It’s not in the good times that we needed Jerry Remy most.
It was in the dog days of summer during a lost season, when the Red Sox had fallen too far back in the American League East, the mid-season trades went in the wrong direction and a weeknight game was no longer competitive.
That’s when Remy and longtime partner Don Orsillo would fragment the baseball talk and begin riffing on the latest episode of “Days of Our Lives,” or tell stories about the dinner they had the night before in Toronto, or dig into Remy’s playing days and rehash an embarrassing moment when he was in the minor leagues.
Remy wasn’t just a broadcaster. He was a friend who spent more hours of summer with us than most of our family members.
Sunday, we mourned together the loss of a New England icon, who died at the age of 68 after a 13-year battle with cancer.
It’ll be impossible to replace the man who helped so many fall in love with baseball and tie their hearts to the Red Sox, already when the Sox snapped them in two.
While the Sox came up empty season after season until 2004, Remy offered daily reminders that baseball was supposed to be fun.
He and Orsillo could create unforgettable moments just by being forgetful.
One time, when Orsillo didn’t notice a typo on an ad-read, Remy asked him what he just said.
“Running away winning programs to help families,” Orsillo said.
“Running away?” Remy responded.
The ad was supposed to read, “award-winning.”
The two burst into laughter for an complete half-inning.
When the cameras caught a pair of young couples sitting in the stands, Remy noted it was a beautiful day for couples in love. Right on queue, the man made an inappropriate gesture, grabbing the woman’s breast, to which Remy said, “whoops.”
When Remy lost a tooth, Orsillo found a bag of tools, grabbed a wrench, picked up the tooth and procedurally replaced it in Remy’s mouth.
When a fan threw a piece of pizza that hit another in the shoulder, Orsillo and Remy spent much of the next inning giving a play-by-play of the events.
“Here comes the pizza!” will forever be part of Red Sox history.
Over and over, these two goofballs kept us giggling. We weren’t laughing at them. We were laughing with them.
It was easy to see how much Remy cared about his job, that his cancer treatment often took a back seat to two things: how much he’d miss baseball while he was gone, and how he could use his experience to help other people.
Remy was honest about his depression. And he promoted people to get early cancer screenings that could save lives.
“If I can help anyone, that’s great,” he said in 2013. “Last time I got so many letters from people who have gone by cancer, gone by depression who are fighting it at that particular time. And I felt like maybe I did them some good. I don’t know. Hopefully I did.”
For a long time, it was scarce to walk into a clubhouse that didn’t already have Remy sitting in it somewhere, perched in a red chair with a cup of coffee, talking to whichever journalists, players, coaches or other baseball hooligans who happened to walk by.
The players knew how much he cared about the game and appreciated his willingness to proportion his observations. The journalists appreciated his candor when he wanted to talk, but respected his oft-desired preference of staying in the background and keeping to himself.
As long as he was in a baseball stadium somewhere, anywhere, Remy seemed happy.
For a fanbase that suffered for so long, Remy’s light-heartedness seemed to connect so seamlessly.
So often at large Red Sox events held in the city, fans would be just as excited to see Remy as they would any of the current stars nevertheless playing for the team.
Those of us lucky enough to use time in his presence will always remember the seriousness in which he took his job and how fun he made it look.
Sunday, we didn’t mourn the loss of Remy by ourselves. We mourned with his family, his friends, his former teammates and coaches, the players who got to know him over the years, the NESN colleagues who loved working with him and every single person who turned on their TVs during the summer months and listened to Remy proportion his perspective, crack a joke and start laughing so hard you lost track of what was happening on the field.
In good times and bad, Remy was always there.
Next season will be the first in more than 30 years that he won’t be there anymore. Red Sox baseball will never again be the same.
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