At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Varitek: All Time Leader in Respect

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 2, 2012

Jason Varitek hung it up 16 days after Tim Wakefield.  The only team that would want this pair was no longer interested in either player. 

After 3 years of not hitting in the clutch and not throwing runners out, Tek was toast.

I will never forget how Matt Garza threw it by the old catcher in game 3 of the 2008 ALCS.  The Spitting Man struck out Tek with one down and runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Jason was by then either too banged up or too weathered to have sufficient bat speed any longer.  Those of us present at Fenway saw it so, so clearly.

One of my friends can cite the day, dates, opponents and sequence of events for every game in which ‘Tek came up big.  Guys like Mark Kantor of S.A.B.R.  The details are burned into their memories.

I’ll remember ‘Tek for select accomplishments.

Like for surpassing Ray Schalk’s all time record for catching the most no-hitters by different pitchers. Tek’s record is four – Lowe, Nomo, Lester & Buchholz.    He did not secure a fifth one only because Curt Schilling shook off ‘Tek with two out in the bottom of the 9th on June 7, 2007.  After the shake, the A’s Shannon Stewart singled to right.  Then Mark Ellis popped up to make the 27th & final out.  Sox win 1-0 on a 1-hitter.

Had he called a 5th no-no from a 5th pitcher, a HOF argument would have gained momentum.

I’ll remember Tek for being a team player on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cable show, a special Red Sox edition episode.  With pregnant ex-wife Karen skooched from the room, Tek quietly allowed himself to be waxed, groomed and dressed by the Fab Five as Carson drooled over Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar pronounced himself a big gay dude after the team transformation was complete.

I’ll remember standing on the 2nd floor walkway in right field at Fenway, the one between Bleacher 43 and Grandstand 1, on July 24, 2004, watching Sox and Yankee relievers jump over the bullpen wall and run to the diamond where Tek was giving A-Rod a leather facial and a wrestling move.

I’ll remember the May, 1995 episode of Talking Baseball with Ed Randall in which 23-year old, buzz-cut, jowly cheeked Tek explained that he still refused to sign with the Mariners after the June ’94 Draft because they offered a bonus that was $800,000 less than what his draft peers were offered.  He explained that he was staying strong, working out and not worrying about anything that was beyond his control.  (See it now on streaming Netflix.)

I’ll remember Tek leaping into Papelbon’s arms after catching swinging strike 3 for the last out of the 2007 World Series.

I’ll remember Tek for not drawing criticism in his 15 Boston playing years.  Fans loved him and felt nothing but sorrow when his skills declined.  Ambush-prone radio talk show hosts let him be because they couldn’t find a character flaw.  Team owners gave Tek a measure of respect until the end, overpaying him in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and never embarrassing him through his last unsuccessful contract negotiation.

He was selfless.  He was deep in his preparation and in his character.

He is the all time leader in Sox games caught and respect earned.

Thanks for staying in the family, Tek.

Farewell  — for now, Jason.

Go Sox.


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