President Trump paid tribute to the Boston Red Sox Thursday at a White House ceremony honoring the club's 2018 World Series championship, describing them as an "unstoppable" team who had won a "spectacular victory."
"Each Red Sox player is a shining example of excellence living out an American sporting tradition that goes back many generations," Trump said, adding: "Through every pitch, inning, game, and series, the 2018 Red Sox never gave up and never backed down, always played like champions."
The president briefly recounted Boston's 108-win regular season and run through the Major League Baseball playoffs, drawing loud cheers from the guests when he mentioned the Red Sox' four-game victory over their archrival New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
"I think I'll be a neutral in this one," joked Trump, a noted Yankees fan who was close friends with the Bronx Bombers' late owner George Steinbrenner. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez ribbed Trump when Martinez stepped to the microphone to deliver some brief remarks, saying: "I know celebrating a Red Sox victory is tough for you."
The celebration was notable because of who did not show up. Manager Alex Cora announced last week he would not attend, citing his frustration with the Trump administration's efforts to help his native Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of 2017's Hurricane Maria. American League MVP Mookie Betts and star shortstop Xander Bogaerts were also among Thursday's no-shows.
The Red Sox stressed that the clubhouse has not been divided on the issue; no player or coach was pressured to go, and players who chose not to attend stressed there would be no ill will toward those who attended. While Cora skipped the ceremony, Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, team president Sam Kennedy and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski occupied prominent places on the stage behind Trump.
The president did not mention Cora or the absent players, but paid tribute to the performances of World Series MVP Steve Pearce and pitches Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, all of whom attended the ceremony.
Trump singled out Eovaldi for throwing 97 pitches over 6-plus innings in the Red Sox's 3-2, 18-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series game 3, saying that despite the loss, "Eovaldi's tremendous effort inspired the whole team. You knew what a World Series victory was, you knew it was in reach, and you didn't want to do anything to blow it."
The president also brought up Sale's now-famous "pep talk" during Game 4, in which the Red Sox trailed 4-0 before rallying for a 9-6 victory.
"I heard it was a hell of a pep talk," Trump said. "Chris, I know what you said, I heard little bits of what you said and we have children here, so I'm not going to talk about it."
The Red Sox visited the White House and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Thursday fresh off a 2-1 victory in 12 innings over the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night. Boston currently has a record of 19-19, five games back of the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays