Nothing lifts the spirits in mid-winter like the arrival of pitchers and catchers for the start of spring training – but in 2022 this boost in the cold of February was denied us when Major League Baseball, as it periodically does, decided to shoot itself in the foot.
In fact, Feb. 27 was to have been the Red Sox Grapefruit League home opener in Fort Myers against none other than the New York Yankees, a game scrubbed as baseball struggles to resolve the ongoing owners’ lockout.
So for the present we’ll have to make do with the pleasant memory of last October, when the Sox eliminated the Yankees in the first single-game playoff at Fenway Park since 1978. Last year’s win was belated salve for what happened in that painful playoff of long ago, when New York prevailed with the home run help of one Bucky (acquired middle name unprintable) Dent.
Fittingly, the late Jerry Remy was involved both times. He did his part in ’78, going 2-for-4 with a single, double, sacrifice, and a sparkling defensive play. At last year’s wild-card game he appeared at Fenway one final time – not at his usual second base, but to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
He tossed the ball to Sox Hall-of-Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, with whom he shared the broadcast booth after both had retired. Remy, who compiled a respectable .275 batting average in seven years with the Sox and three with the Angels, came into his own over 33 years of down-home color commentary that transformed him into the beloved “RemDawg.”
Legend says he got the nickname from another fellow broadcaster, Sean McDonough, who picked up on Remy’s description of his former gritty teammates as “dirt dogs.”
Remy died last Oct. 30 at age 68, just a few weeks after making that ceremonial pitch, finally succumbing to one of many battles he had with lung cancer over the years.
What lies ahead for the Sox this year, after baseball comes to its senses, we cannot know. But while we await that first and most welcome utterance of “Play ball,” here’s some home-made verse for Jerry Remy, in gratitude for the pleasure he brought us with bat, glove, and colorful analysis.
A Doff of the Cap
Shadows, sorrowful and stark
Are gathered over Fenway Park,
Where, alas, there’s cause to mourn
The RemDawg, who was clearly born
With “Red Sox” stitched upon his soul,
And who we now pause to extol,
For exploits at the second sack
For which he had a scrappy knack,
And later, at the microphone,
Where in a style all his own
He took us through so many years
Of Red Sox smiles and Red Sox tears.
About him there was nothing “semi” –
You got all of Jerry Remy,
Who showed stalwart heart and grit
With every sometimes painful hit
That he stroked, though with unease
Because of chronic gimpy knees.
Still, he shined with great pizzaz
On teams with Fisk, and Rice, and Yaz,
And then for years gave satisfaction
As he brought us all the action,
Victory or sad defeat
From historic Jersey Street.
But now, the highest Manager of all
Says he can rest – no games to call.
While to a grander park he’s beckoned,
We’ll ne’er forget his stay at second,
And we say, with adulation,
Farewell, our voice of Red Sox Nation.
(Gerry Goldstein, a lifelong Red Sox fan, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.)