Ex-Tigers broadcaster Rod Allen: 'Nothing should end like this for anybody'

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tigers television broadcasters Mario Impemba, left, and Rod Allen were let go following a September altercation in Chicago.

Four months after he was fired by Fox Sports Detroit, in tandem with play-by-play man Mario Impemba, Tigers analyst Rod Allen said Sunday that a September fracas in Chicago was “embarrassing” and all part of a “bad day” that ended the broadcast team’s 16-year run in Detroit.

Allen spoke for the first time, publicly, since the incident during an interview with Carol Cain on the “Michigan Matters” program aired on Channel 62.

“I didn’t have a good day, he (Impemba) didn’t have a good day, as well,” Allen said during the taped interview, which took place in Phoenix, near Allen’s home.

The skirmish that ended their Tigers TV careers occurred Sept. 4 immediately after a game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The blow-up was a climactic moment in a relationship that, while regularly strained, had endured for more than 2,000 games.

Impemba and Allen had traded heated words before the game, although that flap, which included a spat over a chair, has been dismissed by all parties as any basis for their final, explosive moments. But a cold war, which had been displayed at times during their long and difficult years, became more obvious during an uncomfortable 43-second lull late in the game when neither man spoke out of mutual ire.

Allen was waiting outside the booth as Impemba wrapped up the immediate game details, a source familiar with the event told The Detroit News in September. The two soon encountered each other in a narrow walkway and had a fiery, profane exchange, according to the source, that devolved into “pushing and shoving,” as Allen confirmed Sunday.

Allen’s issue Sunday has been his argument throughout — that initial reports of a “choke-hold” on Impemba were false.

“There was no choking, no fighting, no chasing down the hallway,” Allen said.

While early news stories in some cases referenced a “choke-hold,” which Impemba’s side insists is semantics and not far from the truth, subsequent stories have avoided any implication that Allen tried to choke Impemba.

The spat was, however, witnessed by three freelance TV staffers who had worked the Tigers broadcast, according to the source. And it was sufficiently physical to have persuaded FSD to first suspend, and later fire, both broadcasters.

FSD general manager Greg Hammaren never has spoken publicly about the incident nor responded to questions about the Impemba-Allen dust-up. But according to a person familiar with Hammaren’s follow-up conversations, he told the broadcasters the physical nature of this event “crossed the line.” The source requested anonymity because of potential litigation.

So severe was their clash that FSD executives ordered the two to take separate flights, from separate Chicago airports, when they were sent home the following day.

Impemba is known to have considered filing a police report, but declined because of concerns about “brand” damage to FSD and to the Tigers.

The Tigers did not interfere with Hammaren’s decision to cancel Impemba and Allen’s run in the team’s TV booth.

Impemba, 55, is believed to have been earning in the vicinity of $500,000, while Allen’s estimated salary was $375,000, according to a source who likewise requested anonymity because of sensitivity to the parties.

“Nothing should end like this for anybody,” Allen, 59, said Sunday. “It was embarrassing.”

Impemba has maintained silence, at least publicly, about the incident. He tweeted his thanks to his supporters and colleagues while defending his reputation in December, as did Allen.

Impemba is a Detroit native and Michigan State University graduate who previously worked as radio play-by-play voice for the Anaheim Angels. There has been no indication where, or when, he might continue with a broadcast career he had hoped would continue for years with the Tigers.

Allen appeared Sunday to accept that he, perhaps like Impemba, is for now excluded from any club’s big-league broadcast booth.

“I’m looking to stay in broadcasting,” said Allen, who played briefly for the Tigers during their 1984 championship season. “I may have to sit on the sidelines for a while when you have this kind of baggage.

“But once this is over, and people understand this was a bad moment, hopefully I can get back into the broadcast end.”'

The Tigers and FSD continue their search for a new play-by-play TV voice, with expectations of an announcement before TigerFest on Jan. 26. Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris are expected to work as primary Tigers telecast analysts.


Twitter: @Lynn_Henning