BANGOR, Maine — Five years ago, it was 40 degrees below zero outside the Bangor Civic Center with the wind chill. Monday night, it was 40 degrees above zero, but the weather outside was still frightful.
In both cases, the weather wasn’t enough to keep almost 600 people away from Bangor all-sports radio station WZON’s Hot Stove Night and a whole lot of Boston Red Sox talk.
For the seventh straight year, longtime Boston Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione was on hand to share insights, anecdotes, and experiences from his 28-year career as Red Sox radio announcer.
Back in 2005, Castiglione’s broadcast partner was Jerry Trupiano. This time around, Dave O’Brien was on hand.
This will be O’Brien’s third season as Castiglione’s broadcast booth partner, but Monday night marked his first trip to Bangor for the annual mid-winter cure for cabin fever.
“I hope it becomes an annual event for me,” said O’Brien. “There aren’t any other events like this with any other team, and this is the only one of its kind that we’re aware of for Red Sox affiliates.”
The 62-year-old Castiglione, who has family in Maine, was glad to be back in Bangor.
“I’m really glad Dave could come up and take part in this because it is a special event I have come to look forward to and the only thing like it that I know of anywhere,” Castiglione said. “You folks are really blessed to have this because it is truly an old-fashioned hot stove event.”
The three-hour event has grown from a two-hour event with hot dogs and soda for about 400 fans to a three-hour “happening” with fare ranging from lobster rolls, clam chowder, hot dogs, buffalo wings, pizza, and even dessert items for the 550 fans in attendance.
The one thing that hasn’t changed? Having two Sox media personalities fielding questions from fans and WZON personalities Dale Duff, Clem Labree, and Jeff Solari.
Questions like the one from Conner of Bangor asking how Marco Scutaro will do batting- and fielding-wise for the Sox.
“Scutaro to me is the most undervalued signing of the offseason the Red Sox have made,” O’Brien said flatly. “You’ve got a guy in Scutaro who’s a .400 on-base percentage guy who can get hits, get on base, and who utilize speed.”
With a speedster like outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and the recently-signed Mike Cameron, Castiglione was quick to point out that Boston is no longer “the lead Sox.”
Another fan wanted to know what to expect from Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.
“I love the unexpected nature of Papelbon and opening up the paper to find out what he said last night,” O’Brien said with a laugh. “He said the other day he didn’t realize John Lackey was a member of the Red Sox until this month.”
“Bard is scary,” said Castiglione. “He has what hitters call ‘filthy’ stuff.
The duo covered a lot in 90 minutes, including:
• The departure of Jason Bay — “Agents are the little devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear,” said O’Brien. “The Mets offered a little more money and he took it, but I don’t think Jason Bay will be nearly as productive in that cavernous ballpark. I think he made the wrong move.”
• The status of David Ortiz as he enters the final year of his current Red Sox contract.
“Reports out of Boston are he’s leaner and stronger, taking things more seriously and is ready to go,” said O’Brien, a Boston native who also grew up in New Hampshire. “Mentally he’s there, and hopefully physically he’s there too.”
• Steroids — “I think we all were stupid during the whole steroid era for not thinking something was wrong with all the home runs and not questioning it,” said Castiglione.
O’Brien, who also calls Major League Baseball, NBA and college basketball games for ESPN, told of being one of 15 ESPN broadcasters to meet with a doctor who was an expert on performance-enhancing drugs and being told that, without question, human growth hormones improved your vision from 20-20 to 20-10.
“We almost all fell out of our chairs,” he said. “That was so stunning to me and it changed my perception of how it affects athletic ability. If you’re seeing the ball like that, it’s superhuman and unnatural. No wonder they were hitting 70 home runs in a season.”
• Mark McGwire — “I don’t think Bud Selig should ever have given Mark McGwire a job, given what he’s admitted to finally and how he did it,” said O’Brien. “It’s not in the best interest of baseball for McGwire to be hitting coach for St. Louis at this time.”
• Clay Buchholz — “I think he’ll be traded to San Diego in the offseason  for Adrian Gonzalez,” O’Brien said. “They love him and they can’t afford to keep Gonzalez, who’s one of the top four hitters in the National League.”
• Daisuke Matsuzaka — “I think Daisuke’s pride has been hurt and he will bounce back strong this year,” said Castiglione. “Don’t be surprised to see 16 wins from him.”
• Josh Beckett — “He’ll have a monster year with Boston, but I don’t think he’ll be back after,” O’Brien said.
• Jason Varitek — O’Brien says he will be the next player to have his number retired at Fenway Park and may eventually become a Red Sox manager. Castiglione says Pedro Martinez should have his number retired at Fenway.
• League salary cap — Castiglione says there will never be one because the union is too strong. O’Brien says it will happen someday, just like revenue sharing and drug testing, which the union resisted.
• Adrian Beltre and Cameron — Both announcers agree they are defensive upgrades who should each hit 20-25 home runs and fill Bay’s void.
• Favorite players — Castiglione: “Mike Lowell, Martinez, Mo Vaughn, Darren Lewis, and Brian Daubach.” O’Brien: Dustin Pedroia.”
• If they were commissioner of baseball — O’Brien: “I’d schedule postseason games to start no later than 7 and schedule regular season doubleheaders.” Casiglione: “I’d have at least one afternoon World Series game and bring back day games in general.”