Jerry Remy loved an empty ballpark, especially Fenway Park on game days.
He’d get there around lunch time and sit in the NESN booth, watching as the energy built toward first pitch.
“Is there a lineup yet?” he’d ask, eager to make notes on his scorecard before the broadcast.
There were times we’d chat about the Red Sox or something going on in baseball, but invariably he’d go back to the booth before long. That was his haven.
He was one of us, growing up in Somerset and making his way from the muddy fields of southeastern Massachusetts to the majors with the California Angels before being traded to the Sox in 1977.
Jerry played second base in the one-game playoff against the Yankees in 1978, going 2 for 4 with a run. He was on first base when Carl Yastrzemski popped to third to end it.
Once he became a broadcaster, Remy was irreverent and prone to fits of laughter that endeared him to viewers. Sox fans may have loved Nomar, Papi, and Pedey, but they knew them only from a distance.
Jerry was part of the family, showing up in their living room every night during the season to talk some baseball.
But he drew his own line. When the game ended, Remy would rush out of the press box to a waiting elevator and be whisked to the ground floor, where he could hop in his car and beat the traffic to get home.
Woe to the unsuspecting elevator operator who made any stops along the way.
Some former Red Sox players — Luis Tiant comes to mind — are comfortable being around the fans and revel in the attention. Remy liked that relationship to come through your television.
He didn’t often do autograph shows, make personal appearances, or even go out for dinner with friends. You got what he decided to give you. You didn’t get to know him until he decided to get to know you.
But at the same time, Remy publicly shared news about his bouts with depression and the lung cancer that eventually claimed his life, hoping that would help others, and surely it did.
It took time, but he even spoke about the horrific crime his son, Jared, committed in 2013 when he murdered his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.
My colleague, the late Nick Cafardo, convinced Remy it needed to be part of a book they did together. Remy was hesitant at first but eventually agreed.
Under all the laughter on television, the RemDawg persona, and the myriad business interests in his name, there was often turmoil and sadness. But he did his best to overcome it.
Remy battled lung cancer for much of the last 13 years, missing parts of five seasons while receiving treatment for relapses.
“The toughest SOB I know,” a NESN colleague said.
Media members, even Jerry, were banned from the clubhouse in 2020 when the pandemic struck, and NESN decided to broadcast games from its studio in Watertown.
That was fine with Remy, who didn’t want his compromised lungs subjected to COVID-19. But he missed Fenway fiercely.
Alex Cora, like other Sox managers before him, welcomed Remy into the clubhouse. Remy would pull up a chair and look through a sheaf of statistics or read the papers while chatting with the players. He was one of them, after all.
NESN eventually decided it was safe to bring the announcers back to the park, and Remy may have gotten to Fenway before breakfast that first day.
Then the cancer came back.
While attached to oxygen, Remy mustered up the strength to throw out the first pitch Oct. 5 before the Wild Card Game against the Yankees.
He rode a golf cart out to the field, teased Dennis Eckersley about his long hair, then tossed a strike to his old friend, teammate, and broadcast partner.
Remy raised his arms in joy and the crowd went wild.
That was his last time at Fenway.