Johnny Damon has no idea what to expect from the Fenway crowd tonight when he returns as a Tampa Bay Rays player rather than a Yankee. Damon came back as a Tiger last season, but didn’t play when his back acted up.
Will it be different?
“Probably. Those four years coming here as a Yankee there was a little higher stress. I feel I’ve been a good ambassador to the game. I’m a pretty good person. And a lot of people around baseball dislike me because I did play for the Yankees. That’s part of it. These people grew up Red Sox fans and they never change. But players do. Players get that thing called free agency where we get to play where you want. As players we have rights to do certain things. To stick with a team you’ve played with all year or trying a new spot. Those four years were definitely tough.”
“I know Boston got their man in Carl Crawford. Last year, who knows if I would have agreed to be traded at that time (Tigers had a deal in place to trade Damon to Boston at the trading deadline but Damon refused) maybe they don’t get Crawford and maybe they sign me for a year. At the time I thought staying in Detroit would have got me another year. I felt like they had the pitching. I knew they were going to go out and spend money for Victor Martinez. That’s what I was hoping for. That’s why I wanted to stay with the team I’d been with all year and that I’d competed with and battled with. I wanted to show the loyalty I had to the Tigers. Unfortunately the last day of the season they told me I wasn’t coming back. If had known that, I would have been more interested in joining the Sox.”
Would it be disappointing if he were not cheered tonight?
“This game is full of disappointments. I get cheered in some places and booed in others – the reasoning is because I did play for the Red Sox and the Yankees,” he said.
Surprised the bad feelings have lingered?
“They’re here supporting their teams. It’s their prerogative. I gave them my all. Ran into the walls so Manny didn’t have to. Got stitches in my eyes. Stitches in my elbow running into all kinds of things. I think they respected the way I played and handled the clubhouse and the type of person I am. When you put the pinstripes on, they don’t forget.”
On his last conversation with Manny: “Walking out of our clubhouse in Tampa. He said he’d see us in Chicago. At that moment I thought he wasn’t going to show up. For what ever reason I didn’t think he was going to show up. I didn’t think it was for this reason. I don’t know if you remember the movie “Rock Star” when Mark Walhberg walks off the stage and says ‘I think I have to go take a (bleep).. And then he disappears forever. It kind of felt that way.”
Any idea why he would go back to taking a banned substance?
“I have no idea. Unfortunately Manny is the one who can answer these questions so much more than I can. I couldn’t believe it. You get busted one time you’re not gonna get busted again. It shocked us all. We thought it was a different personal matter than what came out. It’s sad. I feel bad for Manny that his career is ending this easy. I hope he has a great rest of his life. I’m sure Ill catch up with him in the future. It will never be the topic of conversation.
His Hall of Fame chances are shot.
“Yeah. It is sad. With those numbers and what (Rafael) Palmeiro has and (Mark) McGwire has, it’s sad. But the numbers are always going to be there. Whether people believe their stories will be determined by guys like you for many years. I know Manny had a great career. Hopefully one day they’ll retire his number up here (at Fenway).”