Someday maybe my baby will love me like Number Five

So I have to write a little about Nomar. Especially given that I bought a ticket specifically to see him play tonight and then, for various reasons, ended up not going to the game.

I remember the day Nomar was traded much like people remember where they were when someone famous died. I was alone in my parents’ house sitting on the floor using their new wireless connection to stay on my laptop and watch ESPN at the same time. The biggest rumor on that July 31st, 2004, was that Derek Lowe was going to be traded for Matt Clement. It didn’t make sense and most of us didn’t want it – but that was the dominating rumor on the Red Sox fan forum that day.

To add fuel to that fire, Matt Clement happened to be pitching that day and came out of the game “early” which totally fed into the rumor. (A quick glance at Baseball Reference tells me that Clement pitched 7 innings that day, gave up four hits and four runs – two earned- and struck out 10 so I’m not sure what folks considered “early” but that was certainly the buzz that day.)

The first indication that the Lowe rumor was wrong and our lives were going to be spun around was someone posting that “it’s Nomar”. No one believed it. Theo wouldn’t trade the current face of the franchise, would he? Moments later ESPN confirmed it and the wake began. There were people online threatening Theo. Others just threatened to stop following the Red Sox. Many people, including myself and not limited to women, admitted to crying. Sure there were folks who thought that getting rid of Nomar could be the shake up the team needed but there were very few of them on at that moment.

My parents, my sister and her (then) 3 year-0ld daughter returned before Theo had given his press conference. We all watched both Nomar and Theo talk about what happened (separately, f course) and some of us cried some more. I remember my father not buying Theo’s argument about it all being about defense yet also feeling sorry for Theo, noting that he looked “sick” and not as self-assured as we were used to seeing him. I didn’t know how I felt. I trusted Theo, even back then, and I figured if he thought shaking things up by trading Nomar was going to help the team – I had to believe he knew what he was doing. But it hurt like hell. Nomar was, for me, the best part of the Red Sox for a very long time and even though there were signs in 2004 that a split might be best for everyone, I never wanted it to happen.

My 3 year-old niece was taught by me to chant “Let’s Go No-mar!” from the moment she had begun speaking. Her first piece of Red Sox gear was a Nomar jersey. When you asked her who her favorite player was she rattled off “Nomar, Papi, Manny, Pedro and Dougie!” (Don’t ask. I have no idea how Doug Mirabelli got lumped into her favorites!) and she owned a Nomar “Celebriduck” as well as a McFarlane figure. Anything she owned that was Red Sox-related had something to do with Nomar (and Nomar’s trade also prompted her to pick up a new favorite…Johnny Damon. A story in itself for another time!). Explaining the trade to a 3 year-old was quite the task.

But we sucked it up and moved on. Sure I watched the occasional Cubs game to get a glimpse of him but more often than not I just put him out of my mind altogether. I didn’t want to know how he was doing. Why bring up the pain of his leaving over and over again? But he was always there. Sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for me to check the box score for the latest Cubs game to see how he had done. When he went to the Dodgers the Red Sox had already won the 2004 World Series but I still missed him and still had a hard time watching him in another uniform. I don’t think I’ve watched an entire game that he’s played in since he left the Red Sox. Even after two championships I still miss him and wonder how things might have been different.

So when the first rumblings came about that the A’s were going to pick him up, I immediately bought a ticket for tonight’s game. At some point last week I had the thought that two Sox games in a row directly following the Fourth of July would be a bit much so I decided to ditch tonight’s game. I don’t ditch games easily. It’s a painstaking process in which I go over the pros and cons of my making the trip to Fenway. But with this game there was no arguing with myself. I decided not to go to the game and I was all right with that. It was a weird sensation but I shrugged it off. Then it was pointed out to me that this would be John Smoltz’ first time pitching at Fenway as a Red Sox player and I decided to go. But I wasn’t sold on getting there. Something just nagged at me that it would be all right if I didn’t end up going.

Given that I, pretty much, cried from 7:00pm until just after Nomar’s first at-bat, I think I made the right decision.

Quotes like this kept the waterworks going:

“I love ‘em. I love the way they treated me,” said Garciaparra, whose eyes were filled with tears. “I’m getting emotional because when I was gone, Boston fans were everywhere. I can’t say how many times I heard, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all you did.’ Even today, I was walking down Newbury Street, a guy came up to me and shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said, ‘Thank you for all you did.’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘No … thank you.’”

Say what you will about Nomar in 2004 but I hold no hard feelings toward him. None at all. And I’m thrilled that he got the ovation I believe he deserved tonight.

I’m slightly cranky that the Sox let a rookie pitcher make them look foolish and that John Smoltz isn’t getting it done…but I choose to focus on Nomar’s return. And given that the Fenway Faithful honored him with a one minute, ten second ovation (suck on THAT, Boston Dirt Dogs), I’d say many fans feel the same way.

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