Last Wednesday was the 23rd anniversary of the 1999 MLB All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
It was a long-running event with Ted Williams being spontaneously mobbed by the game’s greatest players. And it was long on the show with Mark McGwire hammering jaw-dropping moonshots at the monster during the Home Run Derby. But the most electric and incredible performance was that of Pedro Martinez.
This tweet appeared on my feed to remind me how exhilarating this performance was.
Seeing him again, I felt a wave of warm and grateful nostalgia. We got to watch this guy perform his craft as well as anyone else on a regular basis for the team that we grew so passionate about. How lucky were we?
My mind wandered a bit. Where would Pedro fit in the list of Boston athletes I had the chance to see?
He wandered a little further. I started thinking about all the exciting, exhilarating, accomplished and iconic players that had passed over the past 50 years.
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And with the annual mid-July content drought, I thought I’d sprinkle in a totally subjective list of my top 50 Boston athletes of the past 50 years. Subjective as in, totally my opinion. Subjective as in…
.. Like watching Pedro, it’s a “feel” thing. Which helps explain why one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the game is only three points above my beloved little Isaiah Thomas.
I ended up with 96 names that I felt were at least worth considering. I bet I missed a few. Ninety-four were from the four major sports. I’ll reveal the “outside inside” group later in the week. So many great players there too.
Your results may vary. I would like to see them.
Editor’s note: Below are the #50 through #41 players in Curran’s Top 50. Stay tuned throughout the week as Curran reveals 10 new players every day. Coming Tuesday: #40 through #31.
50. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
He was only there for 179 games from the end of the 2014-15 season to part of the 2017-18 season. But he averaged 28.9 points in 2016-17, made two All-Star teams and was an absolute delight to watch as the underpowered engine of a team that made it to the Finals. of the Eastern Conference in 2017.
49. Dennis Johnson, Boston Celtics
Johnson played seven seasons with the Celtics from 1983-84 to 1989-90. Larry Bird called him the best teammate he ever had. A lockout defender (never try a crossover past him) who elevated his game in the playoffs, there was never a fuss when DJ had the ball. And he had plenty for the great Celtics teams of the 80s.
48. Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Just an absolute machine for the Patriots from 2007-2012. He topped 100 catches in five of his six seasons here and led the league in catches three times. I don’t want to hear about this play, okay? Not here. Not now. I loved watching him play.
47. John Hannah, New England Patriots
I know he is one of the greatest attacking backs in football history. That he was a 10-time first- or second-team All-Pro and a Hall of Fame layup. So blame me for spending more time watching the ball than watching the havoc Hannah caused up front. If this list were Boston’s most accomplished athletes of the past 50 years, Hannah might be the top 10. But here he is at 47. My bad.
46. Rodney Harrison, New England Patriots
While I, the 10-15 year old model, didn’t notice Hannah’s greatness, the sportscaster me couldn’t take my eyes off Harrison. He started a Patriots team that was badly needed in 2003 and helped the Patriots take it to the next level and dominate the league for the next five years. A physical bully when the league was trying to phase out that style, Harrison’s style of play and attitude were exhilarating to watch.
Rodney Harrison on skates. And just like Harrison, Marchand won a championship and was productive enough to put up quite the Hall of Fame record (351 regular season goals and 795 points in 13 seasons). Like Harrison, Marchand may struggle to get signed up because he’s one of those “love him if he’s on your team” guys. But he is part of our team. So? Love it.
44. Ben Coates, New England Patriots
Coates was a two-time All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler and an all-time safety cover for Drew Bledsoe who made most of his catches in heavy traffic then continued to haul defenders as if the nieces and nieces nephews were jumping on their favorite uncle. on the barbecue. Best in the business for a short time. God only knows how he would have been had he arrived here in 1999 with Tom Brady rather than leaving that year.
43. Terry O’Reilly, Boston Bruins
The good thing about Terry O’Reilly is that he could score quite a bit. He had three 20-goal seasons and also had 50-plus points on five occasions. He could also fight. And fight. And fight. And fight. And fight. And also fight. And the 1970s and early 80s was a time when fighting was very much in vogue, not just in the NHL but pretty much everywhere. I grew up in a hockey town, Pembroke, Mass. And even though I could barely skate, not a day went by that I didn’t hear someone mention Terry O’Reilly’s name. And then we fought.
42. Cam Neely, Boston Bruins
He played for the Bruins from 1986-87 to 1995-96. The prototype NHL power forward, his career was cut short by injuries at age 29, but not before he fought and fought and fought to overcome them. And he kind of did, scoring 50 goals in 49 games in 1993-94 while managing his workload.
In his 13 NHL seasons, Neely actually had fewer points than Marchand. But his 395 goals and 694 points came in just 726 games. He was an enforcer and scorer and his playoff work was legendary – 89 points in 93 playoff games, including 57 playoff goals. That put him fourth all-time in goals per playoff game behind Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard. Inspirational player. His farewell press conference was heartbreaking. Probably should be higher. Bruins fans could revolt.
41. Andre Tippett, New England Patriots
Another Pro Football Hall of Famer here in the 40’s??? I say. It shows how good we got it. Tippett was a force from 1984 to 1988 with 57 sacks in those four seasons. But from 1989 to 1993 – the last five seasons of his career – the team won 19 games. Total. So it wasn’t like Tippett or the Patriots were the talk of the town. He was – literally – the only reason to watch. So look.