Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Five reasons we are sad to see Johnny Damon go

1) The grand slam. Right . . . we meant the grand slam. Curt Schilling boasted about wanting to make 55,000 New Yorkers shut up. Damon actually did it, with what is arguably the most important home run in Red Sox history.

2) The odd array of quirks, contradictions and skills that made him such a unique player. His physique is cast in steel and he hits with power, yet he swings the bat like he's Otis Nixon's long-lost albino brother. He can chase down flyballs with the fleetest of foot, but his throwing arm makes Little Leaguers snicker. He crashes into the wall (and the occasional utility infielder) like he's an honorary Knievel, yet he rarely misses a game with an injury. It truly was a treat to watch such an original play the game his way every day.

3) The sunny personality off the field and his relentless hustle on it. He may have cultivated (or accidentally stumbled into) his lucrative Hollywood image, but the truth is that he is as down-to-earth, friendly, and unabashedly appreciative as any big leaguer we have ever encountered, and he played like there was nothing in the world he'd rather be doing. (Must . . . resist . . . joke . . . about . . . wife.)

4) Have we mentioned that he was a Yankee killer? Game 7? The grand slam? Two homers, six RBIs? The man knew how to seize the spotlight. Not only did he thrive under pressure, he embraced it. So what's the amended adage now: After you beat 'em, join 'em?

5) Cue Joe Castig:

"There's a groundball, stabbed by Foulke. Underhands to Mientkiewicz, and the BOSTON RED SOX ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!"

Johnny Damon. One of the 25. Without him, it never would have been possible.