Local writers (e.g., Dan Shaughnessy) have reveled in the image of Boston Police Officer Steve Horgan raising his arms in a celebratory pose as Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter fell over the bullpen wall chasing David Ortiz’ grand-slam homer. It was certainly a joyous moment for all of us Red Sox fans in an extraordinary moment in the team’s history, one we will remember perhaps forever. But hello? Officer Horgan’s expression of team spirit and glee that Ortiz had plucked the chance of victory from the jaws of defeat was a source more of shame than of pride.
I take a back seat to no one in my excitement that Big Papi’s thrilling grand slam set the stage for Sunday’s come-from-behind ALCS victory. But I part company with those who feel the Boston police officer in the instantly iconic Stan Grossfeld photo, now gone viral, is “Boston’s finest,” “part Bobby Orr” and perhaps deserving of his own statue.
I’ve met Bobby Orr, and police officer Steve Horgan is no Bobby Orr. Six months ago at the Boston Marathon bombing ordinarily citizens did extraordinary things. Our first responders were role model heroes and a source of overflowing local pride. Sunday night, Horgan didn’t meet the minimum standard of his proud profession. His behavior symbolizes Boston Shame more than Boston Strong.
When multiple Golden Glove winner Torii Hunter lost Ortiz’ ball in the lights and flipped over the bullpen wall trying to make a spectacular catch, Hunter was obviously vulnerable to the head-first crash that ensued. Horgan should have been rushing to help, not jumping up and down like an excited fan rather than a paid professional. Even opposing team players try to break the fall of infielders coming close to dugout steps.
Afterwards Hunter “with a smile” told MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince: “The cop’s supposed to protect and serve. This son of a gun’s got his hands up! Help me, then cheer, fool!” A day later Hunter said: “I want to thank the Red Sox bullpen for checking on me. That was awesome. … They put [the game] aside in favor of human life, unlike the cop. Protect and serve? They ought to take that off his badge.”
According to various reports “Red Sox relievers watched Hunter flip onto the metal floor behind the fence. Reliever Ryan “Dempster was one of several guys to rush to Hunter’s aid.” But not officer Horgan. He “eventually” waved his hand for help.
Hunter’s one of the really good guys in baseball. He laughed off the incident and even tweeted later that the cop was an okay guy. An old school player, he said: “I was going to give it every attempt to go out there and try to catch that ball. If it takes for me to get knocked out or die on the field, I guess I’ve got to do it.” He joked: “thirty years from now, if I forget how to ride a bike — it’s OK.”
Later he admitted: “I’m lying. You can take anything away from me — I still want my mind. So I’m going to go ahead and get treatment, let them do some tests and we’ll check it out.”
Yesterday the fresh blood on Hunter’s head was gone, but his pain went “from the ankle all the way to the neck. “ He didn’t practice with the Tigers on Monday. He said “I feel like I played a football game.”
Head injuries are no laughing matter. There are serious, often life-altering, consequences. If you doubt it, check out last week’s “Frontline” report on head injuries in football.
Part of me wants to say lighten up, he’s only a rent-a-cop, there to protect pitchers from unwanted intruders. But Horgan isn’t some suburban mall security employee. He’s a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police force. He’s paid to be there. Being part of the city’s finest, being a first responder, means your mission is to help, not be a bystander. He may have expressed the joy of Red Sox Nation, but he abandoned his first responsibility.
I can’t imagine David Ortiz, Torii Hunter’s long-time buddy from their Minnesota Twins days, cheering first and responding second. I wonder how we Red Sox fans would have reacted if the roles had been reversed, if it had been often injured Jacoby Ellsbury falling headfirst into the Tigers bullpen and a Detroit cop stood back applauding instead of trying to help.
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