There was so much more I could have included in the profile I wrote about Dennis Eckersley that will be published in Sunday’s Globe Magazine.
Anecdotes about those dazzling, doomed ’70s Red Sox of Yaz, Rice and Lynn, the teams that made me a fan for life. Heck, I wanted to hear those stories myself, not necessarily for the piece.
“What was your favorite team growing up?’’ he asked me after talking about falling in love with the ’62 Giants as a kid. “You guys in ’78,’’ I said. He laughed. “And you stuck around after that ending, huh?”
I could have had a section on stories about his relationship with Frank Robinson, the Hall of Fame slugger and former Indians manager who brought Eckersley to the big leagues as a 20-year-old in 1975, the gruff boss who couldn’t hide his affection for the outwardly cocky kid.
I definitely would have loved to have gone more in-depth on his day-to-day life away from baseball and his relationship with his remarkable wife, Jennifer.
In fact, I did. But the 800-ish words I wrote about that didn’t make the cut, for good reason. I filed 2,000 more words than I was supposed to, which was supposed to come in around 2,500 words and ended up at around 3,500, I think. Remember to thank your editors, folks.
But there was nothing more to include about one topic: The infamous incident with David Price two years ago on the team plane.
I asked Eckersley about it, because it’s relevant to his second act in baseball as a beloved Red Sox broadcaster and would have been obvious in its omission.
The incident, in which Price ambushed and berated Eckersley for an off-the-cuff one-word comment he made on a broadcast about Eduardo Rodriguez’s stat line in a rehab start, still bothers Eckersley.
Price’s assertion at the time that Eckersley — who went through pretty much every peak and valley a ballplayer can during his 24-year career — didn’t understand how hard it is to play Major League Baseball might be the most tone-deaf thing I’ve ever heard from a Boston athlete. It was absurd.
Eckersley did not dwell on it when I asked about it. In probably three hours of conversation over two days at Fenway, we talked about the Price situation for maybe two minutes. There is not another quote in my notes about it. Like with everything else he has dealt with in his life, he was open and honest, and then we moved on to the next topic.
The story was published on our website Tuesday and drew an instant, enormous and overwhelmingly positive response. I didn’t hear a word about Eckersley’s Price quote — “I don’t plan on saying a word to him, I don’t plan on seeing him, never. [Broadcasters now board the plane before players.] I don’t really give a [expletive] one way or another. I don’t think he really cares one way or the other.” — until Wednesday, when WEEI.com plucked it from the story, aggregated it, and posted it on their website. It was also a frequent topic of conversation on their station in the afternoon. That happens. Everyone aggregates. And sports radio exaggerates.
Then Price sent out a couple of tone-deaf tweets about it, which made it clear he saw the aggregated story, and still has no clue what Eckersley is about.
Manager Alex Cora revealed on WEEI’s OMF afternoon drive program that he talked to Price about his tweets. That did not prevent Price for dumping gasoline on the situation like a member of the Red Sox bullpen coming in with a lead.
Among the nonsense Price provided to the media on the topic before Wednesday’s game was this gem about a recent MLB Network documentary on Eckersley’s life and career:
“The one thing that definitely stood out to me is that he had zero former teammates in that [documentary],” Price said. “Not one talking about him. It was him talking about himself. If anybody ever does a special on me after baseball, I won’t need to go on and interview. I’ll have former teammates. I’ll have former coaches. They can all vouch for me. He didn’t have that.
“To me, that’s all you need to know. That tells the entire story right there.”
It sure does. Just not in the way Price thinks.
Among those interviewed in the MLB documentary included former teammates Mark McGwire, Bruce Hurst, Ray Fosse, Jerry Remy, and Fred Lynn.
Director Bruce Cornblatt told the Globe that the production team did not reach out to many former teammates because the premise of the piece was Eck telling his own story.
In my piece, I didn’t use comments from many former teammates or ballplayers either, just because his whole story encompasses so much and there was at least some effort to be concise. I talked to some — Jim Rice and Eckersley’s former Oakland A’s teammate Rick Honeycutt among them — and didn’t end up using what they said because it was redundant with more colorful comments from the likes of former manager Tony La Russa and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who befriended Eckersley in 1977 when they were teammates at the All-Star Game.
I desperately wanted to shoehorn in a comment from former Indians teammate Buddy Bell that was part of Eckersley’s tribute video at the Hall of Fame: “You know how a young infant starts talking, and nobody understands him except his parents? That’s like how we were with Eck,’’ says Bell.
Eckersley was close with Bell, who was in his second wedding. Scott Sanderson, his former Cubs and A’s teammate who recently died, adored him. Dwight Evans raves about him and always has. It would have been harder to find an ex-teammate that was lukewarm on Eckersley than to find 100 that love the guy.
Price told reporters that if Eckersley ever does want to meet, he will apologize for what happened in 2017.
Count me as skeptical that he even realizes what he should apologize for, from his airplane ambush two years ago, and from his clueless Wednesday too.
Might make for an interesting documentary someday, though, if only to see who vouches for him and who doesn’t.