Fans state their case for presidency
Winner will become 'symbolic leader' of Red Sox Nation
BOSTON -- Twenty-five candidates for president of Red Sox Nation took turns behind the microphone on a festive Tuesday night that, if nothing else, gave Hall of Fame sportswriter Peter Gammons the chance to live out a longtime dream.
"Well, I actually wanted to go into politics," said Gammons, moments after delivering a spirited plea for votes to dozens of bar patrons at Game On, which is attached to Fenway Park. "But I already had so many skeletons in my closet by the time I was 19, I had to give that career up."
Gammons laughed. In no serious election cycle would former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or Harvard Law graduate Barack Obama guarantee an island ambassador's job to Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, or promise to elect Luis Tiant and Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame, or offer a Yankees clubhouse attendant's job to Karl Rove -- so he could "use his dirty tricks to get rid of the Yankees" -- as Gammons had just done.
"They take [baseball] terribly seriously," said Gammons of Red Sox fans. "But they take a lot of the ancillary stuff not very seriously. That's what makes it fun."
Yes, more than the real thing.
"Because you don't have to have a $100 million war chest to win," Gammons laughed.
But Gammons is only one candidate of many for President of Red Sox Nation, and hardly a lock to win. Early polls are inconclusive, although pundits believe Remy, who is the interim president, to be the early front-runner.
That may yet change after the largest function to feature the candidates in person. An "electoral college" of team personnel, as Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino called it, winnowed a list of approximately 1,200 nominations -- from 45 of 50 states and six countries -- down to 25 finalists over the last several weeks. The winner will be a "symbolic leader" of Red Sox Nation, with access to tickets, a fan blog and the team's owners.
Only Remy and fan candidate Paul "Fitzy" Fitzgerald didn't show at the event. Remy, who has campaigned openly for the position to thousands of television viewers, sent NESN's Russ Kenn as a proxy to read his speech.
Remy was in St. Petersburg, Fla., broadcasting the Red Sox game and said on air he greeted Boston fans as they entered Tropicana Field.
The rest of the attending candidates, who traveled to Boston from as far away as Durham, N.C., consisted of both so-called normal fans and celebrities. And then there were those who belonged in a category of their own.
Steve Manganello, the self-professed "Coma Guy," can't remember the 2004 World Series. He was hit by a taxi in Japan that year, sustaining injuries that rendered him comatose for 17 days during the playoffs.
"It's been 89 years for me," he declared at the end of his speech.
|More than 1,000 fans applied to be the first president of Red Sox Nation. The following are a list of those who wish to become the club's "symbolic leader."|
|Steve "The Coma Guy" Manganello|
|Dr. Alice Cronin-Golomb|
|Rick "The Fans' Commish" Swanson|
|"Regular Rob" Crawford|
|Paul "Fitzy" Fitzgerald|
There was no irony in his voice afterwards, when he promised to spend many "sleepless nights" as president, working to enhance fans' experiences.
At times, the evening took on the appearance of an open-mic night at a comedy club, their bodies casting shadows with some 47 flat-screen televisions overhead, shining down.
"Thank you for that awesome introduction, and for telling all the bartenders that I'm not quite 21," said the evening's youngest candidate, 18-year-old Will French, to moderator Hazel Mae. "Sorry, I'm a little nervous."
Some candidates didn't seem to have a problem playing the underdog.
"Fans' Commish" Rick Swanson told the crowd that he had "as little chance of winning this thing as David Ortiz does of hitting a triple tonight."
Moments before, Ortiz had legged out a triple against the Devil Rays. That, in turn, had prompted cheering bar patrons to interrupt "Regular Rob" Crawford's original folk song entitled, "I'm a Member of Red Sox Nation." Crawford performed the piece on the stage with his wife, kids, and nieces and nephews, and an acoustic guitar strapped around his shoulder.
Other candidates incorporated musical themes. Pete "PsykoPete" Bishop merely was introduced with his professed desire to have Remy play the air guitar during his presidential swearing-in atop the Green Monster.
Legendary former Red Sox slugger Sam Horn, namesake of a well-known online message board called "Sons of Sam Horn" and himself a finalist, shook to the beat of an original rap anthem called "Red Sox Nation," recorded by C.J. and Mikey B and cut by DJ Break, featuring Horn himself on vocals.
And it was Horn, perhaps the surprise of the night as a viable candidate for President -- "I take this very seriously," he said -- who delivered the line that drew the most generous applause.
"I'm sorry I don't have a big following here today," said Horn, surveying a room full of delegates and boosters. "All of my guys are online."
In the end, like any political candidate, the presidential hopefuls performed a delicate balancing act between making governing promises and introducing their personalities to the Nation.
Some, like heavyset former Red Sox reliever Rich Garces, who taped a speech that played over the bar flat screens, only hoped to reintroduce themselves.
"My first act as president," Garces said, "will be to give each member of Red Sox Nation 'El Guapo' bobble-bellies. Like a bobble-head, except the belly shakes."
And like any political convention, the night ended with an official song, in this case an easy choice. Red Sox executive vice president/public affairs Dr. Charles Steinberg played "Sweet Caroline" on the electric guitar as all the candidates gathered on the stage to sing.
Steinberg marveled at the scene.
"You have people here tonight who are meeting each other and becoming friends," Steinberg said. "There's no ballgame at Fenway. And yet you've got a lot of folks here at Fenway drawn together because of the Red Sox anyway."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.