Posted by: Mike Cornelius | March 27, 2014

A Cloud Hangs Over Red Sox Nation

Few big cities are home to sports fans more passionate than those in Boston, and at least in recent years scarcely any other metropolis has fielded a set of teams that have given their fans more reason to cheer. Since 2001 the Patriots have won three Super Bowls. The Celtics won their league-leading 17th NBA championship in 2008. The Bruins ended a nearly four decade long drought with a Stanley Cup title three seasons ago, and were back in the Finals last spring. Then there are the Red Sox, who under the ownership of John Henry have become one of the Great Game’s elite franchises, winning three World Series trophies in the last decade.

The success of the Sox has brought joy to fans of long-standing, who suffered through their portion of the 86 years between one title in 1918 and the first of the recent string in 2004; and it’s earned the team thousands of new fans all across New England. Boston opens defense of its most recent title on the road in Baltimore on Monday, so most of those fans, old and new alike, will turn to television or radio to see how their team fares down at Camden Yards. Those who opt to watch the game will tune to the New England Sports Network, where the familiar team of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy will provide the play-by-play and color commentary. Remy has been at NESN for nearly a quarter century, and the two have been paired together since 2001.

A native of Fall River, Massachusetts, Remy’s story is a classic one of a local boy making good, and living out his dream in the process. An 8th round draft pick by the Angels in 1971, Remy worked his way up through the minors and played three seasons in California before being traded to the Red Sox after the 1977 season. Back home in Massachusetts he was an All-Star in his first season at Fenway Park, and was Boston’s starting second baseman for seven years until one too many injuries cut his career short.

Success as a broadcaster followed shortly after his playing days ended, and Remy has also found fortune in the restaurant business and as an author of children’s books. Popular as a player and even more so during his television career because of his story telling ability and avuncular manner, Remy serves as the president of Red Sox Nation, the team’s official fan club. He was besieged by get well wishes from fans when he fought off lung cancer in 2009, and again early last season when he suffered a bout of pneumonia.

But even as the Red Sox swept to another title last fall, everything changed for the fan favorite nicknamed the RemDawg. In August Remy’s eldest son Jared was charged with the brutal murder of his 27-year old girlfriend Jennifer Martel. The two had a 4-year old daughter who was present in Martel’s apartment in the Boston suburb of Waltham when police, prosecutors and witnesses say Jared Remy repeatedly stabbed Martel in a vicious attack that left a trail of blood ending on the patio, where he swung the knife at a neighbor even as he continued to savage his dieing girlfriend.

In the wake of the murder the elder Remy left the broadcast booth for the remainder of the season. He issued a statement offering prayers for Martel and her family, adding “Words cannot describe my wife’s and my grief. Son or not, I am at a loss for words articulating my disgust and remorse over this senseless and tragic act.”

Then last weekend, with Spring Training coming to a close and Remy back in the broadcast booth, the Boston Globe issued a copiously detailed account of Jared Remy’s long history of violence, especially towards women, and the shocking leniency with which the judicial system treated him over 17 years. While his son was in high school Jerry Remy asked for help from the local police in stopping Jared from harassing a former girlfriend and threatening her new boyfriend. A year later he beat another teenager nearly to death, and at age 19 was charged with domestic assault.

Jared Remy was back in court seven times in little more than two years, most often around threats to or assaults on women. Yet time and again judges did nothing. Sometimes that was because complainants chose not to testify, a frighteningly common occurrence in domestic violence cases. But even if the victim was willing Remy always had the luxury of the very best defense attorneys that money could buy, expensive representation paid for by his increasingly wealthy father. So the pattern continued over the years, with Remy once verbally threatening a girlfriend right in the courthouse. Only once did he spend a brief period behind bars, where he became a popular inmate by passing out his father’s autograph.

With his son awaiting trial for murder next fall, a few sports writers questioned Jerry Remy’s decision to return to the broadcast booth. That murmur turned into a shout after the Globe report, which one couldn’t read without feeling that at the very least Remy’s willingness to continually fund his son’s attorneys amounted to enabling Jared’s ongoing pattern of violence. Yet there is plenty of blame to go around. One can point to judges who continued cases without findings or reduced charges or refused to issue restraining orders. One can lament a system that offers so little assurance of protection that many women decline to press their claims, instead hoping against usually futile hope that their personal predator will magically change. And of course to whatever extent the father was an enabler, in the end it was the son who took a life.

The cry of “play ball” is unlikely to end the debate, and perhaps the only certainty is that for the local boy made good, life will never again be about living out a dream. Some day this summer, perhaps on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the pace of a game at Fenway will slow, and in the broadcast booth the two longtime partners will start to trade stories over the air. No doubt many of the fans watching NESN will find the familiar banter to be a bit of harmless entertainment. But many others, and one suspects Jerry Remy himself, will be unable to escape the tragic truths that Jennifer Martel will see no more summers, and for the loved ones she left behind the sun will not be shining.

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Responses

  1. Wow. This is one powerful post. Hope you don’t mind that I’m re-blogging it.
    – Bill

  2. Reblogged this on The On Deck Circle and commented:
    One helluva read. Baseball writing, or any other kind of writing, doesn’t get much better than this.


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