FB of the AL has a great list up right now of his top ten favorite Red Sox of all time. Always one to steal a gimmick, here I go with mine. Feel free to add yours in the comments or track back to this post.
My lineup (plus one):
10. Carlton Fisk: Pudge only ranks so low on his list because I never actually got to see him play. But that's the only reason--and, somewhat nonsensically, it's one of my biggest regrets in life. I'm just drawn to Pudge, and that's all there is to it. He's my kind of player--tough, intense, and just a little bit dour and moody.
As I wrote in a post on the anniversary of his '75 home run:
Sometimes I think about the places I'd go if I had a time machine, and this night, October 21, 1975, would certainly be one of them. I would, of course, have some of the surprise ruined for me--I imagine I'd be wiggling in my seat from the seventh inning on. I might be appalled at the differences between the Fenway crowd then and now. I'd stick out like a sore thumb for many reasons; I might even need a place to hide if I wanted to watch the game in peace. I'd have to resist the extreme temptation to bring along my own camera.
But I'd do it anyway. I'd go, and find a way into the park (in fact, I've imagined doing this so many times I actually feel cheated when I realize that I really can't). I'd sit there and watch that home run hit the pole, christen it Fisk's, watch him do the dance I have memorized by now--"Get over! Get OVER!" I'd watch him plow his way through the onrushing crowd to round the bases. I'd stand and cheer, clapping with my hands in the air like I did when he waved from the Legends box, as if he'd recognize me applauding.
9. Bill Mueller - Quiet, humble, and the only man to hit back-to-back switch-hit grand slams in a single game. I watched that game, and fell in love then and there with Bill Mueller. I loved every detail of the soft-spoken third baseman, from his knack for late-inning heroics against Mariano Rivera to the way he chewed his gum. He was a player perfect for people interested in subtleties and details--he never announced himself, never even approached the bombast of Kevin Millar or the megawattage of David Ortiz. He was there if you looked for him, though, our hidden gem, our secret weapon.
I am going to miss him so terribly.
8. Nomar Garciaparra - Things are sour now, but in that magical year of 2003, I loved Nomar. Nomar was in pictures all over my desk. Nomar was the face of the team. It's almost impossible to explain, that Nomar-love, especially since the relationship went south, but we all felt it.
It comes back to me when I look at this picture:
What a year that was, 2003. It's nearly inextricable from 2004 now, but it was also, in many ways, its own animal, with its own brand of hunger and anticipation and even innocence. Nomar was the face of that year, and more often than not, his face looked like the above--hollering in vindication and triumph, leading us toward the Promised Land.
7. Roger Clemens - Now, hear me out.
When I was six years old, I loved Roger Clemens in a way I'd never loved anyone not a part of my family before. In a way I'd never loved any celebrity (with the possible exception of Oscar the Grouch) before. Roger Clemens was the first athlete that seemed like God to me.
Yeah, yeah, all that stuff happened--but in some ways you can't deny that even now, Roger Clemens sometimes still seems like God disguised as a baseball pitcher. He's going to go down in history that way, I think--beyond teams and contract disputes and controversies, just one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived, period.
6. Dwight Evans - More than any other player, Dwight Evans, toward the end of his career with the Red Sox, is a staple and a symbol of my childhood. My favorite anecdote about him opened this popular post earlier this year:
Dwight Evans came to the plate to bat. "Now batting-atting-atting..." the PA boomed, sounding like the voice of the Wizard of Oz, "Number twenty-four-our-our-our...the right-right fielder-eilder...Dwight-whight-whight-whight-Evans-evans-evans."
I was too young to know about Evans' batting average, his fielding statistics, his on-base percentage, his performance against the particular pitcher he was now facing. All that stuff came later.
But I knew what a "boo" was. I heard it often at Fenway Park, from the men who slopped beer onto my shoulder from the seats behind us, or the old men scrawling with their tiny pencils in their programs and chewing on cigars.
I turned to my father, and in retrospect the question was as filled with a kid's innocence and trust as any I have ever heard or witnessed--"Why are they booing him, Dad?"
My dad laughed. He said sidelong out of the right corner of his mouth, not looking away from the matter at hand, of course, "They're not booing. They're saying 'Dew'."
I listened again. Gradually I was able to pick out the subtle difference. "Dooooooo..." was what they were saying--the abbreviated version of Evans' nickname, "Dewey." Not "boo."
"Dooooo!" I piped, glancing up at my father for his approval. He finally looked down into my face and smiled. Thus rewarded, I attacked cheering for Dewey with my whole heart.
"DOOO!!!" I kept yelling, long after Evans had returned to the dugout. "DOO!!"
Dewey Evans was no one to me. I didn't know about his heroics in the 1975 World Series. I didn't know about Carlton Fisk's home run. I didn't even know about Bill Buckner's disastrous error. I was actually still kind of working on the difference between a foul ball and a hit.
But what I knew was that, for a reason I couldn't articulate, I loved Dwight Evans. And that somewhere in the back of my mind it had something to do with how much I loved my father.
That's how it starts. That's how people grow attached to a certain player...[growing] up near Boston, hearing your father cheer for Dewey...
5. Wade Boggs - While my Dad led me to Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs was probably the first player I loved totally on my own. Wade was "my guy" when we'd go to the park back when I was still in elementary school. Another guy I've already written about, when he was elected to the Hall of Fame:
Wade was the biggest of the big deals to me. I became known in my family for liking Wade. The kind of thing where, when he'd come up to bat, my parents would nudge me and say "there's your guy!" and I'd yell "Wade! Wade!" from the bleachers as if he'd hear me in the batters' box.
I didn't know anything, you see, about cocaine or chicken or sex addiction or spousal abuse or infidelity--to one's spouse, to one's team to go to "the dreaded Yanks." It just seemed like every time I went to the park, Wade Boggs the third baseman would hit a home run and make a really nice play in the field. He was reliable like that. I liked him best. That was it.
4. Big Papi - Our MVP, three years running; so cuddly and always cheerful...if a little bit of you wouldn't do pretty much anything for David Ortiz, you probably have no heart.
I have a rich imagined life with David Ortiz, too. As I wrote in my IBW post on this matter:
David Ortiz and I go out to dinner at hip but not too swanky restaurants in downtown Boston, and swap stories over long meals. He pounds the table so hard sometimes he breaks glassware.
David Ortiz and I sit on the couch in his living room and watch Caddyshack, passing a big bowl of buttered popcorn back and forth.
David Ortiz and I wind up wasted on too many nights to count, sometimes in the company of Manny, laughing and laughing and laughing.
Other times, David Ortiz and I sit down and have a heart-to-heart, and he is always wise and kind.
David Ortiz and I run into each other sometimes, and he greets me with a huge grin and a huge hug and he says, "What's up, baby?"
David Ortiz and I walk down the sidewalk, and everyone gets out of our way.
3. Dave Roberts - The top three really could be put in the opposite order, depending on the day. Consider the top three in random order--there are days when Dave Roberts is my favorite Red Sox of all time. If you pick just one play and one player to represent the miracle that was the Red Sox' 2004 comeback against the Yankees, it was Dave Roberts, and his steal in Game 4. That's what started it all--that was the biggest single play in the drive to the pennant. Dave Roberts, backup outfielder and bench guy, will always be among the most famous Red Sox of all time, and among the most beloved despite what could be called a minimal role.
Basically? If you're a Red Sox fan, you know who Dave Roberts is, and you love him. If you're not, you don't understand.
2. Keith Foulke - Keith Foulke is, to me, the Once and Future Red Sox, and like Dave Roberts, is number one some days, too. Keith Foulke is the reason we finally won the World Series, and also the reason we didn't win in 1986--a balls-to-the-wall, tough-as-nails closer, a closer, as Johnny Damon put it, "who just doesn't give a shit." Keith Foulke is also, considering his role in the 2004 Championship, one of the most underappreciated players in Red Sox history, from the fact that he was passed over for the World Series MVP award he so richly deserved to his reception in 2005. At least, that's how it seemed to me, and so I took up his cause with a vengeance this past season, and in so doing became ever more deeply attached to him, to the point where I will give you a half-hour lecture on what he means to Red Sox history if you give me half a chance, even if you've heard it already. Even if you've heard it already two or three times and beg me to stop. Keith Foulke is more than one of my favorite ballplayers ever--he's my cause, my crusade, my talking point. I am prepared to be unfathomably obnoxious when it comes to Keith Foulke.
1. Curt Schilling - Again, these top three are interchangeable in many ways, but today is a Curt Schilling day, and so, if forced to pick one #1 Red Sox ever, it's Curt Schilling, because he did exactly what he said he would do--ride into town on a white horse and save us. He did it in his first year with the team and he sacrificed his body on two unforgettable nights in October to do so. In fact, it's still too soon to tell if he sacrificed his entire future career to bring us the Championship we craved so much, and did so willingly, knowing the possible risks and consequences.
I don't care what anyone says about his bluster or the fact that he seeks the spotlight--I'll never in my life forget what he did for us in Games 6 and 2, and it'll never stop being the single biggest gift any Red Sox player has ever given me as a fan.