Call it our Mount Rushmore & amp; mldr; plus one.
We are naming the five most influential athletes in Boston. Not the best or the most talented. Not the ones who have won the most championships, although that helps.
We’re talking about athletes who made you pay attention, turn on the TV, pick up the newspaper, or watch YouTube highlights repeatedly. Someone who played decades ago but that’s why you’re either still a sports fan or why you’ve decided to pick up a bat or ball or tie a pair of shoes and walk out the door.
These athletes – at least the retired ones – have statues created in their honor or a retired number, although such recognition is not required for this list. The same goes for the fact that only one name (or initials) – and not always a surname – is needed to evoke memories of their greatness.
Why five? To narrow it down to an exclusive club. And to invite the passion fans have for their sports into the conversation.
A big reason why nearly half of marathon runners currently are women can be traced to this local icon (splits time between Rockport and Cambridge). Do Joan Benoit Samuelson or Shalane Flanagan become Olympic medal winners if not for Gibb’s daring run from the bushes to Hopkinton to become, in 1966, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon? Read also : The July art exhibition continues in Boston.
Bobbi Gibb, first woman to run the Boston Marathon, unveils the statue she created
Bobbi Gibb, who hid in the bushes in Hopkinton before becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966, unveils the statue she created
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Kathryn Switzer avoids a tackle a year later to become the first female officer to complete Boston? More than 12,000 women lined up at Hopkinton last April to celebrate 50 years of official inclusion in the race?
Known simply as “Bobbi”, the activist / scientist / author / runner is also an artist: she created her own bronze statue which was unveiled at a Hopkinton ceremony in October 2021. The event was titled “The Girl Who Ran”.
If you are a running girl, you have to thank Bobbi.
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Orr did his best with his skates firmly planted on the ice, but is best known for the split second when he was caught parallel to the Boston Garden sheet on Mother’s Day in 1970. The deciding goal of the Stanley Cup is so iconic, most fans of a certain age can immediately name the teammate who passed him the puck (Derek Sanderson), the opponent who tripped him and flew him (Noel Picard), and the photographer who captured the moment best (Ray Lussier).
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He is often credited with having “revolutionized the game” from his defensive position. When he broke into the National Hockey League in 1966, the record for most points by a defender was 59 by Pierre Pilote. Orr’s 1970-71 season, when he assisted with 102 goals and finished with 139 points, is a record for a defender who is still standing.
The numerous scoring rushes along the # 4 track and the ability to kill penalties playing Keep-away are still popular on YouTube. He was part of the “Big Bad Bruins” who won two Cups in a career shortened by knee injuries.
Pilote’s point total in that 1964-65 season was surpassed 305 times by the defenders, due to Orr’s high-altitude flying style captured in the photo that the defender did not use prior to his arrival.
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Make your choice. “Big Papi” is known as a Boston icon because he is the biggest clutch hitter in post-season history; the man who helped break “The Curse”; or the self-confident figure standing on the grass at Fenway Park cursing live on TV a few days after the 2013 marathon bombings. See the article : UVM Health Network is requesting a double-digit rate increase, citing inflation and pandemic pressures.
The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame nominee was a little-known slugger with 58 career home runs when he was released by the Minnesota Twins in 2002. He hit 31 in his first year with the Red Sox in ’03 and a year later, he hit 46 (including playoffs) to help a band of self-labeled “idiots” with the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years.
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In 2006, Ortiz set a Sox record with 54 home runs, but 2013 is way above his many successes. On April 20, Boston played its first home game just five days after two bombs exploded on Monday’s marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds.
Ortiz had yet to play a game that season due to an Achilles tendon injury sustained the year before. But he was on the pitch before the team’s game against Kansas City, triumphantly holding his right fist high – and with an American flag almost covering the green monster – declaring “this is our city (beep)” with glee (amazement ?!) of the crowd.
He drove in the game’s first run and later scored a groundbreaking grand slam in the AL Championship Series before hitting .688 in the World Series when the Sox won their third title in 10 seasons.
Not only has it transformed teams, but “Hick from French Lick” has also contributed to the globalization of basketball.
Bird’s Indiana State team won 33 games in their senior year (1979), but have only four 20-win seasons since leading the Sycamores to the NCAA title match. When he joined the Celtics, the team was coming out of a 29-win season.
The C improved to 61-21 in his rookie year, when NBA Finals games weren’t all live TV. Thanks to a rivalry with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bird brought the championship into the mainstream.
In his second season, he was an NBA champion and would add two more titles to win three MVP awards. Driveways and playgrounds filled with young sharpshooters trying to emulate Bird’s seemingly effortless shooting and overtaking skill.
It was also part of what many believe to be the largest basketball team ever assembled: the United States men’s basketball team at the 1992 Olympics: the Dream Team. He was 35 and nearing the end of his career, but he shot 52% during the tournament.
Bird gets the nod here on Bill Russell, who has won the most championships (14; 11 with the Celtics; 2 with the Univ. Of San Francisco; 1 at the Olympics) in team sports history. But since the NBA was of regional interest only in the 1950s and 1960s and the teams played in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Rochester, New York; and Moline, Illinois; Russell’s reach was limited.
When Brady won his first Super Bowl in 2002, long before anyone had heard of “TB12,” a person born that year would likely have attended high school when he won his latest Lombardi Trophy with the Pats in 2019.
Winning Super Bowl XXXVI over favorites Rams was the city’s first championship in 18 years of drought – after Bird led the Celtics to the NBA title in 86 – and kicked off a streak of not just six Super Patriots. Bowls, but an unprecedented run of crowns.
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Between 2002 and ’19, the city celebrated 11 championships (in addition to the Pats there were three of the Red Sox; one each of the Celtics and the Bruins) with Brady playing in three other Super Bowls in what looked like a annual appearance of former Michigan QBs.
He was drafted in 199th place and was considered an afterthought because the Patriots already had Drew Bledsoe entrenched in the position. But an injury suddenly put Brady in the center and in the spotlight.
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Brady designed two of the Super Bowl’s biggest finals, 15 years apart. The former resulted in Adam Vinatieri’s field goal against the 14-point favorite St. Louis Rams in SB XXXVI.
The second has spawned countless memes and t-shirts and doesn’t need even a single letter to sum up its greatness: 28-3.
It’s why fans (and haters) will always talk about “Deflategate”, “Brady vs. Belichick” and “Tom vs. Time”.
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