, baseball announcing in particular, where you had a chance like that at the microphone to hopefully capture the tone and capture the moment effectively. I certainly hope I did.
You're very fortunate if you're at the mike when it happens. Joe Castiglione has been many times and has knocked it out of the park. You're really honored to be there at that time and place. You hope you do a good job.
MLB.com: What do you think about this year's team?
O'Brien: I was just talking to Jason Varitek around the cage. It came up, how good can they be? Can this team repeat? Both of us were of the opinion that there's no reason the Red Sox can't repeat as world champions. I'm not going out on a limb saying right here in March that it's absolutely going to happen. But the pitching is in place. It's very healthy, it's deep coming in. That's where it starts. If that bears out throughout the season, I like the Red Sox's chances of having another outstanding year.
Last year was magical, but maybe this will be more like 2007 where the Red Sox at the very beginning know who they are and it will be clean sailing. Baseball seasons aren't usually like that, so I'm dying to see what happens.
MLB.com: How much are you looking forward to seeing Xander Bogaerts for a full season?
O'Brien: Very much. I don't know, and maybe you'd be better asking this question or answering it than me, but I don't know if there's a more charismatic player with the exception of David Ortiz in the Red Sox camp. Certainly among the younger group. He's such a confident kid. He just understands he belongs and watching him for the 162 games, what he can do with the bat, will be fun. We all remember the home run he hit at Yankee Stadium, which still hasn't come down. I just think we're looking at an All-Star right at the beginning and that's cool to see.
MLB.com: We all knew John Farrell when he was the pitching coach here. Did you have a concept of how good a manager he could be?
O'Brien: I don't think I knew. He's a lot better than I thought. I thought the Toronto teams lacked a lot of the essential ingredients the Red Sox had to help make him a better manager. And I thought John, as the season went along, he took all of his skills and he was even sharper as the season went along. They played for him and they remain focused, that great focus, that laser beam focus That today is the only day that matters. I think he deserves the lion's share of the credit for that, I really do, and keeping them on that road all season long.
MLB.com: A lot of people know you not just for the Red Sox, but your work on ESPN, doing baseball and college basketball. How much do you like the variety of what you do?
O'Brien: The Red Sox play-by-play job was a dream job for me, a dream come true. As you know, I'm a Quincy boy, I grew up on the South Shore and in New Hampshire, where I live with my family now. That's a dream that I never really thought would come true and then when it did, it's kind of just been living that every day since.
I also get the greatest kick out of going into college basketball arenas like the Allen Fieldhouse or Pauley Pavilion and all these wonderful places. I got into Hilton Coliseum in Iowa this year to see Iowa State play. I'd never been there before. My head was ringing because it was so loud when I left. I didn't realize there was that kind of passion. That's the thing that stands out about college basketball. The passion is off the charts and it's only two hours long.
But my summer gig is the best in the world. I happen to work with a guy that I'm just honored to work with in Joe Castiglione, who is now a Red Sox Hall of Famer. I'm thrilled beyond words with him for that. The next step for him will be Cooperstown.