By. Jim Crooks
This week I’ve compiled a list of the best New England pro athletes to wear each jersey # from 00-99. This is limited by a) the lack of info out there on this subject, and b) the fact that my personal memories only go back to the late ’70’s or early ’80’s. So, this is totally open for debate and I welcome people to provide their thoughts / suggestions. Here goes part 1...#00 - #19:
#00 - Robert "The Chief" Parrish - Celtics ïƒ one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all-time (as chosen by the NBA in ’96); won 3 titles in 14 years with the C’s and played 21 seasons overall in the NBA and still holds the league record for games played with 1611; a dominating force in the middle with a soft touch around the basket
#1 - Bobby Doerr - Red Sox ïƒ His #1 is one of only 7 numbers retired by the Sox and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2007. He held Sox records for doubles, total bases, and RBI’s until his longtime teammate Ted Williams broke all of those records. Honorable mention to Walter Brown (first owner of the Celtics) who has the #1 retired in his honor by the C’s.
#2 - Eddie Shore - Bruins ïƒ legendary Bruins defenseman from the ’20’s and ’30’s...his number hangs from the rafters at the Garden in black & gold; little known fact...the #2 is also retired by the Celtics in honor of Red Auerbach, so he deserves some props here as well even though he never really donned a jersey
#3 - Dennis Johnson - Celtics ïƒ "DJ" played for the Celtics for seven seasons, from 1983 through 1990...He helped lead the Celtics to a pair of NBA world championship titles in 1984 and 1986...he also was 1st team NBA all-defense from 1984-86; honorable mention to Lionel Hitchman - Bruins...another great Bruins blue-liner from the 20’s and ’30’s...#3 hangs at the Garden in both green and black & gold
#4 - Bobby Orr - Bruins ïƒ simply put, he’s the best defenseman ever to play the game of hockey and he revolutionized the position at the NHL level with his offensive play...he still holds the record for points in a single season by a defenseman with 139; honorable mention to Joe Cronin of the Red Sox...his retired #4 at Fenway is proof of his impact on the Olde Towne team, so are his 12 all-star games, .301 career average, and 1071 wins (most all-time) as a Red Sox manager
#5 - Kevin Garnett - Celtics ïƒ he hasn’t been around Boston very long, but it is hard to deny that he is a singular athletic talent and he’s already helped to lead the C’s to 1 championship during his tenure in green
#6 - Bill Russell - Celtics ïƒ this one really needs no explanation...9 NBA titles in 10 seasons and 12 titles overall. He is universally considered the best defensive center of all-time in the NBA; Honorable mention to Johnny Pesky (aka - Mr. Red Sox) whose number was just retired by the Sox and in whose honor the right field foul pole is named
#7 - Phil Esposito - Bruins ïƒ 9 great season with the Bruins including a handful of 50 goal seasons...he still holds the Bruins record for goals in a season with 76 in 1970-71; honorable mention to the slick ball-handling Nate "Tiny" Archibald of the Celtics
#8 - Carl Yastrzemski - Red Sox ïƒ Baseball Hall-of-Famer and last player to win the Triple Crown (1967)...he also holds the record for most games played in the A.L. with 3308 and is the only A.L. player in history to compile 400 HR’s and 3000 hits
#9 - Ted Williams - Red Sox ïƒ Baseball Hall-of-Famer and 2 time MVP...won the Triple Crown twice, had 6 AL batting titles, led the AL in homers 4 times, total bases 5 times, slugging % 9 times; MLB player of the decade for the ’50’s...oh yeah, and he missed 3 years in the prime of his career serving his country in WW2
#10 - Jo Jo White - Celtics ïƒ his #10 is retired by the Celtics; he was a 7-time all star and led the Celtics to 2 titles in 1974 and 1976...he was named the Finals MVP in ’76 and also helped to lead the U.S. to a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics
#11 - Drew Bledsoe ïƒ Some people may not be ready to acknowledge that Drew is one of the all-time greats in Patriots history, especially given the way he was supplanted by the now legendary Tom Brady, however, Drew still holds team records for passes, completions, & yardage and is 10th all-time in passing yardage in NFL history! He was a big part of the franchise’s turn-around in the 1990’s and also came up big in the AFC Championship Game in 2001 when Brady went down with an injury.
#12 - Tom Brady ïƒ speaking of Mr. Brady, this selection should come with zero debate...3 Super Bowl titles, an MVP award, and that record shattering season in 2007...let’s hope he can return to pre-injury form in 2009
#13 - John Valentin ïƒ this is probably the first selection that will send people searching for better players in New England history with this #, and I was left scratching my head as well...I definitely welcome someone who can find me a better one...maybe it’s the unlucky reputation of the number that keeps the great ones from wearing it? There will be plenty more higher #’s that will have weaker players than this, but I might just skip them. Before this selection is criticized too roundly, I will point out that Valentin had over 1000 hits in less than 1000 games in 10 seasons with the Sox, while chipping in solid D and clutch hits. He was named to the top 100 Sox players of all-time by at least one blog site, and was a top 10 MVP candidate in 1990 as he helped lead the Sox to the post-season.
#14 - Bob Cousy / Jim Rice / Steve Grogan ïƒ great number in New England history, but Cousy and Rice get the nod over Grogan here. Cousy was a 6-time World Champ, a 13-time All Star, and an MVP in ’57...he is a basketball Hall of Famer and holds the C’s record for assists; Rice is a recently elected member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, led the AL in hitting twice, homers three times, was an 8-time All Star and the AL MVP in 1978. Rice was one of the most feared hitters in baseball from 1975 (when he barely missed winning Rookie of the Year) to 1986 (when he helped lead the Sox to the World Series).
#15 - Tom Heinsohn - Celtics / Milt Schmidt - Bruins ïƒ tie; Heinsohn won 8 NBA Titles and guided the C’s to 2 more titles as coach in the ’70’s; Milt Schmidt was the NHL’s MVP in 1951 and was a 4-time All Star despite missing 3 of his best years to WW2...he also spent many years as a coach and scout with the Bruins. The #15 is another one retired in both green and the black & gold.
#16 - Tom "Satch" Sanders - Celtics ïƒ won 8 NBA Titles with C’s during the 60’s and is 6th all-time in Celts history in games played, 7th in rebounds, and 10th in minutes played
#17 - John Havlicek - Celtics ïƒ who hasn’t seen / heard the famous call by Johnny Most of "Havlicek stole the ball!!!" He won 8 NBA Titles in the 60’s and 70’s and was named All NBA 1st Team or 2nd Team 11 times and was a 7-time All Star and the NBA MVP in 1974. He also holds team records in the following categories: games played, field goals made, minutes played, points, free throws made, and personal fouls.
#18 - Dave Cowens - Celtics ïƒ 2 NBA Titles, 7 time NBA All Star, and 3-time NBA All-Defense. He was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history in 1996. He is behind only Bill Russell and Robert Parish for career rebounds with the Celtics
#19 - Don Nelson - Celtics ïƒ Nellie helped the C’s win 5 NBA Titles in the ’60’s and ’70’s and is 8th all-time with the Celts in games played...more recently he has gained more notoriety as a coach. He is 3-time NBA Coach of the Year and was named one of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA history.
Tune in next week for #’s 20 - 39. As the numbers go higher the players generally become less prolific and the selections will become a little more debatable. Good times ahead.