When Rivalries Take a Back Seat

Terrific story.

Hours before a game last September, word went around the Yankee clubhouse that hitting coach Kevin Long wanted to gather the entire team for a rare meeting.

Soon, the players were huddled up, and Long told them about Bridget, an 11-year-old girl they had never met, the daughter of Ron Johnson, the first base coach for the Red Sox.

Bridget, Long said, had been in an accident. She was riding a horse alongside the road in August, near the Johnsons' Tennessee home. A driver came around the corner a little too fast and plowed into Bridget's horse, severing the young girl's leg above the knee. …

Johnson had been Long's minor-league manager in the mid-1990s. When Long's playing career was winding down, Johnson helped Long get his first coaching job, with the Kansas City Royals—even going to management on Long's behalf when a promised job offer didn't materialize. It was a debt Long always wanted to repay. …

Bridget's story touched the Yankees. It didn't matter one bit that Johnson worked for the rival Red Sox, A.J. Burnett said.

"He came to us, and you could hear it in K-Long's voice how important it was to him," Burnett said. "You just wanted to help in any way you can. We're a huge family here. Whether you're a Yankee or anybody else, we're all in it together.'' …

Johnson has made a lot of friends over his 30 years in baseball, but few of the Yankee players knew him beyond seeing him in a Red Sox uniform by first base. But they knew he needed help, and that was enough, said Mariano Rivera.

"When you hear things like that, it's a fellow worker. You just want to help. Especially when it comes to the family, you know?" Rivera said.

One by one, they wrote out checks to help—significant checks, though none would say how much. They were said to be just as generous as the Red Sox players, who themselves had ''passed the hat'' and opened their wallets to help the Johnsons through. …

"We got out of the hospital, we got home, and one day this package showed up from the Yankees," Johnson said.

Johnson opened it, curious, his wife Daphane nearby.

"I said, 'Huh?' And it was from Kevin. With a little note, saying 'I never forgot what you did for me, and I hope this helps.' It was incredible. I showed it to Daphane, she started crying," Johnson said.

Since then, some Yankee players have kept up on Bridget's progress, prodding Long for updates, Jorge Posada said.

H/T: WEEI

5 comments… add one

  • Stories like this really warm your heart. When something like this happens it really shows that the rivalry is mostly skin-deep, and that deep down the players we root against are good people.

    Atheose - SF March 4, 2011, 10:01 am
  • thanks for sharing that story paul…brought a tear to my eye…too often the stuff we get is over-saturated with what’s wrong with athletes, how greedy they are, who’s getting arrested, taking peds, or pouting sbout playing…the title of your post is right on…
    “…deep down the players we root against are good people….”
    yep, we fans are too ath…i live in a fairly poor community, and it’s not uncommon for folks to rally around someone who has had a tragic event in their life…when somebody needs my help, i don’t ask them who they root for or who they voted for…i’d guess that everybody on this site is the same way…we might fight like cats and dogs [or sox and yanks] here sometimes, but when the chips are down, folks can be pretty darn kind and generous…

    dc March 4, 2011, 11:27 am
  • This really is an indication that the rivalry is generated and driven by fans with nothing better to do. Mo saying it’s a “fellow worker” really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

    Michel Richy March 4, 2011, 12:56 pm
  • @Michel
    It doesn’t mean that talking about sports implies one has nothing better to do, but I agree that the perspective illustrated by this story is poignant and touching, showing that priorities exist that transcend “sport.”

    attackgerbil March 4, 2011, 2:01 pm
  • I think anyone with a cursory knowledge of the rivalry’s history knows it was not created or even primarily driven by fans or media. The clubs actively hated each other for a long period of time, though that was bracketed by equally long periods of mutual respect.

    Paul SF March 4, 2011, 2:19 pm

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