As the crazy saga of Bobby Valentine’s managerial meltdown in Boston continues, I thought I'd add another tale to the mix, courtesy of my friend and sometimes Fenway Park seatmate Nancy.
During the All-Star break, when Red Sox fans were in the midst of panicking over a surprisingly weak starting rotation, Nancy went for a jog on a blistering hot morning. About one mile from Fenway, along Huntington Avenue, she literally ran into a man in front of the swanky Colonnade Hotel.
After a quick “sorry” she turned and started to jog away—but then froze in her tracks. She was pretty sure the man in the khaki shorts and plaid shirt who she had hit was Bobby Valentine.
Unlike many fans, Nancy had not yet soured on Bobby V. A season ticket holder, she had been very happy with the managerial change in Boston.
“I went to a game last September against the Rangers, when the Red Sox still had a big lead in the standings,” she recalls. “Lackey got bombed, they lost 11-4, and I remember having a bad feeling—a sense they weren’t playing with purpose. They were just going through the motions—they were not Kevin Millar's team; they were not Johnny Damon’s team.”
Nancy turned to her companions, her sisters-in-law, and said, “‘This is it. We’re done.’”
She was right. The epic 7-20 September collapse sealed manager Terry Francona’s fate, and Nancy applauded the hiring of Valentine—who had a reputation for being just the sort of tough-talking disciplinarian she felt was needed. Nancy, who once shouted down fans for singing “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning of a lopsided Red Sox deficit, liked tough guys.
Now, even after a dismal first half-season, Nancy still hoped Bobby V. could turn things around. She ran back to him, smiled, and said, “Are you my guy?”
He laughed and replied, “Yeah, I guess I am!”
“I love you!” she shouted. “I know you can’t say anything, but we’ve got to get rid of Beckett, we’ve got to get rid of Lester, we've got to get rid of Lackey.”
Valentine put his finger up to his lips, smiled, and said, “You know I can’t say anything.” He turned around to leave, but then walked back, crossed his fingers, and said, “But we can only hope.”
Nancy can't quite remember what he said next, either “I had no idea this is what it was like here” or “I had no idea it would be like this here.”
“I looked at him and just wanted to hug him,” she recalls. Instead, she said, “This is one tough town.”
Valentine sort of shrugged, so Nancy added “You listen to all this stuff, but not everybody is against you. I have season tickets—look at my tattoos! [She has a Red Sox “B” on her right ankle and a “dangling Sox” on her right shoulder.] Plenty of people want you to succeed.”
She describes what happened next: “Knowing he was a Catholic school boy, which means you’re required to take Latin in school, I said to him 'Illegitimi Non Carborundum,' which means 'Don’t let the bastards get you down.' I didn’t learn that from the nuns, but if you study Latin, you learn things."
“He laughed, so I assumed he knew it too. If he was educated by the Jesuits, he knew it.”
Prior to this interview, Nancy had told her story to only a few close friends with whom she shared her seats.
“Why tell it to everyone now? I feel like it’s over,” she said. “They never stood behind him—Ben Cherington number one, along with the owners. I’m never going to forgive all of these people for the way it turned out. Tito was what I knew and it seemed to be working. But I was not a Tito guy before the end of last season, because he was enabling them to not 'cowboy up' and be our team.”
Now, with another disastrous season nearing its end, it's time for another change. What does Nancy think?
“Now I’m really just sad. I love the Red Sox; I really just do not like this team. I can’t watch them. I feel really bad for Bobby V. This is not what he signed up for. It’s not what any of us—including the few players still trying—signed up for. We’re the embarrassment of MLB.”
Besides an attitude overhaul, here are her other recommendations:
“We have GOT to get rid of all the different jerseys—red, navy, etc. You have your home whites and your travel grays—period.”
“Sweet Caroline—kill it.”
“The Wave—do not allow it.”
“And they better not charge major-league prices next year—for tickets and beer—when they’re not fielding a major league team!”
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at http://amzn.to/qWjQRS, and his Fenway Reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @saulwizz.