When I got the ESPN alert last Friday about John Farrell being diagnosed with lymphoma, I was devastated.
When I got the ESPN alert last night about how Terry “Tito” Francona plans on accompanying John to chemotherapy, I was so happy.
The two started their companionship way back in 1988 when the two were on the Cleveland Indians. They reunited in 2007 when Tito, who was the Boston Red Sox manager, hired John to be the pitching coach. That was around the time I started following the Red Sox, and I knew right away they were a duo. They must have done something right because later that year, the Sox won their second World Series trophy in four years.
John left the Sox in the end of 2010 to manage the Toronto Blue Jays, and it was weird to watch him in the opposite dugout during the first series in 2011 between the Sox and Jays. I thought that it was a good opportunity for him, especially since he has the baseball knowledge and the pitching knowledge to run a team. That experience and former ties led him to come back to Boston – not as a pitching coach, but as the manager.
John replaced Bobby Valentine, who took over after the Epic Collapse of the 2011 Season. The Sox didn’t pick up Tito’s option at the end of the season, and he became the Indians manager. I was so sad to see Tito leave, and to be replaced by Bobby wasn’t exactly a good thing.
2012 was rather a learning year, as the Sox finished in last and were quite bad overall. Oh, and having Bobby as a manager wasn’t the best idea. I was relieved to see the Sox bring back John because I knew we had someone in the dugout that knew the team and would help us get back to where we should be.
The Sox went From Worst to First in 2013, winning the World Series in Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years. I cried that night they won, and the team 100% deserved it.
The Indians are in town this week, and after talking with John before the game on Monday, Tito said he would accompany his friend to his chemotherapy treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital.
This wouldn’t be Tito’s first experience with cancer while in the game of baseball. A young Jon Lester, who was drafted in 2002, discovered he had cancer in 2006 after a bought of injuries. He, like John Farrell, was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma. Jon was treated, and by 2007, he was able to return to the team. Tito gave the young rookie the start in Game 4 of the World Series, which was the clinching game for the Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jon didn’t let the cancer define him, and he has been in remission since then. He created a foundation, NVRQT (short for “Never Quit”), in 2011 to support children in their battle with cancer and to fund research efforts. Tito and Jon have had a father/son relationship, as Tito supported Jon through his treatment and cried when Jon threw a no-hitter in 2007 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Most recently, Indians’ infielder and former Red Sox player, Mike Alives announced that his four year old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia. The team vowed to not trade him while she is battling cancer, something similar to what the Cincinnati Bengals did for Devon Still when his daughter was having treatment for cancer.
During a lifetime, cancer effects us in some way, whether it’s a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or even professional athlete. It’s so heartwarming to see people from all walks of life come together to support someone who is battling the disease
Every All-Star Game in July, the fans receive “I Stand Up For” signs where they can write the name of someone they know that has been effected by cancer. The cameras pan the entire stadium as each fan and even the broadcasters hold up their signs. This July, most of the ESPN family and some players held up signs for Tony “Mr. Padre” Gwynn, who passed away in 2014 from salivary gland cancer. I know that if the All-Star game were to happen now, each Sox player that was there would hold up a sign for his skipper.
Today, NESN began their WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, an annual fundraiser that raises money for Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. The Sox have been raising money for cancer research and treatment since their relationship began over 60 years ago. Since 2002, the Radio-Telethon had raised over $37 million for cancer care.
John should know that he isn’t alone at all in his battle with cancer. He has the support of his team, management, the city of Boston, and all of Red Sox Nation across the country. And his good friend, Tito Francona.