Justin Turner on wearing Remy’s number: ‘I want to make him proud’
Fort Myers, Fla. — Thanks to his 11-year Padres contract with a full no-trade clause, there is almost zero chance Xander Bogaerts ever plays for the Red Sox again.
So, for the first time since 2013, there will be a Bogaerts-less Red Sox team.
But not a team without someone wearing No. 2.
Justin Turner, whom the Red Sox signed to a one-year contract with a player option for 2024, will be the 42nd player in franchise history to wear No. 2.
It’s one of the most popular numbers in team history; to date, only six numbers, none single-digit, have been worn by at least 43 players.
But with Bogaerts departing for San Diego, many Red Sox fans hoped the team would retire No. 2 for Jerry Remy, hoping to immortalize him at the ballpark he loved so much.
The beloved player-turned-broadcaster, who died in October 2021, wore No. 2 for his entire playing career, which spanned three seasons with the Angels and seven with the Red Sox. He discovered his second act in baseball when he retired and joined New England Sports Network and found success doing color commentary for Red Sox games. Despite several reoccurrences of lung cancer, ‘The RemDawg’ spent over 30 years in the booth, working games until August 2021.
The Fall River native’s humor, passion, and thick Boston accent are intertwined with some of the greatest Red Sox moments, and he’s in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. After his passing, over 15,000 people signed a Change. org petition to re-name Jersey Street in his honor, but unlike retiring his number, the Red Sox would need permission from the city to make that change.
For a time, the Red Sox would only consider retiring a player’s number if he had finished his career in Boston and was elected to the Hall of Fame. But they’ve made several exceptions to that criteria over the years. For over half a century, Johnny Pesky was one of the greatest faces a franchise could ever hope to have, and not being in Cooperstown didn’t stop the Red Sox from adding his No. 6 to Fenway’s right-field facade. Nor was David Ortiz in the Hall of Fame when the Red Sox announced that he’d be the last player to wear No. 34; they did that in his final regular-season game in 2016, and held the official ceremony the following summer. Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs, and Pedro Martinez played elsewhere before they retired.
At this point, the Red Sox say each prospective number retirement will be a case-by-case basis.
In the meantime, Turner will wear No. 2, but contrary to public perception, he wasn’t actively trying to get the number. “I didn’t really have a lot of options,” he told reporters Thursday. “They asked me if I’d be okay with wearing No. 2.”
Regardless of the fact that Turner wore No. 2 early in his career, the revelation that the Red Sox actually offered it to him won’t go over well with fans. Based on the frigid reception at Winter Weekend, the sting of not keeping Bogaerts isn’t going to lessen any time soon; to many fans, offering No. 2 to Turner less than two months after Bogaerts joined the Padres just adds insult to injury.
Of course, that doesn’t really have
anything to do with Turner, or it shouldn't, anyway. And the newcomer is well aware, not only of what the number means, but how fans feel about him wearing it. “I know, obviously, there's some history there with Bogey and Remy,” he said. He doesn't eschew social media the way some of his teammates do. “I've read a little bit on social media, some of the stuff that comes about the No. 2, but I have worn No. 2 my entire life,” he explained.
Turner originally wore No. 2 with the Mets from 2010-13, where he was teammates with his new manager,
Alex Cora. They overlapped in 2010, with Turner even pinch-hitting for Cora in a July game against the Giants.
Ultimately, both players ended up getting released from the Mets, and Turner went on to spend nine seasons with the Dodgers, whom Cora also played for from his major-league debut in 1998 until 2004.
The number carries a lot of meaning, not only for Turner, but for his family. “I think I was born at 2:22 in the morning. My dad was was always No. 2, my cousin was always No. 2,” he said. “I've worn No. 2 since I was four years old. I've never worn … well, my freshman year in college, I wore 23 because an older player had No. 2, and then I switched back to No. 2 and I've literally worn No. 2 pretty much every day of my whole life, so. My [social media] handle is @redturn2 because of No. 2, not because I'm a master double-play-turner.” Cue more laughs.
Turner said he wanted to keep wearing No. 2, going so far as to ask for permission, as the Dodgers had retired the number for Tommy Lasorda in 1997. He got a laugh from reporters as he recounted, “The only reason I didn't wear No. 2 with the Dodgers is cuz Tommy Lasorda said no when I asked him if I could, which I expected.”
Players don't always get to select a number, and since Lasorda didn't let Turner wear No. 2 in LA, the Dodgers assigned him another legend's number. “I had (this) same conversation with Ron Cey when I got up to the Dodgers and they put me in 10, which I didn't choose, they gave it to me as well. And, you know, I wanted to go there and make Ron proud every day,” he said.
Turner is well aware of what he's gotten himself into in accepting the number, and he wants fans to know that he'll be donning the jersey with Remy in mind.
“Yeah, I'm excited to be back in No. 2,” he said, “I'm excited to, you know, hopefully make Remy proud of what I do and what I accomplish. And I know a lot of guys have worn No. 2 before me, so, and it is a big deal. I don't think I, I don't take it lightly. I want to make him proud.”
Retiring a player's number is a tribute, but wearing it can be, too. Turner came to that conclusion on Thursday. “The goal is to go out there and wear it and make (Remy) proud, and play the game the right way. And I know how beloved he is to Red Sox Nation, and would never want to do anything to disrespect the number,” he assured.
“Actually, I'm happy I get to wear it and represent him.”