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Despite battling illness and personal anguish, Jerry Remy is back at top of his game

02.13.17 at 4:50 pm ET
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At various times last year, it seemed as if NESN was phasing out Jerry Remy. At one point, after being sidelined for three consecutive road trips, the longtime color analyst even took it upon himself to assure fans he was feeling fine. He said the new schedule, not his health, was the reason for his prolonged absence from the booth.

It’s been a trying stretch for Remy, who NESN announced Monday is being treated for a relapse of lung cancer. The 64-year-old broadcaster was first diagnosed in 2008, leading to a more than three-month sabbatical the following year due to a bout with depression. He relapsed in the offseason prior to the 2013 campaign, but was able to work on Opening Day. Remy stayed on the job until mid-August, when his son, Jared, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, with whom he had a young child. The news forced Remy off TV for the remainder of the championship run.

While his son’s murder trial played out in the early portions of the 2014 season, Remy was on the air almost daily. When Jared pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges May 27, 2014, he returned to the broadcast booth the next night. Though Remy was able to maintain his amiable on-air persona during that time, it made for some uncomfortable imagery. Play-by-play man Don Orsillo navigated through the delicate situation with aplomb.

At that point, after being on the job for 27 years, there were questions about how much longer Remy would continue to work. Those uncertainties may have been a reason why NESN brought in Steve Lyons to do studio shows in 2014. The telegenic former Red Sox outfielder was once Fox’s No. 2 baseball analyst. A local studio job seemed beneath him, unless it came with the promise of also getting into the broadcast booth.

Lyons has worked his way onto game broadcasts, taking part in a three-man color rotation alongside Remy and Dennis Eckersley. After Orsillo was ousted in favor of ex-radio voice Dave O’Brien at the end of 2015, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said he wanted to “re-energize the broadcast.” Apparently, lessening Remy’s workload was a part of that process.

After an offseason of change, it wasn’t the broadcast that seemed re-energized –– O’Brien struggled to adapt to a lighter, more conversational format –– but rather Remy. He appeared more focused than in recent years, frequently pointing out intricate details about the game that probably eluded most folks watching at home. When Remy is at his best, he combines a keen level of insight with his endearing RemDawg persona. That happened last year, and suits at NESN seemed to notice. Earlier this year, the network announced it had re-signed Remy to a multi-year contract. He’ll call 115 games in 2017.

Remy, who’s currently undergoing treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, plans to work his full schedule this season. That’s good news for viewers, who didn’t appear to enjoy Lyons last year. On a couple of occasions, Lyons was even trending on Twitter during games, because so many people were complaining about him.

With the sharp-tongued Eckersley reportedly unwilling to sign on for a full-season slate, Remy remains the Red Sox’s best color analyst option. As he enters his 30th season in the booth, his value to NESN has never been higher.

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