It's late October and Boston has full-on baseball fever. You might think of WGBH first as producers of news, science, history, arts and culture, and education programs, but we also have a long history of covering sports, beginning with the days of legendary commentator Bud Collins covering tennis for WGBH Sports in the 60s. And this year, we're covering all of the action out of Fenway as the Red Sox challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers for the World Series title. Before the Sox packed up for LA, WGBH News' Craig LeMoult was on the ground and in the press box bringing all of the action to listeners on 89.7 WGBH. We sat down with LeMoult to learn more...
Describe the legacy that Fenway and the Sox have in this town.
LeMoult: I had a conversation during the second game of the World Series with a Sox fan who said he felt like the Red Sox are woven into the fabric of the city. He’d been at the first home game after the 2013 marathon bombing, where David “Big Papi” Ortiz famously declared whose city this was, and he said it was one of the most emotional moments of his life. When I was in an Uber to Fenway this week, the driver, who was not a baseball fan, asked me why for years he’s been driving people to Fenway who just wanted to see the place. The driver’s sport was soccer, and he said those fans love teams, but not necessarily the places where their teams play. I thought it was an interesting point, that there’s something different about Fenway Park. True, it’s the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball (1912). But it’s more than that. For baseball fans—and not just those from Boston—it’s something of a secular mecca.
What about WGBH's legacy?
LeMoult: Like the Red Sox, WGBH has a long history of being important to Bostonians. I interviewed a lot of Sox fans during the first two games of the World Series, and a lot of them were either big public radio listeners or responded, “Oh, Channel 2!” I’ve had this experience often throughout the years. People are excited to speak with a WGBH reporter because they know the station and admire the mission of public media.
How does your role as a public media reporter impact the way you cover sports?
LeMoult: My goal in reporting a sports story for WGBH is to report it in a way that keeps listeners engaged, even if they have no interest whatsoever in the sport. At the same time, it should resonate with even the biggest Sox fans. Nobody tunes in to WGBH to hear a play-by-play. But sports play an important role in our culture, and there’s a lot more to cover than just great plays and statistics. During this year's World Series, I tried to share some of the voices of fans as they experienced the games and to give listeners a little sense of what it was like to be there. Throughout the season, I look for feature stories about the team, the culture, and the people that make up the Red Sox. Each year, I cover the Red Sox home opener as the cultural event and long-awaited sign of spring that it is. After the never-ending snowstorms of 2015, I walked the field with the head groundskeeper tasked with getting the grass ready, and learned his story of what brought him to this unique job. I’ve done stories about the retirement of Pedro Martinez’s number at Fenway and about him pitching in a charity vintage baseball game. I covered the debate over whether to rename Yawkey Way because of the troubled racial history of the team’s former owner, Tom Yawkey. And following that decision, I did a story about an effort to add black and Latino players to the statues outside the park.
How do you reconcile getting the story with your own personal fandom?
LeMoult: As a reporter, I have to put any personal feelings I have aside, and cover the stories in an impartial way. Having said that, it is fun to get access that most people don’t have. I’d never been to a World Series Game until this year.
What's your favorite reporting moment from the series so far?
LeMoult: The “media day” was a rare chance to talk with a lot of players on both teams. It felt a little like being at a trade show, where you go from booth to booth learning about whatever people are offering. But at this event, each table had a different player at it, all of whom were about to play in the World Series. I never collected baseball cards as a kid, but collecting interviews from as many players as I could in the allotted time seemed like the next level of that.
What’s next—in this series, and for sports coverage here at WGBH?
LeMoult: I’ll be watching the three Los Angeles games on TV (not headed out to LA, unfortunately), and if the Sox close out the series there, I’ll be out in the streets of Boston capturing the sounds of celebration for our radio listeners. And if the series goes to a game 6 or 7, it comes back to Boston—and I’ll be there to cover it.
Leo Haskell, selling sausages on Lansdowne St., says he wants the #RedSox to close out the #WorldSeries in LA this weekend, even if a game 6 & 7 back in Boston would mean more business. Too much risk of a #Dodgers comeback. “We don’t want to take that chance at all.” @wgbhnews pic.twitter.com/IYaScIBkoL— Craig LeMoult (@clemoult) October 24, 2018
For more of LeMoult's past reporting on the Red Sox, see below:
PawSox Departure Met With Dismay In Pawtucket
Red Sox Welcome Alex Cora As New Manager
The Red Sox' Season, And David Ortiz's Remarkable Career, Come To An End
Houston Astros End Red Sox Season In Game 4 Of Division Series
Red Sox Management Supports Chewing Tobacco Ban At Fenway
Bobby Doerr Remembered As Red Sox 'Silent Captain'
Red Sox Have Their Eyes On The Postseason With Wild Card Lead