Let’s go back to 2006, a simpler time when Trot Nixon and Matt Clement roamed the earth. That winter, the Red Sox had traded away Doug Mirabelli, not known for his offensive prowess so much as he was for being Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher. Not just everyone can successfully catch a knuckleball, you see: Boston’s new backup, Josh Bard, could not.
Tim Healey at Hardball Times has a fantastic oral history of the trade that sent Bard to San Diego to get Mirabelli back to Boston, and all the slapstick turns along the way. Like this one!
Epstein: I was going to call the players involved. I went into my phone, J-o-s-h. J-o-s-h B. I was going to call Josh Bard and tell him he was traded — which is never a fun call to make. So I called him, I clearly woke Josh up. I said, “Hey man, it’s Theo. This is a tough call to make, but we made a trade and I have to let you know that you’re in it.” And he goes, “Really?!” I said, “Yeah, we felt like we needed to get somebody in here who has experience catching Wakefield.” He goes, “Theo, Theo, Theo. This is Josh Beckett. You sure you traded me?” I called the wrong Josh B. in my phone.
Or about the desperate private-jet flight across the country that barely got Mirabelli to Boston in time to start that night’s game:
Mirabelli: They cleared us straight over Cleveland. I guess with airplanes they typically don’t go over other airspace, they have to go around it. But for this occasion, they cleared us straight over Cleveland.
Towers: I had heard stories about clearing airspace. I’m like, “My god, Doug Mirabelli?” Mirabelli, man. They must really want this guy bad if they’re sending a private jet to pick him up and clearing airspace over Boston.
Mirabelli: The pilot said to me after we got cleared over New York, “I don’t even know who you are, but I’ve carried hearts and lungs and never had this much clearance over airspace.” And I’m like, “Well don’t tell them who I am. You go over New York and all of a sudden they’re going to clear us around Canada or something.”
Go read the whole damn thing, from how Yankees GM Brian Cashman got in on Mirabelli talks just to drive up the price for the Red Sox, to how the Sox delayed the game until Mirabelli arrived by holding a whole bunch of ceremonial first pitches, to how poor Josh Bard was stuck at the airport behind a group of guys talking about how shitty he was at catching a knuckler.