Monday, May 08, 2006

Behind the Scenes At Fenway Park – Cowboy Up!

In the wake of last week’s furor over the return of pinstripe-wearing Johnny Damon to Fenway Park, there was another notable return. Kevin Millar’s arrival on Friday evening wearing the gray and orange of the Baltimore Orioles was met with far less bombast and was less widely bruited in the press than had been the case earlier in the week when the Yankees rolled into town.

Kevin Millar, whose last year in a Red Sox uniform was a statistical disaster and a disappointment to all concerned, is still beloved by Red Sox fans for the contributions he made to the 2004 World Series Champions, as well as for his indelible stamp of Texas country bonhomie and his signature motto: “Cowboy Up!” So, it was a special moment in the 1st inning of Friday night’s game when Millar stepped to the plate for the first time in the uniform of the visiting team. The fans rose as one and applauded, cheered, yelled, whistled for Kevin for an extended period of time.

DISCLAIMER – I hesitated to add the following details to the story, but was strongly urged to do so by White Rhino Report reader and contributor, Scott St. Germain. Scott was in town on business, and joined me at Friday’s game. When I told him that I was concerned about the possibility of being accused of name dropping, or stooping to the level of a gossip columnist, he remonstrated with me, and argued that among the readers of The White Rhino Report, there are “inquiring minds that would want to know” the details that will follow – details that you won’t read anywhere else. So, I capitulated.

As the Red Sox were batting in the bottom of the 1st inning, I noticed several of the wives of Orioles players walking down the aisle to take their seats in the grandstands behind home plate. Since I often sit among the family and friends of the visiting team, the ladies ended up sitting just a few rows in front of where Scott and I were seated. I turned to Scott and casually mentioned, “That’s Kevin Millar’s wife, Gina.”

“Do you know her?”

“Yeah, we’ve have met and talked a few times.”

It occurred to me that Gina had arrived after Kevin’s plate appearance in the 1st inning, and that she might not be aware of what had transpired, so between innings, I walked down to where she was seated on the aisle, and asked her if she had seen and heard the gratifying ovation that her husband had received. She had missed it. So, I gave her a quick description, and returned to my seat.

Later in the game, Scott and I were standing and talking near the refreshment stand behind Section 20. I noticed Gina making her way up the aisle. When she saw me, she walked over, and said: “Please tell me more details about Kevin’s welcome. What did he do? Did he tip his cap?”

We talked for a few minutes about how strange it felt for her to be back at Fenway – no longer sitting among the Red Sox wives, but across the aisle among the families of the visiting team.

My response to Gina was to quip: “It’s the same church, but a different pew!”

As a parting remark, I said: “I want you to know, Red Sox fans are glad you are back in town. Welcome home!” It seemed natural to offer Gina a chaste hug, which she accepted and returned. And then she was on her way. She is a gracious and lovely example of Texas gentility and beauty at its finest, and it was wonderful to see her again.

My friend Scott, the sophisticated and successful business man – West Point grad and Harvard MBA – turned to me and exclaimed: “You just hugged Kevin Millar’s wife!”

Sometimes it’s good to be The White Rhino!

It was a terrific ballgame, and Big Papi cleared the bases with a booming double to right field late in the game to seal the victory for the Red Sox.
Go Sox!



Anonymous said...

Dear Al,
Thank you for the story.
A good one, indeed.
Amy asked me, as we watched an "in dugout" pre-game interview where Kevin placed the blame for his not being in a Red Sox uniform squarely on his own performance.
It was refreshing to see and is consistent with the Kevin Millar I admired as a fan. (And, Oh, by the way, I've remembered my last game at Fenway with the Yankees. It was the game where Kevin hit 3 home runs and we still lost.)
My question to you and your readers is this:
Didn't Kevin quip about the Boston media and how it drove trades and front office perception, and other sour grapes comments at the time of his departure, or am I remembering wrong?

I still like Kevin, but am trying to reconcile my memory of his departure and his very honorable comments in the pre-game dugout interview.

From the Heart of the Nation,
John Anthony Simmons

Anonymous said...

White Rhino Report readers,
Yes, I will validate the Disclaimer. I did insist that Al publish this report. Seeing Al interact and hug Mrs. Kevin Millar was truly a milestone in Red Sox history (at least by my definition!).
In retrospect, the meeting of Al and Gina was quite symbolic : Red Sox faithful meets Red Sox of the past, East coaster meets Good ol' Texan, and Beauty meets ...
Al, you never cease to amaze me. Thanks for a wonderful memory.
Scott St. Germain

Craig Balben said...

Al: Great story, as always! Thanks again for being a part of Wednesday, May 3.

Funny comment Scott... if you've ever had the privelege of playing tennis with the White Rhino then you know how to finish that sentence. For fear of being roasted at my own wedding, I will end there.