Remembering RemDawg

For over 40 years, Jerry Remy made an indelible mark on the Boston Red Sox, 1st as an All-Star 2nd Baseman, and later as a color commentator on the New England Sports Network and local channel 38.

A local boy who made good, he was born in Fall River and grew up in Somerset. He would start his major league career with the California Angels in 1975, having several good seasons for them before being traded to the Red Sox in late December 1977 for hurler Don Aase, who will always be one of the first players listed alphabetically, right after Hank Aaron.

Remy would make the most of his homecoming in 1978, batting .278 with 30 stolen bases and boosting the infield defense with his stellar glovework. Never a power hitter, he would also hit the last 2 of the 7 homeruns he hit in his career that season. The team would blow a 14 game lead, and Jerry was on base in the 9th inning of the AL East division tie breaker before Carl Yastrzemski popped out to 3rd baseman Craig Nettles to give the Yankees the pennant in heartbreaking fashion.

Only 26 years old in 1979, his future seemed bright. He was hitting .304 on July 1st when he injured his knee, keeping him out for the most of the rest of the season. Jerry appeared in 63 and 88 games in ‘80 and ‘81 respectively, still dealing with the bad knee, but hitting over .300. He finally played a full season again in 1982, hitting .280 and maintaining a .982 fielding percentage in 155 games.

Remy followed that up in ‘83 with a .275 average and an amazing .990 fielding percentage, but he couldn’t stay healthy, as he hurt his knee again in 1984 and only played in 30 games. He did hang on and try to rehabilitate his knee until the end of the 1985 season, but the Red Sox released him in December and he officially retired from baseball during spring training 1986.

Jerry would find a second career behind the mic, joining hometown favorite play-by-play man Ned Martin in the booth for the 1988 season on NESN. He was always known for his homer attitude and his ad libs during the downtime of every baseball game, and fans would come to love his zany talk of random things that popped into his mind.

He was equally as likely to talk about interesting fans that he spotted in the crowd, his love-hate relationship with Wally the Green Monster the Red Sox mascot, post game dinner preparations, or the hotel and flight accomodations on road trips. He would also entertain everyone with his pre game air guitar, and strange moments such as losing a tooth during a broadcast.

Remy would especially gel on-air with Don Orsillo, who started play-by-play commentating for the Red Sox in 2001. They started with a bang on opening day, calling a no-hitter by Hideo Nomo in Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. He had a way of getting Don to crack up at random moments, when you could hear silence on the air as they both tried not to laugh.

Many times, depending on the weather, he would put a beanie baby version of Wally in a mini beach chair and place him on the ledge of the broadcasting booth, and talk about him as if he kept up daily correspondence. The fans couldn’t get enough. Orlando Hudson, a second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, would christen Remy with the nickname RemDawg, and it stuck. Orsillo and Remy would work together for 15 years, until Orsillo left for a job in sunny San Diego calling games for the Padres.

Jerry was also an author, penning 3 books about baseball and the Red Sox, the first of which was Watching Baseball, which came out in 2004. He also wrote 5 children’s books starring his nemesis/best friend/alter ego, Wally the Green Monster. When he was being serious, he had an excellent eye for the game.

He would notice everything going on during the game besides when the ball was in play, which often tells a better story of what is actually going on. Fielders’ positioning, coaches’ signs, and the effect of the sun, wind, and rain on the field conditions were some of his common musings. He even opened up a hot dog stand outside Fenway named RemDawg’s, and eventually spun that out into several restaurants in the Boston area with the same name.

Years of smoking cigarettes would bring him to the biggest battle of his life starting in November 2008, as he had a cancerous mass removed from his lung. He would come down with an infection and pneumonia during his recovery, and he would eventually decide to take a leave of absence from TV starting on April 30th, 2009. Remy showed up to the broadcasting booth on August 12th to a standing ovation from the Fenway Faithful, and then returned full-time 9 days later.

2013 was a particularly tough year for him, as he had a recurrence of lung cancer, and his son Jared was arrested for allegedly stabbing his girlfriend to death. His son would eventually be convicted and sentenced to life in prison, and he took time off in August 2013 to deal with these blows, not returning until 2014.

Jerry always seemed very private about his ordeal, only talking to the fans when things seemed to take a turn for the worse; he would deal with the cancer recurring twice more. He continued to broadcast until June 11th, 2021, when he had to leave the game because of shortness of breath and was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital. He attempted yet another comeback 9 days later, but was forced to stop broadcasting finally on August 4th, to deal with his cancer treatments.

Remy’s final public appearance happened on October 5th 2021, in the wildcard one game playoff against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former teammate and broacasting partner Dennis Eckersley. He seemed to be in good enough spirits, smiling and getting around well enough even though he needed an oxygen tank to breathe, as the fans gave him a raucous round of cheers, but he would eventually succumb to cancer on October 30th, 9 days before his 69th birthday. A public wake was held in Waltham on November 4th, so that all his fans could show their appreciation for the love and laughs he brought them over the years.

Jerry Remy was a player, a writer, a speaker, a restaurateur, and a great figure in Boston Sports, who will be hard to replace behind the mic. Fans will miss his witty observations and the banter he had with his colleagues on air. His love for the game of baseball was palpable, and all his struggles later in life he faced with poise and dignity. We will miss you RemDawg, thanks for all the memories.

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