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Cheers? Sorry, still jeers for Johnny

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  July 29, 2010 01:28 PM

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Forgive me for not being on board for the whole, hip "Let's welcome back Johnny Damon with open arms" farce, if only because my memory chips haven't sprung a leak.

When the fans at Fenway Park ferociously booed Damon upon his return with the Yankees, it was erroneously portrayed by the media as bitter Boston baseball fans voicing their frustration that Damon went to the Yankees, the ultimate insult directed at a gamer who helped deliver a title in 2004.

There was some measure of that, sure. But the primary reason Damon was booed on that 2006 May evening (one the Red Sox try to highjack with the Doug Mirabelli police escort stupidity) was that after signing a four-year deal with the Yankees, he simply wouldn't shut his mouth.

Perhaps we've all forgotten how Damon consistently preached how the Red Sox "disrespected" him with their four-year, $40 million offer, while the Yankees threw the world at him with a mere $3 million more per season. Three million. That's it. Oh, the disrespect. Tell you what, somebody offer me $40 million and I'll do my best to spit in your face too. How dare you.

That, of course, prompted everyone with an IQ to resurface this classic quote by Damon to MLB.com in May, 2005: "There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need.''

Again, $3 million annually. The ultimate disrespect.

And here he is right before that fateful night at Fenway:

"I'm going to hear from some fans and there are other fans who are very educated who have an idea of how things went down and how the Red Sox flat out disrespected me. I'm going to go out and do my thing so I'm not going to worry too much about that. All I can say it I gave it my all for four years. If it wasn't good enough I can't concern myself with that."

The fans probably booed Damon for being stupid more than anything else.

Within weeks of signing with the Yankees, Damon was already telling everybody who would listen how "special" it felt to be a part of the Yankee tradition despite the fact that he'd even yet to arrive at spring training. You thought at some point he was going to sit Yogi Berra down and preach to him what it meant to wear pinstripes. It was a transparent act put on to prove his importance in New York, all while dismantling his legacy in Boston faster than even the Bull Gang could possibly imagine.

And THAT, friends, is why he was booed in his return. It is why he will be booed this weekend when he returns with the Tigers. Despite what many will have you believe, it wasn't merely the uniform.

Damon played hard here. He helped deliver a World Series title in 2004.

He also left town like a complete buffoon.

Cheer Johnny Damon. Good one.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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