“I cannot believe that even the barrel-bottom scrapings of WEEI callers are able to make an issue out of Manny Ramirez not attending a White House ceremony,” writes Michael Gee, “now, all of a sudden, Ramirez is a committed advocate of world revolution who has a portrait of Fidel Castro in his minor league baseball uniform hung atop the mantelpiece.” But as the author points out, Manny is hardly the only Boston icon to make a practice — intentional or not — of snubbing a Republic president.
In June, 1984, several days after the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship, President Ronald Reagan held a White House reception for the team. The scheduling was not ideal, as the event was held at noon the day after the Celts’ victory parade in Boston.
Larry Bird did not attend the event. Possessing somewhat greater political and social skills than George W. Bush, Reagan made no mention of Bird’s absence.
Back in Boston, yours truly was at the Phoenix, working on a piece on the Celtics’ victory, when the phone rang. An earnest young man identified himself as a writer for the than-as-now earnest and excellent liberal political magazine “Washington Monthly.” Did I know Bird had missed the White House reception? I did. Did I know if this was a political protest?
Bird’s political opinions, if any, were not something that ever crossed my mind as a subject for journalistic inquiry. Eventually, I allowed as how like anyone from Indiana with money, to the extent Bird had political leanings, they were Republican.
I ventured a guess that Bird had skipped this ceremony because of the afterparty for the victory parade, and was in all likelihood still in bed, nursing a hangover as large and vicious as a Boston Garden rat.
The guy on the phone was very disappointed. So was I. A freelance piece entitled “Larry Bird-Closet Leftist” would have been remunerative.