‘Save Don’ Signs Creator: Orsillo’s Dismissal Was ‘Bad Business’

Sox Lunch's Kevin Phelan isn't happy about longtime Sox broadcaster Don Orsillo getting the boot at NESN. He isn't alone.

NESN might not have foreseen the Hokusai-esque tsunami of fan outrage that the dismissal of Red Sox play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo would unleash in the doldrums of another lost season.

In an odd episode, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy cited two Sox employees who said they were instructed to confiscate any signs expressing support for Orsillo, which was later deleted and clarified, then reported once again by WEEI’s Kirk Minihane. The Dennis & Callahan co-host also reported that NESN reached out Orsillo, asking him to mollify his fans on Twitter with an assurance that it was a mutual parting of ways. Orsillo, according to Minihane’s “multiple sources,” declined.

Kevin Phelan of Sox Lunch, a popular Red Sox daily newsletter/amalgamated social media presence, created the “Save Orsillo” signs spotted by Shaughnessy, with help from artist Brian Cody.

“Truthfully, it was just shocking,” Phelan tells Boston magazine. “I think anybody who watches the games and watches them frequently, you just get comfortable with how the game’s being told, the banter on a slow game, and with that, it’s almost like watching the game with one of your buddies. To find out that somebody who stayed when he had the chance to leave to get called to the national stage was fired for reasons that seemed to be more personal than data-driven is really just bad business.”

“All the data that I had to show that the Sox fans are not happy, the Red Sox have it as well,” Phelan says. “It’s all public data, and the fact that they looked at it and, for intents and purposes, ignored it over something personal is frightening.”

The night of Shaughnessy’s report, the folks at Sox Lunch printed 1,000 “Free Don” signs outside Fenway Park. He says he knows that some signs did make it inside the ballpark, based on ESPN’s broadcast and the Boston Herald‘s front page. Still, something seems off.

“We know people made it [inside Fenway],” Phelan says. “But I also wouldn’t be surprised if there was a conversation or at least some sort of memo that went out that said, ‘Be on the lookout for these signs.’ And clearly, the communication surrounding what to do with the signs wasn’t crystal clear. I’m sure it was a misunderstanding, but it just seems to be like there’s a series of misunderstandings.”

Phelan says the fan outrage isn’t going away anytime soon. As for next year, he expects the Sox to finish high in the standings—and to hear Orsillo, sadly, calling games elsewhere.

“I just think it shows the core heart of Red Sox fans, that they care that deeply about the announcer,” Phelan says.