Pain palpable, but Jerry Remy is no quitter
In an emotional and unconventional half-hour session in a NESN boardroom Monday, Jerry Remy met with a small group of reporters and told us he has decided to come back for a 27th season as color commentator on Red Sox telecasts.
The hardest part was . . .
All of it.
Every word. Every pause. Every question. Every answer. Every attempt to hold back tears. All of it was hard. None of it was easy. Nothing will ever be easy again for Jerry Remy or any of the families devastated by the murder of Jennifer Martel.
“Call me a bad father if you want,’’ Remy said softly when asked about the series of crimes and reports that have been a plague on his house. “But I’ll be damned if my wife is not a good parent.’’
You know the tragic story. Remy, 61, was cruising through his 26th season in the broadcast booth last August when his son Jared was arrested and charged with the murder of Martel, the 27-year-old woman who was the mother of Jared Remy’s then-4-year-old daughter. A troubled man with a lengthy criminal record, Jared Remy is incarcerated awaiting trial, and multiple families are forever damaged.
We never saw RemDawg after that night in August. The former Sox second baseman, who battled cancer and depression for years, has been a virtual recluse since his son was arrested. Remy said he did not watch the Red Sox for the final six weeks of the regular season. He did watch the playoffs and World Series and received a steady stream of texts from Sox manager John Farrell as the ball club completed its championship quest.
NESN told him he had a standing offer to return.
“If you’d asked me in November or December, the answer would have been no,’’ Remy said. “I felt it was over. I couldn’t find a reason to come back. . . . People told me that in time things would get better. . . . Things have not gotten better. . . . It became worse and worse.’’
After the first of this year, he started to think about his 40 years in baseball. Against tough odds, he made it to the big leagues and enjoyed a 10-year Major League career, making the American League All-Star team in 1978. He joined the Sox broadcast booth with Ned Martin in 1988. “I was awful,’’ Remy said.
He wanted to quit the booth when he was first diagnosed with cancer several years ago. He wanted to quit again when he battled depression.
“But I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t intend to be one now,’’ he said.
Remy knows what is coming. He knows there will be criticism. He fears being perceived as insensitive to the Martel family and he returned to that theme multiple times during Monday’s session. He said he has spoken to the Martel family since his son was arrested but did not consult them about his return to the booth.
“I hope in no way that my decision to come back to do games has a negative impact on the Martel family,’’ said Remy. “I think they will understand that.’’
Fans of the Red Sox and NESN — a team and channel whose principal owner, John Henry, now owns the Globe — are accustomed to a high level of banter and silliness between Remy and partner Don Orsillo during Sox telecasts. How can Remy ever be light again?
“I spoke with Don 45 minutes ago and he asked me that question,’’ said Remy. “I’m going to have to be myself. If I didn’t think I could be myself, I wouldn’t do it. I hope that doesn’t come off as insensitive.’’
This will be difficult. It’s hard to imagine Remy and Orsillo once again talking about wardrobe problems, rogue taxi drivers, and room service gone awry.
After President Kennedy was assassinated, Washington columnist Mary McGrory famously said, “We’ll never laugh again.’’
This feels a little like that.
“I’m sure there will be people out there upset with me,’’ Remy said softly.
It will be especially difficult as the trial (scheduled for October) nears. It will be especially difficult when reporters dig deeper into the Remy family’s struggles. “There’s going to be more stuff that comes out,’’ Remy said with a sigh.
He deferred legal questions to his son’s attorney, but offered no defense of Jared, saying, “It’s pretty clear what is going to happen. He’s in jail. There’s no bail. . . .
“Jared’s had issues from a very young age. And we as a family have tried to do the very best we can to address those issues.
“I have tried to do the best possible job I could do. Sometimes things just don’t work out.’’
When a reporter submitted that Remy’s extensive traveling may have contributed to family issues, Remy said, “No excuses. A lot of people travel.’’
He apologized for not being available to the media and said his family has been approached by “Dr. Phil’’ and the ABC morning news.
“It’s been crazy,’’ Remy said.
“It’s embarrassing,’’ he added. “I feel embarrassed by a lot of things and it’s tough to get past that part.’’
Embarrassing. Crazy. Tragic. It is all of those things.
Jerry Remy is a local legend. He is a former All-Star, a guy who got a hit off Rich Gossage in the ninth inning of the 1978 AL East playoff game. He is the RemDawg. He has a chain of restaurants. He is president of Red Sox Nation. Now, once again, he is a broadcaster.
But he is also a son and a husband and an uncle and a grandfather and a father.
Those are the most important jobs.
And the hardest jobs.