Former Tigers TV broadcaster Mario Impemba to join Red Sox radio team

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Mario Impemba, who was fired as Detroit Tigers TV play-by-play broadcaster, has landed a new job with the Boston Red Sox radio team.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Mario Impemba found himself a free agent.

His job search didn't last long.

Impemba is set to join the Boston Red Sox radio team, with an official announcement expected Thursday, five months after he was involved in a physical altercation with long-time partner Rod Allen, and four months after he was told his time calling Tigers games was done.

Impemba will be part of a rotating broadcasting team, with Joe Castiglione, on the job since 1983, serving as the lead play-by-play man. Impemba and Will Flemming, a Red Sox minor-league broadcaster, will serve as alternate broadcasters. Rob Bradford of flagship station WEEI, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni and baseball writer Sean McAdam will work as analysts.

The Boston Globe first reported the news late Tuesday night.

Impemba declined public comment when reached by The News on Wednesday morning, and hasn't issued any public statements since a farewell tweet to Tigers fans in December.

That was Impemba's last post on social media.

Impemba popped up on the Red Sox radar back in December, when Tim Neverett left the job, and later joined the Los Angeles Dodgers broadcast team.

At the winter meetings in Las Vegas in mid-December, Impemba's agent first made contact with Dave Dombrowski, the president of the Red Sox and the former top executive of the Tigers.

WEEI quickly reached out to Impemba after he submitted his broadcast tape.

Impemba had a leg up on some other contenders, for two reasons. One is obvious: The long connection to Dombrowski, who wrote the foreword for Impemba's book, "If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from The Detroit Tigers' Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box." Dombrowski recommended Impemba to WEEI.

Impemba also has a friendship with Castiglione, who worked with the late Bob Starr, Impemba's first partner on Angels broadcasts when Impemba broke into the majors in 1995.

In his new role, Impemba is expected to call between 50 and 60 games this season, including a handful of games in spring training. One of his first games is expected to be between the Red Sox and Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on March 14. In what could be an awkward situation, Fox Sports Detroit is scheduled to broadcast that game, as well.

After spending seven seasons with the Angels, Impemba, 55, a Metro Detroit native and Michigan State alum, was hired as the Tigers' lead TV play-by-play man. He spent that first season, 2002, working alongside Kirk Gibson, before Gibson left after the season to join Alan Trammell's field staff with the Tigers.

In 2003, he was joined in the booth by Rod Allen, a bit player on the 1984 Tigers, and the duo embarked on a 17-year run that made them the second-longest-running Tigers television duo, behind only George Kell and Al Kaline (1976-96). But no Tigers TV duo has called anywhere close to the more than 2,000 games Impemba and Allen worked together.

While Impemba and Allen made for an interesting broadcast dynamic, and enjoyed legions of fans and good ratings especially during the Tigers' heyday of 2006-14, it was no secret they weren't the best of friends outside the booth. And after a Tigers-White Sox game in Chicago on Sept. 4, the tension boiled over and turned physical. Media accounts of what exactly happened have been disputed by both parties.

Neither of them would ever appear on a Tigers broadcast again.

Impemba has chosen not to address the incident directly.

Allen did a television interview in January, saying, "I didn't have a good day, he (Impemba) didn't have a good day, as well."

On Sept. 4. Fox Sports Detroit execs quickly initiated crisis mode, and ordered both Impemba and Allen back to Detroit, immediately, albeit on separate planes.

Matt Shepard and Kirk Gibson were called in as late replacements for the season finale, and they ended up calling much of the remainder of the season together.

Last month, FSD and the Tigers announced Shepard as the new lead play-by-play man, with Gibson and Jack Morris as analysts, and Dan Petry and Craig Monroe as studio analysts.

Allen has not landed another job, but wants to get back into broadcasting, as well.

"I may have to sit on the sidelines for a while when you have this kind of baggage," Allen said in the January TV interview. "But once this is over, and people understand this was a bad moment, hopefully I can get back into the broadcast end."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984