By: John Molori
July 11, 2006

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THIS WEEK:

- Senor Spaceman
- Joe and Jerry's junk
- Rising Stars, Falling Stars: Who's hot and not in Boston sports media

NESN documentary goes to "Space' via Cuba Castiglione and Trupiano falter; Rising Stars, Falling Stars

Brett Rapkin and Josh Dixon went to Cuba to experience life in space. The pair of producers have created "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey," a documentary film detailing former Red Sox hurler Bill Lee's 2002 trip to Cuba. The film airs on NESN, July 12 at 8:00 p.m.

"I met Josh in 2002 and he told me about Lee," says the 27 year-old Rapkin, who has worked for A&E, HBO and OLN. "I did some research and came across a "Sports Illustrated" story in which Lee calls himself a "Zen Buddhist, Rastafarian Catholic.' You have to be intelligent to even say that."

In November of 2002, Rapkin and Dixon, 31, pitched the idea to Lee who gave them the green light to join him in Cuba. Says Rapkin, "Josh and I went with two cameramen and a sound man who had worked on the films "Menace II Society' and "Boyz N the Hood.'

"Getting Lee's and Cuba's OK was easy. There was more difficulty with the United States. It's gotten tougher to go to Cuba in the past few years. We had to fill out a lot of forms and basically piggybacked on Lee's baseball team. They were going over there for goodwill and humanitarian reasons."

Rapkin describes the documentary as "cinema verite" with great footage of Lee playing ball and interacting in Cuba. The show opens with a 1981 press conference with Lee as a Montreal Expo.

The first twenty minutes of the hour-long NESN program is basically Lee' s biography from his Red Sox years (1969-1978) to Montreal (1979-82) to his willingness and love of playing the game with anyone anywhere.

Boston Globe scribe Dan Shaughnessy, former Red Sox players Bernie Carbo, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant and ex-Red Sox manager Dick Williams provide commentary.

The last 40 minutes of the film focus on the Cuba experience. Rapkin and Dixon are also creating a DVD of the documentary, seventy minutes in length. Check out SpacemaninCuba.com to pre-order. The DVD will be available in stores in September.

"We did this on a shoestring budget," says Rapkin whose father played college ball at Cal State Northridge against Lee's USC Trojans.

"(Filmmaker) Ken Burns, (HBO's) Jim Lampley and (Bull Durham director) Ron Shelton all love the film. It has a real independent feel to it. It reinforces the intrinsic value that baseball has. Bill Lee is a true guru. He lives in the moment on an enlightened level. There are lots of layers to this film."

Indeed, the fascinating Lee is a perfect topic, and Rapkin and Dixon have captured Lee's essence while creating a really fine piece of work. Rapkin relates a quote from Tiant putting Lee in perspective. "Lee does what he wants to do and says what he wants to say," says Tiant. "If you don't like it. That' s your problem."

Booth bomb

This past week, WEEI's "Big Show" crew replayed a game-ending call by Red Sox play-by-play announcer Joe Castiglione. The longtime voice of the Red Sox was audibly despondent as the Red Sox lost the ball game.

Host Glenn Ordway and his panelists made light of Castiglione's lackluster call, but their joking masks a very real problem in the Red Sox broadcast booth.

I understand that Trupiano and Castiglione essentially work for the Red Sox and want the team to win. Their audience is predominantly Red Sox fans, and many Red Sox fans like to listen to announcers who root for the home team.

Moreover, Red Sox games are a cash cow and WEEI and Entercom are milking this cow for all it is worth. There is no chance that WEEI would ever critique either announcer. Why would they? WEEI bases everything on revenue.

All of this does not excuse the performances of Castiglione and Trupiano, performances that seem to have worsened in recent seasons. They regularly break the most basic rules of play-by-play. They seldom give the score of a game and too frequently get caught up in the moment, rather than describing the moment.

Castiglione consistently provides monotone and melancholy calls for any positive action by a Red Sox opponent. I am wondering when he might just break down and cry.

Of course, when a Red Sox player hits a ball into the air, Castiglione' s voice rivals that of Andrea Bocelli. Castiglione is the only announcer whose best home run call comes on a foul pop-up behind home plate. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Trupiano is equally disappointing. On a recent David Ortiz game-winning single, Trupiano failed to tell listeners what Ortiz had done. He shrieked, yelled and screamed that Ortiz had done something, but what did he do? Did Ortiz hit a home run, smack a double or make an especially zesty batch of his famous Comcast mango salsa?

There are legions of Red Sox fans who love the style of Castiglione and Trupiano, but as technical announcers, neither man is up to snuff.

Biased announcers are nothing new in Boston. Current Fox Sports Net Celtics analyst Tommy Heinsohn is a boisterous Celtics rooter. Heinsohn is there to add color. This does not excuse his lack of objectivity, but at least Mike Gorman is there to provide balance.

Legendary Celtics announcer Johnny Most was an insufferable homer, and his style was one that I never enjoyed. Most, however, was that way from the beginning.

It seems to me that since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, Castiglione and Trupiano have been sucked into the Red Sox Nation vortex. They feel that they are part of the show, another cardinal sin for announcers.

There are many broadcasters who openly want the home team to win, but do not sacrifice professionalism. Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti are examples. The longtime voices of the Patriots on 104.1 FM WBCN are unabashed Pats' fans, but they give credit to opponents and criticize the Patriots when warranted.

I respect the time that Trupiano and Castiglione have logged in Boston and I don't doubt their work ethic. I just wish they would quit the grammar school level dramatics and get back to announcing the games.

Rising Stars

John Rish, WEEI: Rish has been a bright light on WEEI's Red Sox radio broadcasts. His pregame and postgame work has added an air of professionalism, structure and organization to every broadcast.

Sean Grande, WEEI, FSN: Grande already staked his claim to greatness as WRKO' s Celtics radio play-by-play maestro. Now, he is a much sought-after host. His commentary filling in on FSN's "Sports Tonight" and WEEI's midday show has been lucid and free of the typical pro-Boston hyperbole.

Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, ESPN Radio Boston: Separately, Greenberg is an average at best SportsCenter anchor and Golic is an OK ESPN football analyst, but together, they shine on morning radio and are a worthy alternative to WEEI's predictable morning drivel.

Falling Stars

Larry Johnson, Craig Mustard, John Meterparel, WEEI: Last Wednesday, the trio carried on the vacationing Gerry C allahan's tradition of hateful humor on WEEI 's morning show. Mustard, Johnson and Meterparel mocked a pig's head found at a Lewiston, ME Muslim mosque, the peaceful hunger strike of Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed in Iraq and anorexia. Yes sir, religious hate crimes, war casualties and diseases. Now, that's comedy.

Steve Buckley, Boston Herald: Buckley continued his personal agenda against Manny Ramirez by trashing the outfielder for missing this week's All-Star Game. So, let's see. Manny is bad if he doesn't make the Red Sox a priority. Now, Manny is bad because he is making the Red Sox a priority. Buckley won't be happy until Manny is driving in 140 runs a year for the Dodgers. Can you say Nomar?

Glenn Ordway, Michael Holley, WEEI: Both of these guys are in the upper echelon of talents in Boston media, but I am really growing tired of their self-absorbed repartee in the midday to afternoon drive crossover, specifically, the comparison of each other's automobile commercials. I hope you both got free cars and I hope you both stop talking about it.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Boston Sports Review, New England Ringside Magazine, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and BostonSportz.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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