Let’s play Sports Jeopardy.
Answer: Johnny Damon, Adam Vinatieri, Ray Allen . . . Jacoby Ellsbury.
Question: Name four Boston athletes who performed admirably in championship seasons, then were booed by Hub fans because they returned to Boston wearing the wrong laundry.
Ellsbury’s handsome head was added to the Rushmore of Fan Stupidity Tuesday night when the majority of Red Sox fans in attendance gave him the old Bronx cheer when he came to bat against former teammate Jon Lester leading off the first inning at Fenway.
Naturally, Ellsbury crushed an 0-and-2 pitch and drove it to straightaway center field. The ball would have banged off the top of the wall if not for a nitwit in a Bruins jersey who lunged across the fencetop and had the ball clang off his hands.
Ellsbury circled the bases for a Little League-esque inside-the-park home run, but was awarded a triple due to fan interference.
He immediately scored on a Derek Jeter single up the middle, then robbed Sox leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore with a shoetop catch in the bottom of the inning.
In the fifth, he KO’d Lester with a two-run double on a 3-and-2 pitch. Ellsbury finished with two hits, two RBIs, and two runs in the Yankees’ 9-3 victory.
And in the distance, I could swear I heard Bob Lobel ask, “Why can’t we get players like that?’’
The Red Sox and their fans found some peace before the top of the second when Ellsbury was cheered following a video that tastefully thanked Ellsbury and highlighted his Sox deeds to the tune of Springsteen’s “Born to Run’’ (Dr. Charles strikes again).
Perched on the top step of the Yankee dugout, Ellsbury turned and waved to Sox fans.
When Ellsbury returned to the batter’s box seconds later, the boos came back. He then flied to left.
The good news is there’ll be no hard feelings coming from Ellsbury. Nothing public, that’s for sure.
You think Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is impressive? That’s nothing. The Yankees’ new center fielder has gone seven-plus years without saying anything remotely controversial or amusing.
Joltin’ Jacoby kept his streak alive Tuesday with another extremely polite and pleasant press conference before playing his first game back at Fenway.
“All my memories are positive,’’ Ellsbury said during an 11-minute pregame media session before a packed room of folks futilely seeking splash and sizzle.
Most Sox stars (Roger, Wade, Mo, Nomar, Pedro) set the Tobin Bridge on fire when they bolt Boston. Not Ellsbury. He never promised to finish his career here and now that it’s over, he can’t say enough nice things about his time at Fenway.
He’s never going to tell us if he harbors any bad feelings about his medical treatment from the Sox staff or the team’s indifference when he became a free agent last winter. It’s kind of admirable.
He told us that he’s enjoyed his time back in Boston, seeing folks he used to see every day, and getting a look at the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway.
He said the room hasn’t changed much since he first saw it eight years ago — “except maybe a new carpet,’’ he said with a smile.
Ellsbury said he’d used the now famous second-floor “sleep room” on a couple of occasions (during the afternoon, before night games) after the Fenway Hotel opened for business in the middle of last season.
“I was excited to come to the ballpark today,’’ he said. “The thing you miss most is the people . . . It’s a little bit different coming back. I never knew where the visitors walked in.
“It was great seeing familiar faces, staff members, and people who’ve been letting me in at the gate for years. It’s nice to hear they’re happy for me.’’
He was typically noncommittal when asked about what kind of fan reaction he expected.
“It’s not something I worry about, because it’s out of my hands,’’ he said. “I gave the organization everything I had for seven years in the big leagues.
“I left everything on the field, played as hard as I could and appreciated the fans. They were good to me . . . I think of the two World Series we won. Those are obviously things I’ll never forget and pretty special.’’
Anticipating boos, he said, “That’s why I enjoyed ’em [Boston fans]. In my time here, we had a home-field advantage and you always felt they were pulling for you.’’
Ellsbury didn’t take the bait when asked about the Sox’ reluctance to bid for his services last winter, but there was one small dart in his explanation of his (seven-year, $153 million) move to New York. Read closely. It’s in here:
“When the Yankees let me know they were interested, I was excited because of the opportunity to win again, to play on a team that’s committed to fielding a team each and every year that has potential to win,’’ he said.
“I wanted to go to an organization and New York was right there.
“First class, I think of the championships, the history, the passion they have for the game — a lot of things the Red Sox have, but they gave me the opportunity to play seven more years in the big leagues.
“They gave me the opportunity to play the game I love and I’m excited for that.’’
There. The Yankees gave him an opportunity. The sticker-shocked Sox passed.
Sox fans applauded vigorously when the Boston front office refused to be drawn into the Ellsbury sweeps, but it hasn’t worked out great on the field thus far.
The Sox used five players at leadoff in the first 20 games, and the non-fab five hit an aggregate .190 with a .555 OPS in that spot.
Ellsbury went into Tuesday’s game hitting .338. In four games against the Sox at Yankee Stadium this month he went 5 for 14 (.357), leading the Yankees to three wins.
We got more of the same Tuesday.
“I’m excited to get back here,’’ he said. “I always enjoyed playing here.’’