Written on March 10, 2012…
So me and certain fat boy Brazilian friend just ended a heated debate on listing a Boston Sports Legends top 5. We looked at it as finding 5 guys that trump everyone under them when it comes to Boston Sports. We’re looking at THE faces of Boston Sports for everything they accomplished. The Brazilian dough-boy listed Bill Russell, Tom Brady, Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Troy Brown (say what!?). I listed Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Bobby Orr and (here’s where the debate came in) David Ortiz. I want to hear your take on both top 5’s and then if you would ever be so kind, list your own top 5.
Perhaps your friend is big-boned. Well, this is the ultimate fan question asked in all the bars across the country. Whether it’s Los Angeles, New York, or Boston, fans always debate who their city’s “legends” are. Boston is a very historical sports city and there are many athletes who have become more than human. To name only five is a very hard task, yet both of you have done well.
Your fat friend made some good choices in Bill Russell, Tom Brady, Ted Williams, and Bobby Orr. But as for Troy Brown, I’m not quite sure about this one. Yes, he’ll go down as one of the best receivers in Patriots history. But a legend? Not quite.
You both agreed with Russell, Orr, and Brady. Solid picks. Russell is an 11-time NBA champion and you can’t argue against him being a legend. Orr is regarded as the greatest defensemen to ever play hockey. He led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships in three years. Brady is still in his prime, which makes this pick a little different from the rest. Although he is still active, he has won three Super Bowls, two SB MVP awards, two NFL MVP awards, and holds the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season with 50. Brady still has years left in his career, yet he’ll go down as the greatest Patriot in franchise history (slightly above John Hannah).
Your pick of David Ortiz is one that sparks great debate. Ortiz joined the Sox in 2003, but became a hero in 2004 when he produced three game-winning postseason hits and eventually ended the 86-year Curse of the Great Bambino. Three years later, Ortiz and the Sox won another World Series title. Ultimately, I leave Ortiz out of the legends circle… for now. When I look back at 2004, Ortiz isn’t the only person I recall as the hero. In game four of the ‘04 ALCS, the Red Sox were down to their final out. If Kevin Millar doesn’t work a good at bat, Dave Roberts doesn’t pinch run and the series is over. If Roberts is caught stealing, the series is over. If Bill Mueller doesn’t get the base hit, Roberts never scores, doesn’t send it to extras, and Ortiz might never get his chance. Game four was simply epic (along with Pedro Martinez’s pitching, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, and Derek Lowe’s three series clinching performances). Although Ortiz ultimately won the 2004 ALCS, I still look back at all of the different performances that made the amazing comeback possible. If this question is asked 10 years from now, perhaps Ortiz is on this list. But not yet.
You and your friend’s different picks were Larry Bird and Ted Williams, both who I believe are Boston legends. Bird has the nickname “Larry Legend” which speaks for itself. Bird won three championships with the Celtics and is regarded as one of the best to ever play basketball. Although Ted Williams never won a World Series, he led the 1946 Sox to an American League pennant. Teddy Ballgame played his entire 21-year career in left field for the Red Sox, one of the most demanding positions in all of baseball. Williams numbers are impressive, despite spending three years in the service: .344 BA, 521 HR, 2,654 hits, and 1,839 RBI. Had Williams spent those three years in baseball, he would have hit over 600 home runs and reached the 3,000 hit plateau. Regardless, Ted Williams was a 19-time all-star, two-time MVP, and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. He’ll always be regarded as “the greatest hitter to ever live”.
After reading all of this, it’s clear who is in my top 5 Boston sports legends circle: Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, and Ted Williams. I believe this is the best balance of championships, experience, dedication, and popularity. It may not be entirely filled with world champion heroes. But as the Babe said in The Sandlot, “Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.”