Dale Duff, director of sports programming at WZON-AM, said Boston Red Sox play-by-play man Joe Castiglione has told him “the further you get away from Boston, the more positive the fans are.”
But Duff speculated that when Castiglione and broadcast partner Dave O’Brien return to the Bangor Civic Center for the ninth annual WZON Hot Stove Night on Tuesday, Jan. 24, that positivity “will be tested. Even up here.”
“Everybody is going to want to know more about September,” said Duff, referring to the Red Sox’s monumental 7-20 collapse which kept them out of the American League playoffs and cost manager Terry Francona his job.
“Last year, everybody wanted to talk about [new acquisitions] Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford; where [Francona] was going to bat them [in the lineup] and who was going to hit leadoff,” said Duff. “But I think people are going to want to talk more about last season especially since the Red Sox haven’t made a big-name off-season move. [New manager] Bobby Valentine will be a topic, too. “
Castiglione has attended all of the Hot Stove Nights and O’Brien will be attending his third in a row.
“Dave’s going to be doing a Notre Dame basketball game for ESPN the previous night and will arrive here during the day on Tuesday,” said Duff.
He said the Hot Stove Night is just as popular as ever and he expects all 550 tickets to be taken.
The 550 tickets are free but the only way to get them is to win them through daily contests on WZON or receive them from sponsors or at sponsor locations.
The tickets are a cherished item, Duff said.
He said even though the Hot Stove Night is always held on a cold January evening, fans who have to come to the station to pick up their tickets almost always attend the event.
“Only about 1 percent don’t show up. It’s amazing,” said Duff.
With the10th anniversary a year away, he recalled the event in the 1980s that presented him with the idea that led to the Hot Stove Night.
“[Former Bangor Daily News outdoor columnist and sports editor] Bud Leavitt brought Ted Williams up to the [Bangor] Civic Center and they had a semicircle of people around them. It was a fairly small audience and I was covering it for the TV,” said Duff, who was the sports director at WLBZ-TV Channel 2 in Bangor at the time.
“It was such a great night,” said Duff.
The doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show will start at 7.
The reason the national championship football game between Alabama and Louisiana State University wasn’t carried on local radio stations was because it was an ESPN broadcast, according to Duff.
“This was the first year ESPN took it over on the radio side and we’re not totally affiliated with ESPN any more,” explained Duff. “We used to get it from Westwood One. But you have to carry X number of [previous] games to qualify and we didn’t carry ESPN games.”
Jon Shields, Bangor operations director for Blueberry Communications, said his stations aren’t affiliated with ESPN radio.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated with the correct day of the WZON Hot Stove Night as Tuesday, Jan. 24.