THE FACE OF THE RED SOX
Since 1967, fifty years ago, the year of The Impossible Dream, the Boston Red Sox have made it to the Post Season 16 times. They have been eliminated in the Division Series six times, made it to but been eliminated in the League Championship Series five times and five times they have made it to the World Series. They have won the World Series three of those five times, in 2004, 2007 and 2013.
During that time they have had some of the greatest ballplayers in baseball. Players like Hall of Famers Carl Yasztremski, Jim Rice, Pedro Martinez, Carlton Fisk and Wade Boggs, and others like Luis Tiant, Roger Clemens, Jim Lonborg, David Ortiz, Mookie Betts and many, many other standouts.
They have been managed by people like Dick Williams, Don Zimmer, Ralph Houk, Grady Little, Terry Francona and John Farrell.
But with all that success and all those talented ballplayers and managers who have thrilled the Red Sox fans and shown their talent in Fenway and around the Majors, the one person that most New England baseball fans readily identify as the Face of the Red Sox is a former left handed, banjo hitting, second baseman who spent just seven years as a member of the team, hit .286, pounded out just two home runs and never played for a team that made it to the Playoffs.
Jerry Remy, the 5’9”, 165 pound, second baseman is the Honorary President of Red Sox Nation, perhaps the largest organization of baseball fans supporting a team in the history of the game. He has been the color commentator for Red Sox baseball on the Red Sox Flagship Station, NESN, since teaming with Ned Martin in 1988. With Don Orsillo, as Play by Play announcer from 2001 until 2015, they formed one of the most popular baseball broadcast teams in the country.
When the popular Orsillo was ousted by management in 2015, Red Sox fans were in an uproar. No one could believe that this team could be broken up but the very professional, personable and competent Dave O’Brien stepped into replace him and he and Jerry quickly became as or almost as popular as Orsillo and Remy. Jerry’s blend of expertise, his seemingly endless supply of stories of the greats and not so greats of the game, his sense of humor and, perhaps most of all, his straightforward, honest and knowledgeable analysis, good and bad, have made the team work, no matter who sits in the other seat.
Jerry was drafted out of High School in Somerset, Massachusetts, by the Washington Senators in the 19th round of the 1970 draft and again, after spending a year at Roger Williams College, in the 8th round of the 1971 draft by the California Angels. He signed with the Angels and spent 1971-1974 in their farm system, working his way up to AA, El Paso and AAA Salt Lake City, between which he hit .323 in 1974.
He was promoted to the Angels in 1975 and hit .258 that first year in 147 games. He made up for his lack of power by excelling at small ball. He stole 34 bases and had 12 sacrifice bunts, more than most teams have in a year today. In addition to his 34 stolen bases, he was thrown out stealing 21 times, the most in the league. From my research, it appears that that was the only time he ever led the league in any offensive category.
In his three years with California they finished under .500 every year and Jerry had a batting average of .258 with 110 stolen bases and 44 sacrifice bunts. On December 8, 1977, he was traded to the Red Sox for Don Aase and cash and had his best year in baseball that next year.
In that first year in Boston, he batted .278 in 148 games and was named to the American League All Star Team but did not get into the game, which the National League won 7-3. The Sox won 99 games that year and had trailed the first place Yankees by one game with one game left to play. On the last day of the season, the Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians 9-2, opening the door for the Red Sox to move into a tie.
Luis Tiant pitched a complete game, two hit shutout to beat the Toronto Blue Jays to force a one game playoff with the Yankees to see who would go to the World Series.
Remy went 2-4 in that game. After an unsuccessful bunt attempt in the first, he doubled in the Sox second run in the fifth and singled with the score 4-0 in the seventh but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
In the playoff game that followed in Fenway, the Sox, behind Mike Torrez, were ahead of the Yankees’ Ron Guidry, 2-0 after six innings. Yaz had homered to lead off the second and Rick Burleson doubled to lead off the sixth. Remy then bunted to third to sacrifice Burleson over and Rice singled to drive him in and make it 2-0.
In the seventh, the Yankees’ Bucky Dent hit his infamous three run homer to put the Yankees ahead and Thurmon Munson drove in another. Reggie Jackson led off the eighth with a homer to make it 5-2.
In the Sox eighth, Remy led off with a double to right and scored when Yaz singled and Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn singled to bring in Yaz and it was 5-4 after eight. It went to the last of the ninth, 5-4, and with one out and Burleson on first with a walk, Remy singled to right to put the tying run on second but Goose Gossage got Rice to fly out and Yaz to pop to third and the Red Sox season was over.
With an All Star season behind him and a huge contribution to the Sox effort in the last two days to try make it into the Playoffs, going 4 for 8, Remy seemed on his way to stardom in Boston. He was the Sox lead off hitter and second baseman for most of the next six years, however he was plagued by injuries. In 1979, he missed most of July and August and was out from September 14th until the end of the season, in 1980 he was out from July 10th until the end of the season and in 1981, he was out from June 11th until August 10th but still managed to hit .305 in 231 games for those three years. Although he missed the start of the 1982 and 1983 seasons, he managed to hit .280 and .275 in 155 and 146 games respectively.
He started 1984 with the Sox and was hitting .250 after playing in 30 of the team’s first 38 games when a knee injury caused him to call it a career.
He was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Red Sox held Jerry Remy Day on June 24, 2008 to recognize his 20 years of service as their color commentator.
Two months later, he underwent surgery to remove a ‘ very small, low grade, cancerous area ‘ from his lung. This began a long battle with lung cancer which caused him to lose time from the broadcast booth on several occasions.
In his latest bout with cancer, starting in June of 2017, he had chemo therapy followed by five weeks of radiation.
On August 17th, prior to a game with the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, the Sox honored Remy for his thirty years of broadcasting. He was undergoing his fifth series of treatments for the lung cancer at the time and the crowd and the team showed their appreciation for all he had done as a player and announcer.
On January 16, of 2018, he went to Twitter and Instagram to deliver the following message to his loyal fans ‘ It started in June with surgery, chemo and five weeks of radiation. It ended today. Finished. Thanks to the team at MGH and the support I got from many people. To my co-patients stay strong. Now a little time to gain strength and down to the Fort. Go Pats.’
The Red Sox will open their Spring Training games in Florida against Northwestern University on February 22nd, eighteen days from today, and NESN will telecast that game. Most Red Sox fans turning the game on that day will probably be more concerned to find out whether Jerry is there than they are interested in the exhibition game.
Jerry Remy, who demonstrated such strength on the field in the face of injury and in his battle with cancer, is truly the beloved Face of the Red Sox for most of New England.