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(2006) Johnny Damon and His Return to Boston

Elvis Elvis

Okay, let me get in my two cents on the most over-hyped story of the spring – Johnny Damon’s return to Fenway Park and the intensity of the hostility with which he was greeted there. Did I miss something? Was Damon born under Plymouth Rock? Or was he some kind of indentured servant to the Red Sox? Did he have a permanent seat next to Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting?Johnny Damon Has Had a Life Far From Boston

Facts? Damon was born in Kansas. He grew up in Florida, and his family still lives in Florida. He broke into the majors with Kansas City. He was traded from Kansas City and played one season in Oakland. He became a free agent and signed a lucrative contract with Boston (yes, he was lured by Red Sox dollars), ditching his buddies on the A’s and a good Oakland team.

Nary a word was ever said in Boston about Damon being a “traitor” when he joined the Red Sox. No, history often gets rewritten in Boston. It’s like Damon grew up in dingy South Boston and joined the Red Sox right out of high school or something. I’m beginning to wonder if the whole Paul Revere story is some kind of fabrication.

Going to Boston When New York was Blocked

If I recall correctly – and my memory may be incorrect on this one – my perception of the situation when Damon was a free agent the first time (after the 2001 season) was that he had a desire to join the Yankees. But Bernie Williams was still doing well for the Yankees in center field and Damon had to look elsewhere. He chose Boston, the second most high-profile place to play, and he led the Red Sox to their greatest era since Babe Ruth was playing in Beantown. Damon had a colorful cast of characters in Boston, but it was Damon who beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 Championship Series and erase the Curse of the Bambino.

Johnny Damon No longer a Hero in Boston

For that alone, there ought to be a large statue of Damon placed in a prominent spot in Boston. But are Bostonians grateful? Remember, year after year after year, some pitiful Red Sox fan would whine on the air or in print that he/she could die peacefully if the Red Sox would win just one – just one! — World Series? Turns out that really wasn’t so important. Otherwise Damon would still be a hero in Boston.

(2006) Johnny Damon and His Return to Boston

The reason he isn’t a hero in Boston is because Red Sox fans are fans of hate. They hate the Yankees more than they love the Red Sox and their cutesy-pie little Fenway Park.

Johnny Damon Booed in Boston

Damon looked very uncomfortable Monday night in the Yankees 7-3 loss in Boston. He tried to take the high road in his first at bat and doff his batting helmet in all directions of Fenway Park, but only his ex-teammates in the Red Sox dugout answered with applause. Most of the night the crowd gleefully taunted Damon, and he, in turn, appeared uncharacteristically uncomfortable. He got a late jump on at least two fly balls. The wind was playing tricks with fly balls that night, but I wonder if he also wasn’t lost in his thoughts when those balls were hit.

Johnny Damon Needs to Accept the New Reality

He needs to cognitively restructure this whole deal. Yes, he had good times and great memories in Boston, but the Red Sox front office low-balled him at contract time, he was given the opportunity to patrol the hallowed center-field grounds at Yankee Stadium and play with real pros like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and Red Sox fans no longer like him. Actually, they despise him. Once this new reality sinks in, and Damon puts the past behind him, he will realize that he is still involved in the highly competitive Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but now he is on the Yankees side. Pinstripes, baby. The Red Sox and their fans are to be beaten, not pacified.

Take it to them, Johnny.