They have been a baseball broadcast team for 16 years, but now Mario Impemba and Rod Allen, as well as Fox Sports Detroit, are dealing with the aftermath of a reported physical fracas following Tuesday night’s Tigers-White Sox game in Chicago.
The Tigers television partners were suspended Wednesday and replaced for at least one night by Matt Shepard and Kirk Gibson.
According to a story first reported by The Athletic, Impemba and Allen had to be separated after they had an immediate postgame flare-up. The nature of their tussle was not known, although it is understood this has not been the first instance of tension between the pair.The relationship some years ago had become noticeably icy on-air during periods of silence when one or the other waited out the other to make a remark and fill time that is a baseball broadcast’s constant challenge.
But the two men in recent seasons had maintained, at least in the booth, a seemingly healthier alliance, even as new faces and voices — Gibson, Jack Morris, and Craig Monroe — either joined Impemba in the booth or alternated in roles on the studio set.
The two men returned to Detroit on Wednesday, separately, according to reports, as Shepard and Gibson were hustled to Chicago for the series finale.
FSD spokesperson Courtney Welch issued a statement, saying, "We're addressing an internal matter and will not have any further comment at this time." Welch did not respond when asked when Impemba or Allen would return to the air.
Impemba has been FSD’s primary game-by-play voice since 2002, with Allen joining him in 2003. Impemba is a Detroit native, Sterling Heights resident, and Michigan State University graduate who came to the Tigers after working as a radio play-by-play voice for the Los Angeles Angels.
Allen played for the Tigers briefly in 1984 and had been an analyst on Arizona Diamondbacks broadcasts before shifting to the Tigers and to FSD. He continues to live during the offseason with his wife, Adrian, in suburban Phoenix.
None of the principals returned messages Thursday, including Greg Hammaren, FSD’s senior vice president and station manager.
How the issue of returning Impemba and Allen to the booth is resolved, comfortably for them and for FSD’s audience, was a key question Thursday.
The Tigers have three weeks remaining in their regular schedule and, while Gibson was slated to be Impemba’s partner during the next two series, it was unclear Thursday if Impemba, or Allen, would work together again this year — or in the future.
Two years ago, the Tigers experimented with having Dan Dickerson, the radio play-by-play man, switch positions with Impemba during a handful of regular-season games.
The tradeoff appeared to go smoothly for all parties. Whether that could potentially be at least an initial remedy as an unsettling public incident plays out was not clear Thursday.