McGILLIGAN:It was the fall of 2004 when the words that would change my sporting life were first uttered.
I was sitting in the living room of my apartment with my roommate Bryan, buddy Jon and future wife Becky when Mark Bellhorn made yet another out against the New York Yankees.
To be honest I can’t even remember which of the first three games of the ALCS the words were uttered in, but I know they came from a place of frustration.
“F&*^%$# Bellhorn,” Jon said.
The statement was accompanied by head nods from the rest of us and the next time he came to bat, the magic words were said again.
From that point on, every time Mark Christian Bellhorn came to bat in the postseason for the 2004 Boston Red Sox, those words were spoken.
With frustration mounting about the three-straight losses to the Yankees and Bellhorn’s woeful numbers to that point – he hit .091 in the divisional series and .150 in the first five ALCS games – he became the lightning rod upon which all of our frustrations were vented.
Even if he made a good play, someone would say they were surprised he didn’t screw it up or ‘Don’t worry, he’ll botch the next one to make up for it.’
We needed something to let loose on as it appeared another year was going down the tubes to the Yankees and in stepped Bellhorn.
Then a curious thing happened, the Sox won game 4 and 5, all while we were criticizing everything Bellhorn. He would come up to bat and it would be time for a bathroom break or go outside for a smoke, because nothing would happen with him at the plate. Literally every time he appeared on camera, a comment was made. The Sox had won the games with us berating Bellhorn and it wasn’t going to stop.
Then came the curious incident of Game 6. With two on and two out in the fourth inning, Bellhorn hit a homerun to leftfield providing the Red Sox with all the runs they would need in a 4-2 win to force a deciding Game 7.
So how did we react to Bellhorn going from goat to hero, well three of us were outside smoking when he hit the homer. I remember Becky opening the back door and saying Bellhorn just hit a homerun, amazement in her voice. This is where we could have switched and jumped on the Bellhorn bandwagon, but without missing a beat Bryan said, “Typical that he would be a jerk and do it while we were outside.”
That confirmed it; we would keep with the Bellhorn bashing all the way to the World Series title. It was not easy as Bellhorn homered again in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium and then hit .300 with a homerun and four RBI in the World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Still we held firm and it even became a game to see who could come up with the best jeers.
“I hear he’s hated around the clubhouse because he never flushes.”
“He looks like he smells terrible.”
The one thing they weren’t was sporadic; Bellhorn was derided at every chance. I have not employed this bit of reverse psychology ever again, nor has any of the other three. However, I might try and bring it back for use on Mike Aviles this season to see if negativity can produce some positives out of his bat.
I’ve taken the necessary steps of picking him up for my fantasy team and now I’m contemplating if I should do it or not. When discussing this with a friend the other day, he remarked it would be kind of a slap in the face of Bellhorn to do this with another player.
That was all the convincing I needed, a final swipe at Bellhorn, a veritable passing of the hate-fueled torch.
Say it with me: F*&%*$# Aviles.
Note: I had my former roommate read this piece and he took a stab at what Bellhorn might be doing in his post-playing career.
Bryan: Bellhorn is probably coaching a division 3 high school team in Wisconsin that has a team batting average of .106 and fielding percentage of .356. What a donkey!