By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- NESN's Tom Caron spoke to the Fenway Park crowd and the TV viewing audience from the Jerry Remy ceremony on Wednesday night, telling everybody that their relationship with Jerry Remy was very real. For 30 years, multiple generations of New England baseball fans welcomed Jerry into their living rooms every night. Caron said that those of us who only knew Remy from television actually knew him just as well as those who knew him in real life.
And he was right.
Yet, while those three to four hour nightly windows allowed us all to love Remy, we also developed a relationship with Remy and Don Orsillo, a tag team partnership like no other. Working together for 15 years -- fifteen years -- during the most popular stretch of Red Sox baseball in the history of the franchise, the chemistry in the broadcast booth between Remy and Orsillo was unmatched across any sport. Their memorable moments are innumerable, and their time together calling games was a special part of the Red Sox experience from 2001-15.
For as much as there was Jerry Remy, there was also Remy and Orsillo.
Yet on Wednesday night, as dozens of Remy's former coworkers from his playing days and broadcasting career were brought out onto the field at Fenway Park to honor their friend, Orsillo wasn't involved in any way. While Orsillo's current job responsibilities on the West Coast may have precluded him from physically attending the ceremony, most fans watching the tribute expected to see Orsillo's face and hear his familiar voice on the center field video board at some point. The moment, though, never came.
That conspicuous absence, however, was not Orsillo's wish. And we know this not because the Red Sox told us. We know this only because Orsillo had to tell us himself.
"I was offered the opportunity to do a video message for my friend and former partner Jerry Remy for tonight's ceremony at Fenway Park. Sadly, I was notified by Red Sox/NESN that my video would no longer be needed for tonight's ceremony," Orsillo tweeted.
No longer needed.
That's a disgrace.
Not long after Orsillo's tweet spread rapidly among Red Sox fans in disbelief, Red Sox senior vice president of community, alumni and player relations Pam Kenn tweeted to former Red Sox writer Gordon Edes that there are "two sides to all stories."
In actuality, there's no side that should reasonably conclude that Orsillo's farewell message to his friend and broadcast partner had no place in a ceremony honoring the life and career of Remy.
That "side" from the Red Sox, according to The Boston Globe's Chad Finn, is that "ultimately, videos weren't part of the ceremony."
For one, the ceremony included multiple montages of Remy -- many of which included Orsillo, thus making any transition to an Orsillo message seamless. Moreover, even if videos weren't a part of the ceremony, surely this video had a place in the evening.
Finn concluded that the matter "seems like an unfortunate miscommunication more than anything else."
It doesn't exactly take a cynic to see this matter differently.
The Red Sox and NESN clumsily forced Orsillo out of the organization in 2015, never fully explaining why the change to Dave O'Brien was made. (The Red Sox own 80 percent of NESN, so while they do operate as different entities, their names can sometimes be used interchangeably.) In the spring of 2016, owner John Henry seemed shocked to learn that fans were still upset by the ousting of Orsillo -- who was not only beloved in the region, who is not only widely considered one of the best play-by-play voices in the game, but was also the perfect match for Jerry Remy.
"The fans are still mad about [NESN getting rid of Don Orsillo]?" Henry asked reporters in February 2016. "Why did that happen? I think it'd be better to ask Tom Werner and Sean McGrail and people at NESN about that. I don't want to get back into all of that again."
Henry actually never got into it at all, and neither did Werner, and neither did McGrail. None of the chief decision-makers on that call properly understood how important a part of Red Sox baseball Orsillo was to the average fan. Now years later, they still don't.
It's been a sticking point for years, and it was brought back to the surface in an ugly way on Wednesday night.
And the tweet from Russ Kenn -- husband of the aforementioned Pam Kenn and former producer of Red Sox baseball during the Orsillo-Remy days -- in which Kenn intimated that Orsillo was trying to steal attention for himself on Remy's night only adds to the ugliness of the entire situation. Absolutely none of this is necessary.
What the Red Sox and NESN and whoever else was involved with the ceremony underestimated is the simple fact that fans wanted and expected Orsillo to be a part of Wednesday's event, even if it was in a small way. He belonged there.
When he wasn't there, fans couldn't believe it. Many of those fans likely asked Orsillo directly on Twitter why he had no role in the ceremony. Rather than stay silent -- like the Red Sox might have hoped he would -- Orsillo simply stated his reality: He recorded a video to say goodbye and tell his friend he loved him. He thanked the players and the fans, and he sent messages of support to the Remy family. The video wasn't used.
Orsillo wasn't seeking attention. Fans were seeking Orsillo. Because as a significant part of Remy's life and career, Orsillo belonged in the ceremony.
Yet as we know -- because Orsillo spoke up rather than stay quiet -- the play-by-play man was kept out of this story.
To be clear, the story is about Remy. As a lifelong Red Sox devotee, Remy deserved that. And -- Orsillo's absence notwithstanding -- the ceremony was quite nice. The speeches from Caron and Sean McDonough were touching, the video montages hit all the right notes, from the famed air guitar tumble to the historic pizza throw. The presence of just about every sideline reporter and countless former teammates from NESN and the Red Sox showed how ingrained Remy was with Boston baseball. It was a very nice memorial.
But Orsillo is now unquestionably a significant part of the story, and it's not his fault. Whoever decided his video had no place in the ceremony is at fault for that, and no proper explanation exists for making such an unwise and disrespectful decision.
Here's the message Orsillo wanted to share at the ceremony:
Hey Boston, Don Orsillo here, working tonight in San Diego.
I would like to thank the Red Sox for the opportunity to talk about my friend.
Jerry ... I miss you every day. I miss your friendship, your daily texts, but mostly your laugh.
Without you, Rem, I am not in the Major Leagues today.
We worked together 15 years and the last 13 you battled. I never thought you would lose. The strongest person I have ever known.
Thank you to the Fenway Faithful and Red Sox Nation, I promise you Jerry knew how much you loved him and it kept him fighting to the end.
I would like to thank the Red Sox players for wearing the Remy 2 patch this year ... it is so very worthy.
To Phoebe and the Remy family. I love you all and share in your great pain.
Jerry... Thank you is not enough for everything you have done for me in my life or my career.
I love you Rem!
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