FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jerry Remy has no plans to step down as color commentator on NESN Red Sox broadcasts and says he plans to stay in the booth throughout the season, even as his son Jared prepares to go on trial in October in the murder of Jennifer Martel.
“I’m planning on being in Baltimore Monday,’’ Remy said Thursday afternoon, speaking publicly for the first time since Sunday’s comprehensive and explosive Globe report on the criminal history of his son.
This is an unusual situation. Truly. There’s never been anything quite like it. It’s an awful and awkward intersection of Boston baseball folklore and the real world of murder, justice, family loyalty, and fan allegiance to the brand of the Red Sox and the persona of Remy.
Everybody loved the RemDawg when he was merely Don Orsillo’s funny sidekick, the local kid who made it to Fenway as a second baseman, then enjoyed a spectacular second act as the RemDawg — restaurateur and president of Red Sox Nation.
Everything changed when Jared Remy was arrested after the slaying of Martel, the mother of their 4-year-old daughter, last August. Jerry Remy disappeared for the Red Sox’ championship run, only to return this spring after a winter of personal pain and consternation.
Things seemed to flow relatively smoothly in the booth for the Grapefruit League broadcasts.
“I was really comfortable doing the games,’’ said Remy, reached via telephone. “I felt fine doing the games. It’s the off times that were tough.
“The games were fine. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything any differently than in the past.’’
Prior to Sunday’s story, and the ensuing outrage over Jared Remy’s criminal history and a wildly flawed judicial system that allowed him to remain a free man, NESN had announced that Jerry Remy would not be in the booth for the final two telecasts of the spring. This gave way to theories that Remy might be stepping down, but the hiatus, he said, “was already scheduled because of the custody hearing’’ for Arianna Remy, who is now 5.
Back home in Greater Boston, Remy has read columns calling for his ouster and heard talk-show callers say he should step away from the broadcast booth.
“I’m not stupid,” he said. “I hear stuff, but I’d like to just pass on [commenting on] that. I’m planning on being there Monday, and that’s the best I can say right now.’’
Red Sox ownership has been totally supportive of Remy, even in the wake of the latest disclosures. Responding to a Globe e-mail question about Remy’s status, NESN boss and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner Thursday wrote: “This is a tragic situation, and my continued sympathies go out to the Martel family. With regard to Jerry Remy, we continue to support his decision to return to the broadcast booth. Out of respect for both of the families involved, I am going to refrain from any further comment with you on this matter.’’
Earlier this week, Red Sox (and Globe) owner John Henry told WCVB: “I’ve told [Remy] all of us in Red Sox Nation stand behind him. It’s a terrible thing he’s been going through, and we’re really glad to have him back.’’
Henry’s generous statements no longer qualify as the whole truth. It is beyond dispute at this hour that not all Red Sox fans are supportive of Remy staying in the broadcast booth.
Naturally, Remy appreciates the backing of Henry.
“They’ve been very supportive right from the beginning,’’ said Remy. “I wasn’t surprised. I was happy to hear it, but they have been very supportive since last season, so I can say it didn’t surprise me. I’ve been in contact with [Henry] all winter long, really.’’
Does he think he’ll make it through the entire season?
“If I start it, yeah, absolutely,’’ said Remy.
Jerry Remy has battled depression and lung cancer in recent years. Asked about the status of his health, he answered: “It’s good right now. You never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. But right now everything is fine healthwise.
“I really don’t know what to say,’’ he added. “I really don’t know what the right thing and the wrong thing is to say. I’m planning on being there Monday, and we’ll go from there.’’
Has he been hurt by the latest feedback?
“I’d rather not say,’’ he answered.
Is this harder for him than it was a week ago?
The topic is not going to go away. The situation is already bad, and it feels as though it is going to get worse and worse. Many Sox fans support Remy unilaterally. They do not want to see him suffer for the sins of his son. Others believe Jerry and Phoebe Remy enabled their son, using money and influence to twist the judicial system. Still others are angry that the Red Sox employed Jared Remy as a security guard even after much of his criminal record was established.
And now we all wonder how it’s possible for Jerry Remy to banter about hotel room service and baseball’s new replay system . . . while all this other awful stuff is unfolding in such a public manner.
Jerry Remy is more than a broadcaster in Red Sox Nation. And this topic is not going to go away.
“I understand that,’’ Remy said. “We have a grasp on it.’’