Top of Mind: Dennis Eckersley, Extended Version
Boston staff writer Jason Schwartz: What’s it been like filling in for Jerry Remy this season?
Dennis Eckersley: Early on, it was like, “Whoa!” It was more difficult than I thought, the thought of replacing somebody like Jerry. He’s an icon. The following that he has…. I know as a kid, if I was listening to the guys I listened to when I was little and then somebody would come in, I’d say, “Get him out of here!” Right? You just get so used to something. And he’s one of the best in the business, so it was hard. You can’t think about it, because you wouldn’t even want to do it.
JS: You haven’t done actual in-game announcements in a few years, right?
DE: Not in a long time.
JS: Was there a readjustment period?
DE: Yeah, sure. But it takes a long time to get good at that—you know, when to talk, the timing and the chemistry with the guy you’re with. It just takes time. …I think I got better—personally, because I don’t know, it’s harder if you teach yourself—I got better when I felt more comfortable. It took about four or five shots, and then I think it takes a couple of years.
JS: The thing everyone mentions is your unique vocabulary. Can you run through some of your sayings for me?
DE: Peter Gammons did a thing on it how I talk—it’s just sort of a collection of all of the stuff I heard over the years that kind of stayed, all this time. It circulates around. It’s not like I made it up. But you know, whether it’s the “cheese” or the “hair,” everybody has a different name for everything. Home runs, remember they were dingers, or whatever? I call it “bridge,” “go bridge.”
JS: Where does that come from?
DE: You know, I don’t know. It just happens. The next thing you know, you repeat it and you don’t even know where you got it. That happens with a lot of things. I got most of my stuff from a guy named Pat Dobson, who recently passed away. Pat played for a long time. I played with him in Cleveland right before I came here, and so I got a lot of his stuff.
JS: Your Wikipedia page credits you as one of the few announcers willing to call a home run a “johnson” on the air.
DE: Well, “johnsons” can be anything. I don’t want to be associated with that, but it slips out sometimes. …That’s how all this stuff happens. You have to be free enough to do it. And it can’t be staged, because it comes from the way I talk.
JS: You can tell when you’re watching an announcer who’s totally preformulated the call in his head…
DE: It’s like ESPN, those guys who have their shticks.
JS: I was thinking of the Yankees guys with “Burn, baby, burn.”
DE: Yeah, yeah—”Ready, get set, let’s do it.”
JS: The term you do get credit for inventing is “walk-off.”
DE: And I don’t even want credit for that, because that gets associated with me literally.