LONGSHOTS: Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
by Dave Long
As you may know I’m hooked on the Mt. Rushmore of Sports thing from ESPN — which has to do with my, let’s call it competitive, personality. But, for a history guy, it’s also fun. So here’s my first offering via a random series of topics from near and far:
Mt. Rushmore of Boston Celtics: 1. Bill Russell — greatest team sports player ever. 2. Larry Joe Bird — went from 29 wins to 61 in the season he arrived and they didn’t look back. 3. Bob Cousy — as important to the early NBA as Jordan was in the ’90s. 4. Red Auerbach — the smartest guy in sports for 40 years. Toughest Omissions: John Havlicek — it’s totally forgotten how great he was. Dave Cowens — amazing intensity. Paul Pierce — the team’s best scorer ever? Kevin Garnett — hasn’t been here long enough, but his intensity changed the culture.
Mt. Rushmore of Celtics Villains: Since they were so bad for so long, it’s hard to find any above-the-Tarrier Line villains, so they’re all oldies but goodies. 1. Bill Laimbeer — if you throw out mass murderers, terrorists and the guy who invented the Internet symbol “LOL,” I can’t think of anyone I hate more. 2. Wilt — it had more to do with the David and Goliath thing than him but he certainly was the focus of attention. You might be interested to know the only time I ever spoke to him (at Larry Bird’s Hall of Fame induction) he said he loved playing in Boston and that fans always treated him well when the game wasn’t going on. 3. Andrew Toney — an assassin who murdered them at the end of games. 4. Sidney Wicks — the only guy to win while playing for the Celtics as the ex-UCLAer is the symbol of a bad couple of years. Toughest Omissions: Darryl Dawkins, Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland, a.k.a. Mcfilthy and McNasty.
Mt. Rushmore of the Boston Red Sox: 1. Ted Williams — the second-greatest hitter who ever lived. 2. Tris Speaker — I know, you don’t buy it. Check his record. 3. Pedro — his first six years were arguably the most dominant of any in history 4. Yaz — Manny was better, but he gets it on longevity, versatility, being a great left fielder and for 1967 — when no one has ever carried a team on his back quite the way he did. Toughest Omissions: Manny, Roger Clemens, Cy Young, Nomar Garciaparra, Bobby Doerr, Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and David Ortiz.
Mt. Rushmore of Overrated Players: This doesn’t mean I don’t like these guys, it just means the public’s opinion is higher than it should be. 1. Nolan Ryan — when you nearly lose 300 games and were only 32 games over .500, I don’t see how you can be the right-handed pitcher of the century when Christy Matthewson, Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens and Bob Feller also played then. 2. Alex Rodriguez — great numbers but he’s done squat when it counts most and he had help too. 3. Joe Namath — 47 more interceptions than TD passes, 63-64-4 as a starter. Never has anyone gotten more mileage out of one stinkin’ guarantee than Joe Willie. 4. Roberto Clemente — a great player who’s gained in stature after his death. But the truth is he was clearly behind Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson as the best right fielder in the ’60s and there are plenty of folks in Detroit who think Al Kaline was better too. Toughest Omission: Kobe Bryant — it doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s great. But in the 2008 playoffs, Lebron was clearly better against the Cs and ABC broadcaster Mark Jackson still talked as if he wanted to have his children.
Mt. Rushmore of Boston Guys Behind the Mike: 1. Johnny Most — one of a kind and as loyal/biased as they come. 2. The Rem Dawg — took me a while to get the Rem Dawg thing, but now I’m on board ’cause he’s really good. 3. Gil Santos — great voice, great with drama and he owns his share of signature calls. 4. Mike Gorman — a personal preference. While he had to hang in during the down years, with the Cs good again, it’s a reminder of just how good he is. Especially my favorite — “Got it!”
Mt. Rushmore of the New England Patriots: 1. Tom Brady — do I need to say? 2. Bill Belichick — more valuable than Brady. 3. John Hannah — a terror. 4. Adam V — won two Super Bowls on the final play and had the greatest kick in history. Toughest Omissions: Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Steve Grogan, Bob Kraft and Billy Sullivan — an adventure, but he started it all.
Mt. Rushmore of Underrated Players: 1. Robert Parish —the Celtics were under .400 without him and over .600 when Kevin McHale was out. You tell me who was more valuable. 2. Hank Aaron — while he’s got the records, he played in the shadow of Willie Mays in his prime and the two Rs (Ruth and racism) as he neared the record. 3. Bart Starr — you never hear his name when great QBs are talked about. But if Brady gets extra credit for being a winner, why doesn’t Starr, who led the Pack to five NFL titles and to victories in the first two Super Bowls when he was MVP? 4. Tim Duncan — three titles and two MVPs later and people still don’t get how good he is. Toughest Omission: John Smoltz — esteemed teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux have 305 and 355 wins and he has just 210. But he lost 65 more while a closer and is 15-4 in the postseason while the other two were both UNDER .500 in the playoffs.
Mt. Rushmore of the Boston Bruins: 1. Bobby Orr — the greatest. 2. Raymond Bourque — the second-greatest. 3. Phil Esposito — inspired greatest bumper sticker ever — “Jesus Saves! Esposito scores on the rebound!” 4. Cam Neely — beloved and tough, the classic Bruin. Toughest Omissions: Greats I didn’t see play like Milt Schmidt and Eddie Shore — ’cause I’m not sure how good they were.
Mt. Rushmore of Manchester Sports Bars: 1. Billy’s – even has TVs in the bathrooms. 2. The Hilton Winter Garden Inn — good TVs and live F-Cat action behind the patio 3. Derryfield CC — best golf course bar in history. 4. The Backroom — not really a sports bar but go in there any Friday after Central football and basketball and there’s more good sports talk than in all the other places combined. Toughest Omission: Jillian’s — love that NCAA total game package.
Mt. Rushmore of Boston Sports: Orr, Williams, Russell and Auerbach. Toughest Omissions: Bird, Cousy, Brady, Yaz and Bourque.
I’ve got about a million others, so I’ll be back with various editions from time to time including a great one on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry later in the summer. And if you’ve got any send them along and I’ll run them in “People, Places, and Other Stuff” as they come in.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.