COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — I’ve never really found it hard to take sides in the David Price-Dennis Eckersley dust-up. Price is a talented baby who feels he is being a good teammate and a tough guy when he rips Eckersley. A bewildered Eckersley, who never wants to talk about it, just shrugs his shoulders and wonders about his nonsensical nemesis in the Sox clubhouse.
“He’s my new Kirk Gibson,’’ Eckersley said with a laugh Saturday in Cooperstown, N.Y. “Everywhere I go people are asking me about David Price, telling me what he said about me. For years, I carried the Gibson thing around. Everybody was droppin’ a Gibson on me. Now I got this. I don’t get it.’’
No one understands it. But let’s get one thing straight: This is not a back-and-forth feud. This is Price — twice in three years — going out of his way to attack Eckersley. Eck has never fired back and he’s not firing back now. He initiated none of it and studiously avoids the topic. I tried to get him to talk about it again Saturday with no luck. Eck just wants to enjoy his life, his grandchildren, and his broadcast career. He’s recovered from alcoholism, broken marriages, and surrendering one of the most famous home runs in World Series history. A few mean words from a petulant millionaire lefty can’t hurt him.
The old story was re-ignited last week when the Globe’s Chad Finn profiled Eckersley for a lengthy Sunday Magazine feature. In three hours of conversation over multiple days, Finn asked one obligatory Price question and got this non-answer: “I don’t plan on saying a word to him, I don’t plan on seeing him, never. I don’t really give a [expletive] one way or another. I don’t think he really cares one way or the other.”
That was it . . . until Wednesday when Price saw an aggregated version of the story in which Eckersley’s small comment was amplified and headlined.
Price reacted instantly and foolishly, firing off an insulting tweet toward Eckersley, then promising things were gonna “get lit” later in the day. When the clubhouse doors opened, Price was armed with a new batch of insults aimed at Eckersley. He claimed that Eckersley keeps talking about the incident from 2017 (Eck merely gave a non-answer as part of a lengthy profile). He claimed Eck is “going on the radio” talking about it. (Eckersley made one comment on a podcast two years ago, but that’s it). In a pathetic attempt to paint himself as a great guy and Eck as a selfish loner, Price noted that none of Eck’s teammates were part of an MLB Eckersley documentary.
“To me, that’s all you need to know,’’ said the passive-aggressive Price.
Translation: I have friends. He doesn’t.
Of course, it turned out that no less than six players were in the doc, all of them praising Eckersley as a great friend and teammate. The producer of the documentary said he got 100 percent cooperation from everyone he asked to talk about Eckersley.
Price on Wednesday also said Eckersley failed to show for a meeting scheduled when this bleepstorm first erupted two summers ago.
We all have different memories of this one. I was with Eckersley in Cooperstown in 2017 after the initial ambush and my recollection is that Red Sox and Hall of Fame folks were trying to broker a clear-the-air meeting at Fenway for when Eckersley returned to Boston. While that was being negotiated (it was never set), Price made more comments indicating he had no plans to apologize (Sox bosses tried and failed to get Price to say he was sorry). When Eckersley learned of Price’s doubling-down stance, the broadcaster lost all interest in any potential meeting with Price.
And here we are, two years later, still hearing about it.
Rick Vaughn, public relations director of the Rays when Price pitched in Tampa said, “I didn’t see much of this side of David when I worked with him. I know he wants to be a good teammate and I think he thinks he’s protecting other players when he does this. David and James Shields were the two who started that thing of pitchers going to watch other pitchers throw side sessions. That started in Tampa in 2008. When I see this stuff, I think David just thinks he’s protecting his teammates.’’
Alex Cora watched from afar when this nonsense went down in 2017. Now it’s Cora’s problem.
Friday in Baltimore, Cora told reporters, “The timing was like, ‘Why now?’ It was out of nowhere. David is very honest and he speaks his mind. But at the same time, why do we have to talk about this while we’re in the middle of the season?”
Let the record show that while Price was channeling his twitter rage and trashing Eckersley’s legacy in the Sox clubhouse Wednesday, Eck was touring the Jimmy Fund Clinic, cheering up the kids with NESN’s Tom Caron. Two nights later, when Price was coughing up six runs on eight hits in an 11-2 loss to the worst team in baseball, Eck was dining at the Hall of Fame dinner with 50 or more of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived.
Wade Boggs gets the last word.
“This is ridiculous,’’ said the Hall of Fame third baseman. “Everybody in the game loves Eck. He was a great teammate. And David Price? Please. He should ask me what it used to be like to play in Boston. These guys today don’t hear any noise compared to the stuff that was aimed at us. I mean, seriously.
“ ‘Yuck?’ Give me a break.’’