The relationship between Detroit Tigers announcers Rod Allen and Mario Impemba was never particularly close, but it ended with a bang at the end of last season when the two reportedly got in a physical altercation that caused Fox Sports to remove them from the broadcast with a month left in the season.
Allen has kept mostly quiet about the incident but came forward Sunday in his first interview since his dismissal. Talking with the Detroit Free Press’ Carol Cain on the television program “Michigan Matters,” the former major leaguer downplayed the incident as a “baseball brawl.”
“Have you ever seen a baseball brawl where they open up the fences and both teams come running out and then they all merge in the infield? And there’s just a lot of talking and pushing and shoving? That’s basically what happened to us on Sept. 4,” Allen said. “There was some, not much, pushing but more verbal and somehow, someway it turned into me chasing him down a hallway and choking him from behind and that’s what the media got ahold of and that’s what went national and I think that’s why both of us got fired.”
Allen: “We had a bad day”
When the story initially came out that Allen and Impemba got into an altercation, the story was that Allen attacked Impemba from behind and put him in a chokehold. Furthermore, the incident reportedly started because of a disagreement about a chair — yes, a chair — in the broadcast booth.
Clearly there was something more at play, and Katie Strang of The Athletic had reported that there had been “simmering tension” between the two. Impemba had been the play-by-play announcer for the Tigers since 2002, while Allen has been his color analyst for 16-plus years.
Allen has taken a more rosy outlook on the situation in the interview. Allen had previously released a statement to Twitter in December that was similarly cordial and looked back on his time with the Tigers, although he did not name Impemba or reference him beyond saying “the circumstances ending my tenure in our city are most unfortunate.”
Allen is obviously not thrilled to be done announcing Tigers games, but he also said that he wouldn’t change a thing about what happened between him and Impemba. Which does sound a bit odd considering if nothing had happened, he’d almost certainly be returning for the 2019 season and earning a six-figure salary.
“I’ve thought that over and over and over and I really can’t come up with anything differently that I would have done,” Allen said. “We had a bad day, there’s no doubt about that. I didn’t have a good day, he did not have a good day as well, and because of that, it was an argument. There was no choking, there was no fighting, there was no chasing down the hallway.”
What lies in the future for Allen and Impemba?
Impemba has stayed mostly silent since the incident beyond a tweet that thanked his former colleagues and fans. While he has yet to find a new media job for the 2019 season, he says he hopes to return for a 33rd season in broadcasting.
Likewise, Allen says he wants to return to broadcasting, although he acknowledges that he “may have to sit on the sidelines for a while when you have this kind of baggage.” Certainly until that next job comes, he had nothing but positive things to say about his former booth mate.
“We’re professionals,” Allen said. “Mario’s a good broadcaster, I’m a good broadcaster. We went to work every single day and we wanted to bring the best to Tigers fans and I think we were able to do that and I think a lot of it’s misconstrued that we didn’t really got along that much. I mean you don’t sit along someone for 16 years and not have some kind of respect for them. So, we had some good broadcasts, we had some great years in Detroit and so it did not end the way that I know I wanted it to end, I know it didn’t end the way that he wanted it to end, but we had some really good broadcasts from the number of years.”
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