Jonny Gomes of the Reds was on the phone. He wanted to clear his name, and once and for all make sure everyone understands he never celebrated Cardinals star Adam Wainwright's season-ending elbow injury. Nor did he ever sing about it.
"I'm a firm believer in karma,'' Gomes said.
Gomes is trying to undo the damage by one controversial Internet report that suggested he celebrated news of Wainwright's injury by singing "Wainwright is gone!'' in the Reds clubhouse. That report has since been rewritten and regretted by the writer, Hall of Fame journalist Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, and although McCoy backtracked in a redone report to say maybe he misheard or misunderstood what Gomes was actually saying, the original report was still read and believed by many.
I don't believe the original report. I believe Gomes.
Gomes has been through a lot in his young life, not just professional problems but real family and health issues. He lost his best friend, Adam Westcott, in a traffic accident in which he was a passenger, and he has a tattoo with the initials "AW'' on his biceps, with the inscription, "Tough times go away, Tough people don't.'' Gomes isn't one to celebrate the misfortune of others.
Gomes also had a heart attack on Chistmas Eve, 2002. He was 22 years old. "Checked that off my list real early,'' he said on the phone. Gomes is beloved in baseball circles, and was a 2009 finalist for the Hutch Award, which goes to a courageous player in honor of former Reds manager Fred Hutchinson.
Gomes says he was simply asking people, "Is Wainwright gone?'' after hearing of the injury in an early phone call from ex-Reds pitcher Rob Dibble. That McCoy has quickly suggested he may have been mistaken bolsters Gomes' account, which is that he was singing a Karate Kid song from The Karate Kid with the lyrics, "You're the best around. Never ever going to let you down.''
That doesn't sound much like "Wainwright is gone.'' But Gomes' past and character, and McCoy's quick about-face make Gomes' story very believable. The Cardinals and Reds have a rough rivalry going, but Gomes doesn't seem like the type to do something so rude. "We're all in this together,'' Gomes said by phone. "We need Wainwright. We need (Albert) Pujols. Baseball needs them.''
McCoy is 70 years old and while Gomes said he loves the well-respected writer, he noted that in a story about the birth of Gomes' son, Colt, several days ago McCoy referred to the newborn as "Colby Gomes.''
People make mistakes. Even writers.
McCoy apparently wrote his original dispatch from the airport before flying back to Dayton and didn't have the chance to confront Gomes before posting it. And while he has in effect taken it all back, damage was done, and I don't blame Gomes for getting the word out.
"Your reputation is just as big as your performance on the field,'' Gomes explained.
So he told his story to the Reds' beat writers and a handful of national writers. He said he wouldn't have been comfortable having a paid mouthpiece put out a statement "with big words,'' and instead sought to "take the bull by the horns,'' and make his correction and explanation directly to folks. That is refreshing.
While Cardinals manager Tony La Russa backed up Gomes, saying he knew Gomes and believed "he didn't mean anything by it,'' Gomes also took the time to get out word to Wainwright and Nick Punto, a Cardinals player he knows well who's going through a sports hernia injury himself.
Gomes said, "I've got to do what I can to patch this up.''