NESN’s Dennis Eckersley retires after 50 years of professional baseball.


Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Dennis Eckersley and the entire NESN crew walked out of the press box before Wednesday’s game to pose for a group photo.

Good thing the baseball gods signed a truce with Mother Nature on Wednesday.

Dennis Eckersley’s color commentary on NESN’s broadcasts was one of the few rays of sunshine during this lost Red Sox season.

It wouldn’t have been good if a rainout had denied one last game at Fenway before his retirement. It wouldn’t have been good if Red Sox fans had been denied one last chance to hear Eckersley’s sharp, candid and often hilarious commentary, deployed through his unique jargon.

Eckersley announced in August that this, his 20th season as part of the NESN broadcast team after a Hall of Fame 24-year playing career, would be his last. The news surprised Red Sox fans, who were saddened by the death of popular color analyst Jerry Remy from cancer in late October, but brought comfort to believe that “Eck” would be part of the broadcasts for the next few seasons.

“It’s nice to know that you are who you are, and you were who you were, and people appreciate you for that,” Eckersley said in a conversation outside the Fenway press box a few hours before Wednesday’s game. “This is my place. This is the constant. It’s where my heart is. But I’ve been in baseball for 50 years. Fifty years! For 50 years it’s always been about the next game, the next season. There’s no time to to be a whole person.”

Now that the Red Sox season is complete, there will be no more talk. In a few days, Eckersley and his wife, Jennifer, will be moving to the Bay Area in his native California so they can be closer to Eckersley’s daughter, Mandee, and her children. It’s time to be Grandpa Eck.

“It’s time to be that whole person,” he said, “and give myself completely to those who care about me. When you’re younger, you’re so focused on the moment, what’s going on with you, that you may not know any better. Now I know. I know what is important.”

One of Eckersley’s most appealing qualities is his willingness to show vulnerability. He’s never been afraid of a poignant moment, whether telling a sick Remy he loved him after giving his ceremonial first pitch exactly one year ago on Wednesday, or being so obviously touched by the heartfelt greeting from Globe colleague Alex. Speier during Monday’s broadcast.

Saying goodbye on Wednesday wasn’t easy, not that he would ever have pretended to. Eckersley made the familiar ride from Hingham, arriving in Fenway Park at about 12:30 p.m. While on his way to the stadium, he found himself reminiscing about his commute during his early years as a Red Sox player and, in a way, how far he’s come.

“My first year here I lived downtown and I was late all the time,” he recalls. “It drove Zim [former manager Don Zimmer]. My second year, in ’79, I lived in Wayland, and I remember getting off at Cambridge Allston and trying to get to Storrow. I would get so mad, and I was still always late, and Zim would be furious if I came in during batting practice or something. That was the real Boston experience, getting mad in traffic, right? I was just a kid, 24 years old, but I thought about that a lot today when I was driving. I was just trying to take it all in.

‘And,’ he added with a laugh, ‘it was easy. I didn’t have to scold anyone.”

Eckersley said memories of his first retirement from the Red Sox, as a player after the 1998 season, came to the forefront of his mind on Wednesday morning. “It was a little different, but the emotions were similar,” he said. “I remember holding it together pretty well, but then I was in a car with Mandee and my ex-wife, and this cassette came in and just started blasting this song. It was Sarah McLachlan. Sarah McLachlan! Me don’t even remember what song it was but they were all sad crushed me.”

Eckersley’s arrival at the ballpark Wednesday was greeted by an NESN camera, which stayed a few feet in front of him as he made his way to the booth, a celebration with his colleagues that will take place shortly. There was cake, and gifts, and a photo shoot. Red Sox owner John W. Henry and his wife, Linda, were among the many who stopped by to share their appreciation.

Tears had already been shed before Eckersley got to Fenway, and there would be more, something he acknowledged from play-by-play voice Dave O’Brien in the early innings of the broadcast, who wavered beautifully between game analysis, discussion of the state of the Sox, and memories of their years together in the booth with Remy.

“I’ve been through the mill today,” Eckersley said.

“You’ve been a mess,” O’Brien said with a straight face.

“I’ve been a mess,” Eckersley agreed.

His emotions became visible to all for the bottom of the fifth inning. As the video board showed highlights of his playing and broadcasting career, set to The Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit,” Red Sox and Rays personnel stepped out of the dugouts, looked up at the broadcast booth, applauded and raised their caps.

Eckersley began to cry. After a few seconds he said, “Unreal. This is your life.” A few seconds later he continued. “I’ve never been touched in my life. You never realize how blessed you are.”

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