Johnny Damon returns to Fenway Park tonight with the Rays and some (or most) fans will boo him. They still can’t forgive Damon for signing with the Yankees after the 2005 season.
“I guess whenever you put on the Yankees uniform they get upset about it,’’ Damon told reporters in Chicago yesterday. “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.’ ’’
That’s a good response. Perhaps Damon will catch a break tonight. He was injured when the Tigers came to town last season and tonight will mark his first game back with a team different than the Yankees.
Listen, I get that fans are passionate and that bitterness and revenge are part of the package. That’s especially true in places like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. But take Johnny Damon out of the mix and maybe you’re still wondering why this team can’t win the World Series.
There is no bigger swing of the bat in the history of the Red Sox than that grand slam he had off Javy Vazquez in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. None.
And I’m here to tell you, having witnessed it, that nobody played harder, played hurt or played to win more than Johnny did. He put it on the line every day for your team.
Remember what Terry Francona said during spring training?
“One of my all-time favorites. One of the best guys you could ever have playing. As a manager, you can’t appreciate him enough. There were days he got the [expletive] beat out of him, and he’d call me in morning and say don’t not play me, and show up. He understood his obligation to play center field even if he went 0 for 4. … Everybody who has been around him appreciates what he’s done.”
So boo if you want, that’s certainly your right. But enough time has passed to give Johnny Damon his props.