Over the course of the nearly eight years since he was hired as manager of the Red Sox, Terry Francona gave fans lots of great memories, both large and small.
There were the 2004 and 2007 World Series wins, of course, as well as the way he embraced Jon Lester after Lester’s no-hitter in 2008, the way he would always give Dustin Pedroia a hard time, the way he stood by his players, his incessant gum chewing … and so many others.
But here’s one of my favorite Terry Francona memories, a true story you may never have heard before.
In April 2005, a day before the home opener at Fenway, I was driving down Beacon Street in Brookline, probably a little bit faster than I should have been driving (what a surprise), and I made a right turn onto Webster Street.
It was then that I noticed someone entering the crosswalk.
So I slammed on the breaks, and thankfully, I was able to stop just in time so this person could cross.
But this was not just anyone in the crosswalk.
When the car stopped, I realized that this random, friendly looking, bald-headed guy was Terry Francona.
Tito lived in Brookline, so he may have been on his way home. Or maybe he was just out getting some fresh air and some much needed exercise (days earlier he had been rushed to the hospital after suffering chest pains). Either way, there he was, right in front of me, just out for a walk, one day before he was due to get his World Series ring.
And yes, I almost hit him with my car.
To think that if I was not paying attention, or had stopped my car a second later … well, there could have been a very very very very bad scene right there in front of the Marriott Courtyard, one that would definitely have made me the most hated man in Red Sox Nation for years to come.
(I’d surely not have been named the team’s new general manager a few months later.)
Alas, Tito continued on unscathed, without even looking up at me or realizing what had happened, and he was present and accounted for at the ring ceremony the next day.
While my memory may be a little more dramatic than the reality actually was, I still look back on the day knowing that I had the fate of Red Sox Nation in my hand. And now, with Tito officially out as the manager of the Red Sox, it gives me the chance to tell the tale once again.
Thank you very much for everything, Tito. You will definitely be missed.
And yes, I’m sorry for almost hitting you with my car.