Dennis Eckersley is stepping away from the microphone.
The Hall of Fame hurler and beloved color analyst says he’s retiring from NESN at the end of the season. Eckersley and his wife, Jennifer, will be moving to his native California so he can spend more time with his two grandchildren, both of whom are four years old.
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“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I really have,” Eckersley told the Globe’s Chad Finn. “Not that it matters, but it’s kind of a round number, leaving. I started in pro ball in ‘72, when I was a 17-year-old kid right out of high school. Fifty years ago. And I’ve been with NESN for 20 years, even though it doesn’t feel like that because I didn’t do much my first four or five years. So it’s time.”
Eckersley, 67, pitched for the Red Sox from 1978-84 and then returned to Boston for the 1998 season. He’s worked for NESN since 2003.
While Eckersley started his NESN tenure in the studio, he moved to the booth in subsequent years, and quickly established himself as one of the best color analysts in baseball. His enthusiasm and wit — he’s responsible for a whole dictionary of “Eck-isms” — have made him a fan favorite.
As Jerry Remy’s health worsened, Eckersley became a regular presence in the booth. When Remy could work, the two franchise icons were sometimes paired together as part of an exemplary three-man team.
Currently, Eckersley works 75 games per season. Though he could stay on the call for several more years, he says he’s ready to move onto his next life chapter.
“There are times in your life when you realize you’ve got to get on with it,” said Eckersley. “Having grandkids in the Bay Area and visiting them in the offseason, that pushed me along. I just knew, you need to go and be with the kids. Those formative years, you need to be there.”
It will be sad to see Eckersley sign off for the final time Oct. 5. But he’s leaving for the most important reason.