I was Jerry Remy’s friend.
Not in the most literal sense, of course. But I, like millions of others, welcomed the Rem Dawg into every situation of my life for the last 30 years. He was there in the living room of my childhood home, providing an unmistakable soundtrack to my first true love: baseball. As I fell in love with baseball, he provided welcomed and necessary distractions on the TV in my college dorms, too. And he served as ever-present background noise as the end of his legendary broadcasting career coincided with the first few months of our son’s life.
We spent more time with Remy than we did with any of our friends and even some of our family members, and we were welcomed the same way every night: “Buenos noches, amigos.”
That’s why the entire Boston Red Sox fanbase is in mourning Sunday after learning the news of Remy’s passing at the age of 68 after multiple, courageous battles with cancer.
There weren’t many if any, color analysts who were better at what they did than Remy was on NESN. He saw things before they happened on the baseball field, and he had an incredible way of relating his own playing experiences to the modern game. That he was able to do that without sounding like the bitter, ex-player old man might have been his greatest technical trait as a broadcaster.
And while that keen eye will be missed, the outpouring of grief and love Sunday morning stemmed more from what Remy meant to us. The brilliance of Remy was how he could connect with viewers. And while the great majority of those viewers technically were strangers, everyone felt like they knew the Rem Dawg, in part because he was the local kid who made good and became a staple of the Red Sox viewing experience for decades. That he dropped his R’s in some places and added some in others added to the charm — or “chahm.”
He absolutely loved the job, which he said many, many times. But you didn’t need to hear him say that, though. Just consuming his work made that clear. That love and passion for the sport is so key, too. Baseball is a commitment. It’s a commitment for the players, for the broadcasters and even the fans. It’s there every single night. It’s a grind. And if you’re going to commit to that grind, it helps to find some enjoyment, and for many, Remy was able to provide that — regardless of how good the team was.
“It’s just fun for me ? I don’t get tired of the baseball,” he said a few years back.
It’s impossible to overstate Remy’s cultural impact. He is woven into the fabric of New England. We endure brutal winters, in large part because we know the cold weather eventually will fade and give way to the spring and summer. And we knew that mean the return of the Red Sox and Remy. It happened every year. Few things were better than hearing that familiar voice in early March as spring training games began, and we were reminded that winter isn’t forever.
The weather eventually would improve and before long, the soundtrack of summer was everywhere you looked. Every night, Remy was there. Go to a cookout on the weekend, and he’s there in the background somewhere. In many ways, that grind of the baseball season is also its biggest selling point. There’s something to be said about that dependability. There’s something comforting about knowing it’s going to be there every day or night.
And when baseball was there, Remy was there. Baseball was his escape — he spoke bravely of his bout with depression and how baseball helped him. And Remy calling baseball was our escape. A bad day at school or work was made better by being able to turn on the TV every night and hear the Rem Dawg explain the intricacies of the hit and run or laugh uncontrollably at the lighter side of life.
That dependability understandably waned near the end of Remy’s career, as he publicly and courageously waged a battle with cancer. It gave us a chance to reflect and appreciate what we had when he was on the air as we realized how much we missed him while he was gone. It was also a reminder to not take for granted the time we had with him when he ultimately returned and resumed his perch high above the Fenway Park diamond.
Remy’s battle with cancer and everything that came with it was and remain unmistakably sad. But it did give us a chance to show Remy how much we appreciated him. Red Sox fans were afforded one more chance to do that earlier this month when he threw out the first pitch before the club’s Wild Card game win over the Yankees.
We obviously didn’t know it at the time, but it was a fitting goodbye for a franchise legend. It afforded Remy one final salute from — and to — the fans in the middle of that diamond with the rival Yankees on the other side of the field with his good friend Dennis Eckersley catching the first pitch.
While his various leaves have helped prepare us for our baseball lives without Remy, it’s still going to be difficult to process we won’t hear that signature voice anymore. While summer in New England won’t ever be the same, we should consider ourselves lucky to have spent so many summer nights and afternoons with our friend.