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Joe Castiglione G’70 Honored as 2024 Ford C. Frick Recipient for Excellence in Baseball Broadcasting
The moment Boston Red Sox fans had dreamed of for 86 years was nearly at hand that fall evening back in 2004. The last time the Red Sox were crowned kings of the baseball world, back in 1918, radio hadn’t yet been invented as a medium, so when Joe Castiglione G’70 uttered his now-famous call, he became the first broadcaster to declare the Red Sox World Series champions on that fateful night, Oct. 27, 2004.
“Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by [Keith] 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?” Castiglione told the audience as Red Sox players mobbed each other in celebration after snapping what was the second-longest World Series drought in baseball history.
The ball from the final out of that World Series is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and on Wednesday, Castiglione received word that, he, too, was heading to Cooperstown as the 2024 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He joins fellow honoree Bob Costas ’74 (2018) as the only Orange alumni to win this award.
“I’m still stunned. It hasn’t sunk in, yet,” Castiglione said. “It’s such a tremendous honor to be recognized. It’s overwhelming to know your name will forever be in that broadcasters section with some of the best to ever do this.”
This was Castiglione’s fourth time being a finalist for the award. On the day the Hall of Fame came calling, Castiglione went to put his cell phone on speaker so his wife, Jan, and son, Joe Jr., could hear the good news. Instead, Castiglione, an admitted technology klutz, hung up on the Hall of Fame.
“That was the longest 60 seconds of my life, waiting for them to call me back,” Castiglione recalled with a laugh. “But eventually they called back.”
Castiglione has been delivering his signature call, “Can you believe it?” as the radio voice of the Red Sox for 41 years, and when, on the second try, the Hall of Fame delivered this news, Castiglione said he was the one who couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Josh Rawitch [the president] said, ‘You always like to say can you believe it, well Joe, you’re going into Cooperstown!’ and that was just my ultimate ‘Can you believe it’ moment,” Castiglione said. “I’ve had so much support from my wife of 52 years, Jan, and my family. I’ve had the support of the Red Sox, and the support of the fans. The fans have to accept you and trust you and Red Sox nation is very knowledgeable and very passionate. One of the reasons they connected with me is I’m passionate about the ballclub. People tell me they can tell if the Sox are winning or losing by the tone of my voice during the game. I’m blessed to have that connection with Red Sox nation.”
Learning From Baseball’s Best
Castiglione first fell in love with baseball on the radio by listening to the iconic Mel Allen broadcast New York Yankees’ games. Later, Castiglione was introduced to Ernie Harwell, the legendary radio voice of the Detroit Tigers.
As he was breaking into sports broadcasting, Castiglione admits he spent a lot of time listening to both Allen and Harwell, picking up pointers on how to inform and entertain an audience, deftly blending stories with statistics to paint a picture of the action on the field.
“Describe what you see as it’s happening, and make sure you call the play in great detail so the fans have a good idea of what’s going on. Baseball is a storytelling game. Use those stories. A story tells a thousand words. This is entertainment. We’re trying to entertain and inform our audience,” Castiglione said on the March 30, 2021, episode of the “’Cuse Conversations” podcast when asked about the greatest lessons he learned from Allen and Harwell.
Castiglione will be honored during the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation as part of Hall of Fame Weekend on July 19-22, 2024, in Cooperstown. He joins Allen (a co-recipient of the first Ford C. Frick Award in 1978) and Harwell (1981) in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, a place reserved for the best broadcasters the game has ever known.
Can’t Script History
In a decorated career full of highlights—Castiglione called four no-hitters and a pair of 20-strikeout gems from Roger Clemens—being the first person to broadcast a Red Sox title still stands out among all the other calls.
“I’d thought about what it would be like to call the last out of a Red Sox world championship for years, and I went back and forth in my mind. Finally, I concluded that I can’t script it. I don’t know how it’s going to end, so I’ll just react to what happens. I’ve known broadcasters that try to script it and they might mess it up. I was just hoping for something definitive. I didn’t want a diving catch where we wondered if he caught it or didn’t catch it. I wanted a definitive play and we got a simple ground ball to the pitcher. That was the best way it could have ever happened,” Castiglione said.
Castiglione earned an undergraduate degree from Colgate University and a master’s degree in television and radio from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He credits Syracuse University and WAER for helping him discover his voice as a play-by-play broadcaster.
When Castiglione was at Syracuse, in the summer of 1969, he made his inaugural trek to Cooperstown, the first of countless visits to the Hall of Fame. Nearly 55 years later, he will return to be honored as one of the best baseball broadcasters to ever call a game.
“It makes you want to pinch yourself to see if this is real. I’ve always known what I wanted to do ever since I found out I wasn’t good enough to be a ballplayer at age 10. I’ve had so many blessings in my life,” Castiglione said.
Besides calling Red Sox games, Castiglione also handled broadcast duties for both the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) and the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2022, the home Fenway Park radio booth was named in Castiglione’s honor.