By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full;
But he’s the only one who knows –
And he’s the man who fights the bull.
More than bullfighters identify with that poem; it applies equally to all those who ply
their trades in the public arena, be they actors, artists, politicians or athletes – including
baseball players, and who are critiqued by those who don’t. There is a certain amount of
suspicion, coupled with a healthy dollop of resentment, for those whose job it is to
critique their performance and who haven’t necessarly shared the same experiences.
But look at it from the other side. How much fun can it be to walk into a clubhouse – or
onto a plane – to face the wrath of someone who, rightly or wrongly, has been offended
by something that has been written or said? Not much, I’ll wager.
All of which brings us to the David Price/Dennis Eckersley brouhaha that has roiled Red
Sox Nation for the last several weeks. To briefly recap, on June 29 th during the telecast of
the Red Sox game the pitching line of Eduardo Rodgiguez’ rehab start for Pawtucket was
flashed on the screen. The numbers were not pretty but no one was concerned because the
purpose of the start was to get the pitcher’s legs under him and to determine that his
gimpy knee would hold up in game conditions. Eckersley, filling in for Jerry Remy as
analyst, looked at the numbers and said, “Yuck.” He wasn’t talking about Rodriguez’
value as a pitcher or as a person, he was merely commenting on the numbers on screen
which were, well, yucky. It was all pretty benign stuff, hardly the fodder for controversy.
And David Price did not hear what Eckersly said.
There was a game going on. He was in the dugout at Fenway Park, not watching it on
television. Obviously, though, he was told about what was said. The question is, what
was he told?
Remember that old parlor game in which you whispered a secret to the person next to you
and that person whispered it to the person next to him or her and so on until everyone in
the room had the secret whispered to him, and when the last person to be told reveals it, it
is totally different from the origina secret? That’s what can happen when you hear things
second or third hand. Did Price think that Eckersley had used the word “yuck” to
disparage Rodriguez? Apparently so, though that’s not what happened. Whatever it was,
he felt the need to come to the defense of Rodriguez. Hence the now infamous
confrontation on the plane.
The fact that Eck is a Hall of Fame pitcher counts for less than you might think. Twenty-
five years ago, when he was still at the top of his game, David Price was ony seven years
old. When you’re my age twenty-five years is the day before yesterday, when you’re
David Price’s age it’s a lifetime. There is a thirty year age difference between Eckersley
and Price. They have baseball in common but come from different worlds.
My take is that the whole thing is a misunderstaning. Someone, acting as an honest
broker, should sit them down and straighten the mess out. It’s not worth starting World
War III over.
There have been instances in which a critic has been genuinely contrite about what he
had written. George S. Kaufman, who, when he wsn’t writing plays himself was a theater
critic for the New York Times (talk about a conflict of interest), once reviewed a play
about which he had nothing good to say. A character actor named Guido Nazzo was in
the production. Kaufman, a wickedly funny writer, dismissed Nazzo’s performance
thusly, “Guido Nazzo was nazzo guido.”
It ruined Nazzo’s career. No producer in New York would cast him and take the chance
that Kaufman would reprise his line. It got to the point that Kaufman was writing letters
of recommendation on Nazzo’s behalf, to no avail.
It’s a good thing that Guido Nazzo didn’t play for the Red Sox. And it’s a good thing that
George S, Kaufman wasn’t a TV analyst on NESN.