July 27, 2006
John Molori's Media Blitz
BY: John Molori
- Kent's call
Looking back with NESN’s first Red Sox voice; Domestic violence talk; Sales woes at WBZ; Marvelous Marvin returns
Before the New England Sports Network (NESN) became the cash cow and ratings record-setter that it is today, it was a fledgling cable network trying to carve its niche in the tough Boston media market.
Sportscaster Kent Derdivanis was part of this newfangled network. In 1984, NESN's inaugural year of operation, he became the first-ever cable television voice of the Boston Red Sox, working games alongside former Red Sox infielder and current Jimmy Fund chairman Mike Andrews.
"I had interviewed with WITS radio in 1979-80 to do Red Sox games on radio," says the 51 year-old Derdivanis, who currently lives and works in Arizona. "I didn't get that job, but I must have made an impression on someone."
After losing out on the Red Sox radio gig, Derdivanis became the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981 on WVTV. When the NESN opportunity came, he jumped at the chance to become part of New England baseball lore. In 1984, he was hired by the Red Sox, NESN president and general manager Peter Affee and executive producer Bob Whitelaw.
"Affee thought my name was too ethnic, so he changed the spelling to Der Divanis. I was surprised because Boston is such an ethnic region. I remember sitting in the old broadcast booth and dodging foul balls. We didn't have many viewers, but we sure had fun."
According to current NESN public relations chief Gary Roy, NESN had a "small handful of subscribers, practically zero" when the 1984 Spring Training baseball season began. By the end of the calendar year, the network had 65,000 subscribers. Today, NESN is viewed in 4 million households.
Says Derdivanis, "There was a political battle back then to get cable companies to carry NESN. It was viewed as a threat to Channel 38's (WSBK) free broadcasts. People believed that viewers would not pay for something they were getting free all those years.
"Bob Whitelaw was our producer. He made sure that our production was very good, definitely on a par with Channel 38. They expected to lose a couple hundred thousand on the endeavor. It ended up being more like a few million dollars."
WSBK partnered with the Red Sox in starting NESN from a production standpoint. Derdivanis fondly remembers his season at Fenway. He states, "It was Roger Clemens' first year with the team. We had Oil Can Boyd and Dwight Evans.
"I pretty much had an idea going in that baseball is a religion in New England. The fans are vocal, but also knowledgeable. They didn't have the consistent sellouts that the Red Sox have now, but I will always treasure that cramped clubhouse.
“Fenway was the best view in baseball for calling a game. (Local media columnists) Jim Baker and Jack Craig wrote some nice things about us and even Sports Illustrated mentioned NESN."
Along with Andrews, Derdivanis says he shared the 1984 booth with periodic guest analysts Dick Radatz, Rico Petrocelli and Bill Monboquette.
Alas, 1984 would be Derdivanis's first and last season on NESN. He explains, "After the 1984 season, the Red Sox essentially sat (WSBK announcers) Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery down and said, 'Do you want to do these NESN games or not?'
“They could save money by not sending a separate crew on the road. Martin was a jewel of a guy. He called me and told me that he was sorry for what happened."
Derdivanis, a Salinas, CA native, hoped to get another job in the Boston market. When nothing transpired, he signed on to do play-by-play for UCLA basketball and University of Arizona football and basketball.
In 1990, he almost returned to Boston, auditioning for the Red Sox radio play-by-play job that eventually went to Bob Starr. That same year, Derdivanis became the voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates at KDKA.
Today, he hosts talk shows on KTAR in Phoenix, is the radio voice of the Arena Football League Arizona Rattlers and the preseason voice of the Arizona Cardinals.
He has also called the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Senior Bowl, NCAA hoops, College World Series, NBA All-Star Game and WNBA. Derdivanis recently married second wife Joette and has two sons from his first marriage, Matt, 21 and Corey, 19.
He relates, "In this industry, judging talent is totally subjective. I was disappointed to leave Boston, but I feel fortunate to have spent a year there."
Twenty-two years have passed since Derdivanis blazed a trail for the likes of Jerry Remy, Sean McDonough, Bob Kurtz and Don Orsillo, but the classy broadcaster has not forgotten his experience. "It was so much more personal back then. We didn't have extensive pregame or postgame shows. It was basically Mike Andrews, the viewers and I.
"The Red Sox players and coaches were so respectful. I hold that organization in such high esteem. If you're not from Boston, you are an outsider, but the people there treated me like I had been around for years. That year flew by and was one of the best experiences I've had in broadcasting."
Am I the only person who bristles at sports gabbers ignorantly venturing into the area of domestic violence? WEEI’s Gerry Callahan called Phillies’ pitcher Brett Myers “garbage” among other things after he was arrested for spousal abuse last month in Boston.
This week, Bob Lobel was panned for tossing softball questions at Ted Johnson after Johnson’s domestic dispute. Who is Callahan to pass judgment on a private family issue, and what was Lobel supposed to do, pistol-whip Johnson?
Domestic violence is as heinous a crime as there is. Given this fact, the uninformed and overly emotional opinions of talk show hosts and commentators only add to the confusion. It seems that, all too often, these incidents merely give hosts an opportunity to get on their soapboxes with a holier-than-thou attitude. Who needs it?
I am all for sports talkers venturing into other areas as long as they are intelligent enough to do so. WEEI’s Steve DeOssie, who discussed the Johnson issue alongside Steve Buckley, fits that bill.
It was Johnson’s decision to air his dirty laundry, but there is still something very disturbing about on-air personalities chiming with little more than pure opinion. Can’t some things be left to the family in question and the proper legal protocol? Do we have to know everything? Just asking.
According to a current WBZ Radio sales executive, all is not well in News Radio AM 1030’s sports sales department. In a recent email, the sales rep stated, “We had a layoff yesterday (July 12, 2006), if you want to call it that. Our Local Sales Manager, Mike Marcello, was fired.
“Things have been going bad here for two years as far as sales, and coupled with his high salary, he made for an easy mark. Nobody's shocked. Mike had a habit of bringing good people in under the allure of making big money, and then making it dreadfully impossible for them to do so.”
The sales rep said that Marcello was not exactly a consensus builder. “ He helped create a divide between the sports sales staff who sell nothing but Bruins radio, and Patriots Rock Radio Network.”
The so-called divide led to some in-house bickering. Says the sales executive, “S o often the 'BZ sales staff bumps heads with the sports sales staff, and tensions rise occasionally on Soldiers Field Rd. Mike did not do anything to help with that cause.
“He also was a proponent (up until about two-three months ago) of ‘BZ radio making a play for the Red Sox. Ironic, since he wants to see us dump the Bruins. This decision came from NY. They've already replaced (Marcello), so obviously this layoff was in the works.”
The thoughts of this current sales executive were substantiated by two other sources at WBZ.
Hagler comes home
AM 1510’s “Mouthpiece Boxing” show will broadcast live this Saturday from 3-5:00 p.m. at the Brockton Fairgrounds for the Marvin Hagler Boxing tourney. Anthony Pepe and “Irish" Pat Kelley of Fightnews.com will host.
Hagler, the former undisputed middleweight champ, returns to home to Brockton for this amateur boxing event as part of the city's 125th Anniversary. The event will open at 5:00 p.m. and include a Rocky Marciano Exhibit and never before seen footage of Hagler vs. Willie Monroe in an early career bout.
Fans will be able to meet Hagler, trainers Goody and Pat Petronelli, Emanuel Steward, Lou Duva, Kevin McBride, Tony DeMarco, Joe DeNucci, Vinny Paz and more.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Marvelous Marvin Hagler Scholarship Fund at Massasoit Community College and to Brockton High School Athletics Save Our Sports. For more details on Saturday’s top amateur boxing card, check out BashForCashllc.com.
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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