By Joel Alderman
When the Boston Red Sox made their triumphant return to Fenway Park on Friday (April 4th), a familiar person took his old seat in the TV broadcast booth. But it surely could not have been easy for Jerry Remy to do it.
As most New England baseball fans are well aware, Remy abruptly withdrew as the Sox analyst and color commentator late last summer in the wake of a family tragedy.
On August 16, 2013, his son, Jared, was charged with the homicide of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, who was also the mother of their then 4-year old daughter, Arianna Remy. He is currently awaiting a trial expected to take place in October.
Immediately after the sordid story became known, Remy withdrew from the Red Sox telecasts. Originally it was for the rest of the team’s road trip, but soon afterward his hiatus was extended through the end of the season.
It was quite a period of time to miss, as the Sox went on to win the American League East and then the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a time that Remy, a Massachusetts native from Fall River, and a former Boston second baseman, would have delighted in under better circumstances.
He is no ordinary TV analyst and color commentator. He has been on the New England Sports Network (NESN) since 1988. In 2008, NESN celebrated Jerry Remy Day in honor of his twenty years with the network. He is the proprietor of Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill in three locations. One is behind Fenway Park on Boylston Street, another in Boston’s Logan International Airport, and a third in Fall River.
And for those who want a quick bite to eat on the way to or from Fenway, he even owns a hot dog stand on Yawkey Way, based on his nickname, RemDawg’s.
In 2006 he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
During the off-season, fans expressed opinions whether or not Remy should face the camera and microphone again. Newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts gave their views, and it was a hot topic on Boston call-in radio shows.
Two statements of support by Red Sox owners were issued shortly before the season started.
Tom Werner, the Chairman of the Board, said: “This is a tragic situation, and my continued sympathies go out to the Martel family. With regard to Jerry Remy, we continue to support his decision to return to the broadcast booth.”
John Henry, another owner, said: “All of us in Red Sox Nation stand behind him. It’s a terrible thing he’s been going through, and we’re really glad to have him back.”
Remy, always a popular figure, is referred to as the President of Red Sox Nation. He was play-by-play man Don Orsillo’s sidekick in what often seemed like a comedy team. When a game lagged they would talk about other things, such as what clothes to wear, what food to eat, and anything else that came to Jerry’s mind, aside from the game at hand. The banter often caused Orsillo to laugh uncontrollably. That may not happen very often this year. Some people think it would be in bad taste for Remy to “laugh it up.”
Aside from toning down the humor, Jerry has already demonstrated that he has not forgotten to welcome the Hispanic viewers, with his customary “Buenos tardes, amigos.”
A few years ago, he was off of broadcasts for several months while battling lung cancer and depression. Now he is trying to deal with more than just his physical issues. He is fighting an emotional battle, the same as any parent hurt by a son gone wrong, would fight. The difference is that he can reflect upon a baseball organization in a region that is obsessed with its team.
Remy’s detractors claim that resuming the TV job is a sign of disrespect to the victim’s family, and that it gives the impression he is still the happy-go-lucky, upbeat character he had always appeared to be. Perhaps, as Jared’s situation becomes increasingly more complex, Jerry might need to re-evaluate what is best for him to do.
His wishes to return were upheld by NESN, in spite of the network’s receipt of messages urging that Remy not be taken back. But back he is; and for a few hours a day he can provide color and analysis in his unique style. He will try to block out the thoughts and concerns any parent would have under similar circumstances.
In the minds of many, Remy should take a large part of the responsibility for what happened. This is based on reports that over the years he apparently used his resources to get Jared out of all sorts of legal troubles, some of which involved violence.
With the new baseball season, Remy was back for opening day at Fenway and did his job in a professional way. He will face scrutiny daily by the viewers, to see how he handles the challenge of meeting his announcing responsibilities while facing the pressures of his very serious family problems.
RemDawg is in a position not to be envied by anyone. He has his supporters and he has his detractors. He reads the papers and what is being posted on the web. He hears what is being said on radio talk shows around Boston. Many of the comments revolve around him being allowed to do his job. Others insist that he be kept away from the broadcast booth.
“I’m not stupid,” he told the Boston Globe. “I hear stuff, but I’d like to just pass on that. . . and that’s the best I can say right now.”
There are not many jokes in his life anymore, nor should there be. But I hope that the Jerry Remy who is in on NESN this year will continue to satisfy his constituents. After all, he is still the President of Red Sox Nation.