Daddy's press conference was over, and Denise Duquette, 6, and Danny Duquette, 4, were still up on the podium when a local television crew asked them if they would sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. So the duo did. They were off to a quality start, in fact, until around the sixth inning of the ditty, when Danny sang, "Root, root, root for the Ex-pos."
Denise urgently whispered, "Red Sox, Danny. Root, root, root for the Red Sox."
Danny's mistake was understandable. The day before, his dad, Dan Duquette, 35, had been the general manager of the Montreal Expos. But on this morning of Jan. 27 at Fenway Park, he was introduced to the Boston media as the new vice president and general manager of the Red Sox—and, by extension, the Red Sox Nation, the millions of discerning devotees clustered between Danbury, Conn., and Digby, Nova Scotia. "Congratulations!" Father Don Bosco Duquette of St. Joseph's in Portland, Maine, told his nephew when Dan called to give him the news. "Who are you going to play in rightfield?"
Duquette would not have gotten the Red Sox job without the gracious acquiescence of the Expos, who had him under contract for another year; and he would not have been installed had he not demonstrated—first with the Milwaukee Brewers and then with the Expos—a fine eye for talent, a keen ear for the wisdom of his elders and a nose blunted by the proverbial grindstone. But there seems a different sense at work in tracing Duquette's journey down the Mass Pike from his hometown of Dalton to the park known as Duffy's Cliff. There is the sense that this son of Dennis Duquette, this nephew of Don Bosco, this brother of Debbie, Dennis Jr., David, Diane and Dale, and this father of Denise, Daniel Jr. and two-year-old Dana has long been meant to have this job. Some would call it Destiny.
April 3, 1994
Destiny is a word used far too lightly in sports. But it is no joke to Red Sox fans, or if it is, it's a cruel joke. The big D is usually seen going out the back door in Boston: the Babe leaving for New York, Bucky Dent's fly ball soaring over the Green Monster, Mookie Wilson's grounder skittering through Bill Buckner's legs. This time Destiny seems to be coming in the front door. Who, after all, is more qualified to lead the Sox to the Promised Land than someone who rooted for a Boston catcher named Jerry Moses?
"Dream come true?" says Dan Duquette. "You could say that." On this February day Duquette is sitting in his new office at Fenway Park. "I think I had it in mind at 18 that I wanted to run the Red Sox," he says. "But to work for the Red Sox is the dream of a lot of people in New England. I've only been on the job for a few days, and already I have a stack of 65 rèsumès. That's one of the attractive things about this job—the passion of the Red Sox fan. I know. I was one."
Dan's father, who was the superintendent of schools in Dalton, took him to his first Red Sox game in the summer of '66. "I still remember that the Red Sox turned a triple play that day," says Duquette. A year later the fifth-grader was tossed out of his class at St. Agnes for trying to smuggle in a transistor radio during the fifth game of the Red Sox-Cardinal World Series. "I'm afraid the nuns did not have their priorities straight," says Duquette.
Dalton, a town of 7,000, is best known for the Crane Paper Company, which manufactures stationery and paper for U.S. currency. The town's next most famous product is Jeff Reardon, who is second alltime in major league saves, not to mention a former Little League and Wahconah High batterymate of Dan Duquette. "Danny was a pretty decent catcher," says Reardon. I always knew he had a good baseball mind."
Despite acceptance at Princeton University, Duquette chose to attend the Little Ivy school of Amherst. It was a most fortuitous choice, given the direction his career would take. One would not normally associate the Lord Jeffs with baseball factories like Arizona State, but Duquette was part of a remarkable wave of talent. Says coach Bill Thurston, who is now in his 29th year at Amherst, "I'm looking at the 1980 team picture, and I see Dan Duquette; John Cerutti, who pitched several years in the majors; Rich Thompson, who pitched for Cleveland and Montreal; Mike Ryan, who's the vice president of broadcasting for the Mets; Tom Bourque, who's a Massachusetts-based scout for the Expos; Dave Jauss, who's the Expos' Double A manager; Rich Lundgren, who was a catcher in the Yankees organization; Mike Lavery, who was a catcher in the Blue Jay farm system; Mark Manning, a minor league third baseman for the Mets. And there's a guy who didn't go into baseball, an absolute failure." And here Thurston chuckles. "He's a doctor in Boston."
Duquette was a first baseman but not always first string, although he did hit what some say—all right, one says—is the longest home run in Amherst history, against Springfield College. "It's still going," says Duquette. He was actually a much better football player than baseball player. "Dan was a terrific middle linebacker," says Jauss. "In fact, he brings a lot of that determination and daring to baseball. He's a general manager who acts like a middle linebacker."
Duquette's friends from Amherst remember Dan. an English lit major, as being very studious. He did, however, cut class on Oct. 2, 1978, to go see the Red Sox-Yankee playoff game at Fenway Park—"the B.F.D. game," he politely calls it. The D is for Dent.
During the summer Duquette and his older brother, Dennis, ran their own semi-pro team, the Dalton Collegians, and that kind of work really appealed to him. "We did everything," says Duquette, "from organizing to groundskeeping to scouting. It was great experience." Eager to pursue a career in baseball after college, Duquette wrote to several Amherst alumni, including Pittsburgh Pirate owner Dan Galbraith and Milwaukee Brewer general manager Harry Dalton.
Dalton invited Duquette to meet with him in April 1980, when the Brewers were in New York. "The interview took place in the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium," says Dalton. "He impressed me so much that I offered him a job right away as an assistant in our scouting department." Dan and his high school sweetheart, Sharon Brophy, promptly decided to get married. "Actually, she asked me," says Dan.
"Dan's idea of a honeymoon was a doubleheader at Wrigley Field on our way to Milwaukee," says Sharon.
"Don't forget," says Dan, "we also stopped at Niagara Falls."
Duquette got off to a shaky start with the Brewers, leaving his first game on July 4 in the fifth inning. "Harry made it pretty clear to me that baseball people are expected to stay until the end of the game," says Duquette. He hasn't made many mistakes since. Among the players he scouted for Milwaukee were Darryl Hamilton, Greg Vaughn, Jaime Navarro, Dave Nilsson and Gary Sheffield.
Duquette took a step up to director of player development when he joined the Expos in October 1987, a year after Dan's father died, at 49. "Uncle Dennis was bragging on Danny even then," says Dan's cousin, Jimmy Duquette, the assistant farm director of the Mets. "So you can imagine how he would feel now."
Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou were just a few of the players who blossomed in Duquette's farm system. In January 1990 he was promoted to assistant general manager of the Expos. Less than two years later, on Sept. 19, 1991, he became Montreal's impossibly young (33) general manager alter Dave Dombrowski left to build the expansion Florida Marlins, taking a lot of the Expos' front-office people with him.
Disaster loomed for the Expos, what with a kid G.M., severe payroll restraints, lagging attendance and a gutted front office. But the wholesale departures were a blessing in disguise for Duquette, who was able to rebuild the Montreal organization with his own people. During the '92 season he fired manager Tom Runnells and hired the long-overlooked Felipe Alou, who had been a successful manager in the Expos' system. He traded three fringe players to the Cincinnati Reds for future closer John Wetteland and dealt soon-to-be-free-agent Andres Galarraga to the Cardinals for future ace Ken Hill. In '92 Duquette was voted Major League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News, and last year the Expos stayed in contention until the last week of the season.
Daunting as the culture of Quebec can be to statesiders, the Duquettes were perfectly happy there. Dan Jr. and Dana were both born in Montreal. Denise was enrolled in a French-speaking school and thus talks with a soup‚Äö√†√∂‚àö√ºon of an accent. Dan, who is an accomplished cross-country and Alpine skier, embraced the winters. Still, there was a part of him that was rooting for the home team. Says Ryan, who is Dana's godfather, "Knowing Dan's love for the Red Sox and his belief in player development, it must have killed him when the Sox traded Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling, then Jeff Bagwell, then Phil Plantier. You'd think they would have learned after selling Babe Ruth."
Deciding the club needed a new direction, John Harrington, the president of the Red Sox, nudged genial G.M. Lou Gorman upstairs last fall and began a search for a successor. He knew Duquette was the man for the job, and Duquette wanted the job, but Expo president Claude Brochu was understandably reluctant to let him take the job. After several weeks of careful negotiations in December and January, Brochu finally agreed to release Duquette from his contract. He didn't ask for money or players; he only asked that Duquette not raid the Expos of any more personnel or take Expo prospects in future Rule V drafts. On Jan. 25 Duquette received a phone call from Harrington, and when he hung up, he turned to Sharon and said, "I think I just became the general manager of the Red Sox."
"Draw a diamond next to Luis."
Dan Duquette is helping Denise and Dan Jr. keep score at the Red Sox exhibition opener against Boston College, and rookie third baseman Luis Ortiz has just hit a home run. Also sitting in the private box at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla., are Dan's mother, Judy, and his Aunt Anne. "Dennis should have been here to see this," says Judy. "I still can't believe it. My son is running the Red Sox." She vehemently denies a rumor, making the rounds of Red Sox writers, that her first words to Dan upon hearing the news were, "When are you going to get rid of Hobson?"
"Definitely not," she says. "I did say to him, 'Are you ready for this?' " A few minutes with this nice woman, and you can tell she would never call for the head of a Red Sox manager. Besides, Butch Hobson is the least of Duquette's problems.
Did you know, for instance, that five Red Sox—Danny Darwin, Andre Dawson, Greg Harris, Otis Nixon and Scott Fletcher—are the same age as or older than their new general manager? Besides being old, the Sox are slow and—Mo Vaughn aside—essentially powerless. There is little or no help on the minor league horizon. The pitching is fine, but the team kicks another essential for winning, namely, good D.
Dynasty builder Pat Gillick of the Toronto Blue Jays thinks the world of Duquette, but he also thinks Duquette has his work cut out for him. "It's going to take him three to five years," says Gillick, "but he's the right guy. The fact that he grew up a Red Sox fan may even help him. He knows that the Red Sox fans will be patient as long as the club is headed in the right direction."
"Dan would have done well in any pursuit," says Father Don Bosco, "but he just happened to put his life and talent into baseball, which I think is wonderful. I've been known to say a few prayers for the Red Sox, but now that Danny is in charge, maybe I won't have to pray as hard."