June 20, 2018

NESN: Remy Recalls A Memorable Long At-Bat Against Dave Stewart. However ...

Red Sox/Twins, Wednesday, June 20, Top of the 3rd Inning. Xander Bogaerts batting, with one out and Mookie Betts on second base.

Dave O'Brien: Knocked foul, off into the stands.

Jerry Remy: That's one that Xander would like to have back, a fastball right down the middle of the plate.

O'Brien: How long do those stay with you?

Remy: Until the next pitch starts to come in. You got to have a quick memory, but --

O'Brien: You better forget quick.

Remy: You really get upset when you miss a cookie like that.

O'Brien: So, 3-2. I wonder if some guys see those in their dreams later on. Ones down the heart. Pay-off pitch and a chopper to third. Escobar gloves it, Betts holding, got him at first, two gone. Martinez next. [reads promo]

Remy: I can tell you, there are at-bats that players can remember years after they finish playing. Just certain at-bats. And usually they don't go in the direction that the player wanted them to.

O'Brien: Two down, there's a trickler, swinging bunt, but that's going to roll foul. You guys all have incredible memories about pitches you hit, against who and which situation. You know, what kind of throw the outfielder made, how hot it was, who was the next reliever in. It's incredible how long you remember these things.

Remy: Yeah, some guys are better than others, you know. The one that I remember the most is I had a battle with Dave Stewart - and he just kept feeding me fastballs away, away, away, splitters away, away, away, this went on for a number of foul balls and, you know, I got so conscious of thinking about the ball away, he made me think about that all the time, and we must have, it could have been a 13-, 14-pitch at-bat. Then he buzzes a fastball inside. I had no chance, I just looked at it. And to this day, I can see that fastball coming.

O'Brien: What year would that have been?

Remy: Oh, he was with Texas at that time. ... It's funny. Players, a lot of players I talk to, when they think about the past, they think about a lot of the bad things that happened to them. It's strange. You know, it's really strange. Things that they should have done, it could have happened in this situation.

O'Brien: I think that's because the game is built on failure.

Remy: It basically is.

O'Brien: It's the hardest game to play.
I'm not going to bury the lede: Jerry Remy never faced Dave Stewart in a major league game.

Remy's career ran from 1975 to 1984. Stewart debuted with the Dodgers in 1978 and was with them (mostly as a reliever) from 1981 until he was traded to the Rangers in August 1983. Stewart became a starter in Texas. He started eight games in August and September, but none of them were against the Red Sox.

In 1984, Stewart faced the Red Sox on August 11. He allowed five runs in six innings and Boston (behind the pitching of Roger Clemens, in only his 17th major league game) won 5-4.

Remy did not play in that game. In fact, his last major league game was on May 18 - almost three months before Stewart's first appearance against the Red Sox. So not only did Remy not face Stewart in a game, he never saw Stewart pitch in person during his playing career.

I thought O'Brien's comment about the memories of former players was interesting. First, no player can recall dozens or hundreds of at-bats or plays in the field. There are certain ones that stick in their minds, just like long-time fans can remember various hits or catches or errors.

Second, memory is extremely unreliable. Someone might relate an event from his past and impress listeners with vivid details, but the story could be unintentionally distorted or completely false. Rob Neyer, in his Big Book Of Baseball Legends, investigates dozens of baseball stories and reports on their accuracy. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that players conflate several events or recall something that happened to a teammate as happening to them. (I will say, however, that the accuracy of Dennis Eckersley's recall is uncanny.)

And I think players recall disappointing events more often than successes not because players make more outs than hits (although they do), but because the times they did not come through bother them more than the big hits make them feel good. They replay those outs or errors or bad pitches in their mind, the fact they they did not come through gnaws at them, and those moments stay with them. Also, players are often extremely self-depreciating and - with the passage of enough time - don't mind being the butt of their own jokes.

Back to the alleged Remy/Stewart matchup: It's possible the game have been played in spring training, though judging from the way Remy told it, I doubt it. Also, would the at-bat have stuck in Remy's mind for almost 35 years if it had occurred in an exhibition game in March? That's hard to say. ... But the Rangers were in Pompano Beach, Florida, in the spring of 1984, and the Red Sox were in Winter Haven. (The Dodgers also trained in Florida during the years 1978-1983.)


Jim said...

Thanks for looking that up. Funny, when Remy mentioned it, my lizard brain kicked in ... hmm, Stewart, late '80's guy, Remy, done by mid-80's..hmm I wonder... Then it went back to being annoyed by the Sox offense.
O'Brien is master of "the tease". Whether it leads to a commercial or bullshit, it matters not to him. As long as there is no silence in the booth.

allan said...

I thought the same thing about Stewart. I was very surprised to see he debuted in 1978, although that was only 2 innings out of the pen in one game. He was back up for good in 1981.

Remy stopped playing in May 1984 (abruptly?) because of his knees, as I understand. Also, he went 3-for-his-last 35. Not the way you want things to end ...

Jere said...

Went through old newspapers looking for a Stewart vs. Red Sox spring training matchup. I was using the Milwaukee Journal, and they had almost every paper available from March '81 and '82, many from '83, and about half from '84. I searched all of those and came up with this:

3/10/82 the Dodgers played the Red Sox. Stewart did not appear.

3/29/84 the Rangers played the Red Sox. Stewart did not appear.

So there's still a chance. I know Remy tried to come back through '84 and '85, and didn't quit until ST '86. I doubt he played in ST in '85, but then in '86, I found this awesome log of ST! It tracks Remy's status. He DID play in games. So I found the story/box of the Phillies game from April 1 in the Bangor paper. Neither Remy nor Stewart appeared.

Having found this new paper, I went back to '83 and found a game (with box and story) from 3/11/83, Sox vs. Dodgers. Remy led off. Stewart pitched! However, I figured that Remy was replaced by Barrett beFORE Stewart entered the game in the 6th. Remy's 3 at bats would have come before that since I could tell (from my baseball nerdery) that they had an 8-batter first inning.

So I missed a few days here and there, but it doesn't look good for the "maybe it was spring training" option.

BTW I can't figure out how to get to any other part of that diary I linked other than part 9 or 10. Weird old web site.