Francona shines with Boston Pops

Francona takes center stage with Boston Pops

BOSTON -- After being introduced by Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart as "one of those people who don't need an introduction," manager Terry Francona stepped to the microphone at Wednesday night's "A Company Christmas at Pops" concert and delivered a flawless rendition of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

"It was fun. I enjoyed it," Francona said after delivering his narration wearing a red Red Sox jersey with his No. 47 and name on the back (over his sport jacket) and a Red Sox cap.

After finishing (with a "Merry Christmas" ad-libbed at the end), Francona, walking rather well just three weeks after a right knee replacement, flipped his cap to a young boy seated near the stage. Then, as he walked up the aisle, he removed the jersey and gave it to a stunned teenage girl as the crowd showed its approval.

Asked if he was nervous, Francona said, "Yeah, I was -- but it was a great experience, something I'll probably never get a chance to do again. I enjoyed the heck out of it, and it was a great night."

He seemed taken aback when he was congratulated for not making any mistakes.

"Well, I hope [I would be flawless]. I can read," he said. "I mean, I was a baseball player, but I went to school, so, yeah, I thought I would make it."

He said the knee is coming along fine, but quickly added, "Time to go home. I'm sore."

In an ironic twist to the festive evening, seated near the stage for Francona's performance was former Red Sox CEO John Harrington, whose regime was out of power before Francona arrived in Boston.

Francona spent his non-performance time at a table in the middle of the room. His wife, Jacque, beamed as he delivered his part in the show.

Francona's reading was one of the highlights of a wonderful show that also included the singing of Jose ("Feliz Navidad") Feliciano. As he met the crowd, Feliciano said that performing with the Pops was "kinda like playing for the Boston Red Sox."

Singing quartet New York Voices ended the show with the orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. One of the members of the group said that it wasn't very wise to schedule anything with "New York" in the name right after the manager of the Red Sox, but he quickly pointed out that three of the four people in the group have New England connections and that he himself is a big Red Sox fan.

The concert, which also included a visit by Santa Claus, raised more than $1 million for the Pops.

Mike Shalin is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.