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Love-hate relationship for Damon, Red Sox

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  May 9, 2012 03:10 PM

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He’s been Jesus and Judas.

He’s had long hair, short hair and indescribable hair.

He’s appeared clean shaven, bearded and bedraggled.

Johnny Damon and his baggage return to Fenway Park Thursday – Caveman and Indians. Damon signed with the Tribe in April, making Cleveland his seventh stop in the American League. He sandwiched his four seasons in Boston with terms in Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Detroit, Tampa Bay and now Cleveland.

Here's why we love him:

And this:

Before we witnessed those heroics, there was this momentary scare, punctuated by a moment of sheer crazy courage:

damon thumbs up.jpg On Oct. 6, 2003, with the Red Sox on the verge of a three-game comeback in the ALDS against Oakland, Damon and Damian Jackson collide head-first while chasing a shallow fly ball. His thumbs-up while being wheeled off the field was pure idiot, especially since Damon was so out of it at the time he thought he was standing up. "I didn't know until later that I was on a stretcher." He also didn't know the Red Sox had won until several hours after the game. Damon, who suffered a concussion, returned for Game 3 of the ALCS against New York.

Damon is less than 300 hits away from 3,000 for his career and he said last year he’d like to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Royals - take that Wade Boggs.

Damon is one of a select few hundred - including but limited to Babe Ruth, Waite Hoyt, Roger Clemens, Alfredo Aceves, Don Baylor, Sparky Lyle, Danny Cater, Elston Howard, Boggs and Mike Torrez - who played for both the Red Sox and Yankees. Thus, Damon has been loved and loathed by Red Sox Nation. Kissed and cursed. At various times, both the middle and index fingers have been waved in his face at Fenway.

Thursday's Indians starter Derek Lowe, who went 3-0 in the 2004 postseason and got the win in Game 7 of the ALCS, bolted Boston for greener pastures, too. But he never jumped to the Yankees.

Damon's part of a much more exclusive club - which also features Carl Mays and Ruth - of players who have won the World Series with the Red Sox and Yankees.

The relationship between Red Sox fans and Damon is not much different than the one shared by Damon and his first wife. They went through a bitter divorce but she's still the mother of his children. Red Sox fans carry the same heartache toward Damon. He was a key member of the 2004 champs, but he dumped Red Sox Nation, too. At least he left us for love ... of money.

Are you more of a Red Sox fan for flat-out hating him because he went to the Yankees (and eventually Rays)? Or should you greet him with gratitude each time he comes to down for what he did in 2004? That's been the issue since Damon first returned to Fenway as a Yankee on May 1, 2006 and since.

The economic decision for Damon to jump to New York was a no-brainer, even for this "Idiot."

Damon spent four seasons in Pinstripes and his career in New York ended in 2009 with when the Yankees beat the Phillies to win the World Series in six games. Damon stole two bases on the same pitch in Game 4. We never said he couldn't play.

"I'd like to thank everyone here for making me feel at home as a Yankee. I've had the greatest four years of my career."
- Judas, Nov. 5, 2009

The Yankees jettisoned Damon in favor of Curtis Granderson before the 2010 season. That breakup mirrored his exit from Boston when it came to angst. The Tigers eventually signed Damon, but would place him on waivers during the season. He was claimed by the Red Sox on Aug 23. The decision to return to Boston was Damon's to make. "I have to think about if once again I'll be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but also the most hated guy in baseball. That's what it boils down to," he said at the time. Eventually, his answer was no.

In an attempt to recreate the Red Sox 2004 World Series championship, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Damon and Manny Ramirez before the 2011 season. The move was only half-idiotic, as Manny found himself suspended after five games under the Major League PED policy and eventually "retried."

Damon, who didn't play at Fenway in 2010, returned early last season with Tampa Bay. Even before he showed up, he was prepared for the worst.

“I guess whenever you put on the Yankees uniform they get upset about it. I get booed. They absolutely despise me. I just have to say, ‘You’re welcome for ’04. You’re welcome for making it fun again over there.’’’
- Damon, April. 10, 2011

He led off that game with a home run off Dice-K. A mixed reaction of cheers and boos when he came up had evolved into all boos as he rounded the bases. The Rays won 16-5 as the Red Sox joined them in last place at 2-8.

"Yeah it was great coming back in here on a different team other than the Yankees. A little more mixed (ovation) tonight. I was very happy hearing some of the cheers."
- Damon, April. 11, 2011

Damon cracked 16 HR and hit .261 with 73 RBIs for the Rays in 150 games for the Rays. He continued to haunt the Red Sox as Boston sank into the 7-20 September abyss.

He suffered a delirious loss of perspective in the euphoria of Tampa Bay's 8-7 12-inning victory over Scranton Wilkes-Barre on the final night of 2011 season. Then again, we were all a little crazed that night.

"You know what, I didn't think anything would top the (2004) World Series in Boston, but this does, regardless of whatever happens during the playoffs," Damon said.
- Damon, Sept. 29, 2011

That brings us to 2012. Damon remains bitter toward the Rays, who ditched him the offseason in favor of Luke "I hate Fenway Park" Scott. More heartache for poor little Johnny. How much pain can one man take?

Now, he's back in Boston with Cleveland. Damon's lucky Josh Beckett is pitching for the Red Sox. No one will have more "f-bombs" hurled in his direction at Fenway tonight. If Beckett can't take the heat off Damon, no one can. Or perhaps playing in the A.L. Central will give the "sellout" crowd of 26,000 or so enough space to give Damon some respectful applause before his first at-bat before he's treated with the same apathy reserved for the rest of the non-Lowe-ly Indians.

But in any case, it has to be a two-way street.

As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail them to me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF. Thanks for reading. Pass the clicker.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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