Here's a toast to the fans who filled Fenway Park yesterday afternoon. David Ortiz rewarded the throng with yet another walkoff wonder, but this crowd did itself proud long before Big Papi unloaded his latest game-winning thunderbolt.
We salute the 35,564 because they delivered a message that Major League Baseball and the shameful Philadelphia Phillies were too chicken to send. They booed an alleged wife-beater, Phillies starting pitcher Brett Myers.
Myers didn't have his good stuff yesterday. The Sox reached him for 3 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks in only 5 innings. They made him throw a whopping 115 pitches just to get through those five frames.
Myers was allowed to pitch in front of the sellout crowd and a national television audience just 36 hours after he was arrested for allegedly twice hitting his wife in the head with his fist as the two argued on a sidewalk near their Boston hotel. He is free on $200 bail, and after his performance yesterday, the most he could say about the sorry episode was, ``I'm sorry it had to get public. Of course, it's embarrassing . . . But my teammates have been great. They've been behind me 100 percent. That's all I've got."
What a league. What a country. Myers is Philadelphia's best pitcher. The Phils are trying to snap out of a losing spell and . . . well, you know, he's innocent until proven guilty and he has a right to make a living.
And so he was out there throwing cut fastballs and changeups on a misty, humid afternoon. Nice message for all the young folks watching at home and in the stands.
It's just plain wrong. It's an embarrassment to baseball and an embarrassment to the Phillies. At the very least, Myers would have been better off if he'd been sent home to start counseling with his wife. Or maybe someone in authority could have condemned domestic violence -- in the generic sense. Instead all we got was ``the game must go on" -- 36 hours after a man was arrested for beating his wife.
According to the Phillies press guide, Myers was an amateur boxer until he was 13 years old. Now, if we can believe the Boston police and a couple of eyewitnesses, he just hits women half his size.
The Phillies came to Boston Thursday night around 8:30 and set up shop in the Sheraton. After midnight, Myers was seen hitting his wife and dragging her by the hair near the hotel. Multiple 911 calls were made by witnesses.
In a telephone interview with the Globe's Suzanne Smalley, 26-year-old Courtney Knight said, ``He was dragging her by the hair and slapping her across the face. She was yelling, `I'm not going to let you do this to me anymore' . . . She's a real small girl. It was awful."
The 25-year-old Myers is 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 240 pounds. His wife is 5-4 and weighs 120.
``He had her on the ground," Knight said. ``He was trying to get her to go, and she was resisting. She curled up and sat on the ground."
Thirty-year-old Sly Egidio, who was with Knight, added, ``I watched him just haul off and smack her in the face . . . This was violent. This was wrong."
Boston police responded and found Kim Myers sitting on a sidewalk, crying. According to police, the left side of her face appeared swollen. She told police that her husband hit her in the face with his fist. Twice. Myers was arrested on charges of assault and battery and later released from District 4 station after his wife posted bail. Arraigned in Boston Municipal Court Friday, he pleaded not guilty, and his next court date is Aug. 4.
Wearing sunglasses on a rainy afternoon, Myers arrived at Fenway Friday. Rather than have reporters chasing Myers around the ballpark, the club arranged a brief group interview in the visitors dugout and the pitcher said, ``My lawyers have advised me not to comment on the issue." He also said he would be able to put the incident behind him and focus on baseball. ``Once you cross those lines, it's totally different," he said.
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel and general manager Pat Gillick pledged their support (``not a big distraction" said Manuel) and the club issued a statement that read, in part, ``Out of respect for the privacy of both Kim and Brett Myers, the Phillies will not comment on the incident until the matter is resolved by the Court."
Patrick Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said, ``We have to wait until the justice system runs its course before we can really comment on it."
Brett and Kim Myers have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. According to a Phillies publicist, Kim Myers was not at Fenway yesterday.
Myers was booed by the crowd when his image was first flashed on the big board while the lineups were introduced. He got it again each inning when he first popped out of the dugout. It took him a long time to come out for the start of some of those innings -- which only fueled the crowd's fury.
``It didn't surprise me at all," Manuel said, reiterating that there was never any discussion about Myers not taking his turn in the rotation. ``He was gonna pitch. I thought he could handle it. He did handle it. I thought he handled it pretty good. I'm sure he'll get booed at home."
When Myers came out to speak to the media, a fawning nitwit asked if events of these last few days made things ``difficult for you?"
Don't you love it? Let's ask the perp if all this controversy regarding his arrest has made it difficult for him to play baseball.
He said he did his best to focus on the game. Then he was asked if he knew why Boston fans were booing him with such gusto.
Does he think it will happen elsewhere?
``I don't know. We'll see."
Anything you want to say to the fans, Brett?
``I just want to give my all every time out there."
Any regrets about what happened?
``I'm not even supposed to talk about the issue."
That's when he came out with the ``sorry it had to get public" line.
Some Red Sox fans no doubt remember Wil Cordero, who was arrested for hitting his wife with a telephone when the two lived in Cambridge in 1997. The Sox took Cordero out of the lineup immediately and he sat for eight games before he was reinstated. Cordero was released at the end of the '97 season.
Former Red Sox pitcher Wes Gardner was arrested for hitting his wife at the club's Baltimore hotel in August of 1989. Like Myers, Gardner was allowed to make his next start, two days later.
That was 17 years ago. We are supposed to be more enlightened today, more mindful of the seriousness of domestic violence.
Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler and his wife, Lisa, have been aggressive spokespersons for domestic violence awareness. Long after Ortiz circled the bases yesterday, Kapler sat in a near-empty clubhouse and said, ``It's important in the work that I do to present what is strong and what is weak and what perception is. To me, strong is being able to control yourself -- when things get difficult, not to lose self-control."
June 24, 2006: Good day for the Red Sox. Good day for the Fenway legions. Bad day for Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.