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.
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 résumés. 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."