Monday, December 28, 2009

List #25: Top 15 Moments in Boston Sports (2000-20009)

In the my end of the year list-making and sports writing, I been writing about the past decade in Boston sports. Earlier I ranked the top 10 seasons by Boston teams and the 10 most disappointing moments in Boston sports. In this final list I rank the top 15 moments in Boston Sports. Each of these moments was exhilarating and memorable. Here they are:

15) Flutie’s Dropkick (December, 2005)
Even when the Patriots try to lose it makes for entertaining football. The Patriots intentionally attempted to lose the final game of the 2005 regular season in order to set up a more desirable opponent in the first round of the playoffs. In the 28-26 intentional loss to the Miami Dolphins, Pats backup quarterback Doug Flutie was came onto the field and lined up as if he was going for a 2-point conversion. Instead Flutie dropkicked the ball through the uprights for the extra point.

14) Ty Law owns Peyton Manning (January, 2004)
Physical play by the Patriots defensive backs threw the Colts off their game. The star of the Patriots defense on this day was Ty Law who intercepted Manning three times.

13) Derek Lowe’s Save in Oakland (October, 2003)
The 2003 divisional series against the Oakland Athletics was a closely contested series. In the fifth and decisive game the Sox took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th. Scott Williamson walked the first two batters and Derek Lowe came in to pitch for the Sox. After Oakland bunted to advance the baserunners Lowe emphatically struck out both Adam Melhuse and Terrence Long with filthy pitches to save the game and win the series.

12) Goal line Stand Against Indianapolis (November, 2003)
Indianapolis would have plenty of comeback wins and big victories over the Patriots later in the decade, but not this day. Indy trailed 34-38 but had the ball at the Patriots’ 2-yard line in the closing minute. The Pats stuffed three runs by Edgerrin James and defensed a pass by Peyton Manning to win the game.

11) Bledsoe’s Cameo (January 2002)
In the second game of the season Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a hard hit from Mo Lewis of the Jets. The hit sent him to the hospital with internal bleeding. In stepped Tom Brady who took the Patriots to the playoffs and took away Bledsoe’s starting job. However, an injury to Brady’s leg in the AFC Championship game brought Bledsoe back in. He responded admirably by throwing a touchdown pass and helping the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl.

10) Jon Lester’ No-hitter (May, 2008)
Here is the time line: In September, 2006 Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester was diagnosed with Lymphoma. In July, 2007 Jon Lester returns to major leagues. In May, 2008 Jon Lester throws a no-hitter. In the last decade Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, and Clay Buchholz also tossed no-hitters for the Sox. But Lester’s was the sweetest.

9) Running it up on the Lakers (June, 2008)
The NBA Championship matchup between the Celtics and the Lakers had been a nail-biter. No lead seemed safe and the series was full of heroic comebacks from both teams. Even though the Celtics took a 58-35 lead at halftime in game 6, a Celtics victory was not assured. As the game went on, the Celtics lead continued to expand. In the fourth quarter, the Celtics poured it on. Ray Allen hit four 3-pointers, three within a span of 90 seconds, in the fourth quarter and Paul Pierce and James Posey each hit a 3-pointer in the final quarter as well as the Celtics blew out the Lakers 131-92 to win the championship.

8) Johnny Damon Grand Slam (October, 2004)
With the improbable series tied 3-3, the Red Sox faced the Yankees in a final game to decide which team would head to the World Series. David Ortiz started off the scoring for the Sox, belting a two run homer in the first. But Johnny Damon put the Red Sox comfortably ahead hitting a grand slam in the second inning. Damon added another homerun in the fourth to give the Red Sox and insurmountable 8-1 lead.

7) Paul Pierce Comes Back (June, 2008)
The series between the Celtics and Lakers looked like it would be one for the ages. However, a horrible scare almost destroyed the series. With the Celtics losing by four points in the third quarter, Celtics star Paul Pierce injured his knee and had to be taken to the locker room in a wheel chair. Celtics fans feared the worst but only a few minutes later Pierce made a triumphant return. A few minutes later Pierce connected on back-to-back threes to give the Celtics the lead for good.

6) A-Rod Eats Glove (July, 2004)
It seems like the Red Sox and Yankees have had bad blood between them for about a century with the Yankees coming out on the better end more times than not. In 2004 the Red Sox showed they were not going to back down. On a hot July night tempers flared as Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch. Rodriguez decided to have some words with Arroyo so Sox catcher Jason Varitek shoved A-rod in the face with his catcher’s mitt. The game ended with Bill Mueller smacking a homerun off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. It was an emotional turning point in the season.

5) Troy Brown Forces Fumble (January, 2007)
This season ended in disappointment for the Patriots but Troy Brown extended the season by a week. With a little over six minutes left in a playoff game against the San Diego Chargers the Patriots were losing 13-21 but were marching downfield. Brady threw an interception but Patriots receiver made a heads-up play, stripping the ball lose and giving the Patriots another shot. Five plays later the Patriots scored a touchdown and made the two-point conversion to tie. Troy Brown snatched the thrill of victory from the agony of defeat with his heads up play.

4) Schilling’s Bloody Sock (October, 2004)
I am not a big Curt Schilling fan. I don’t care for his loud mouth and find his personality abrasive. But there is no way to take away from what Schilling did in the 2004 American League Championship Series and World Series. The guy had an ankle injury. A tendon in ankle had become loose and scraped against his bone causing him extreme pain. Schilling decides to get the team doctor to stitch tendon in place through his skin. It works. A few days later he tries it again. Wow!

3) David Ortiz’s Walk-off in Game 4 (October, 2004)
This series against the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs warrants four mentions on my list of the Top 15 Moments in Boston Sports (2000-2009). The Red Sox victory in this series, more than any other accomplishment, defined the decade in Boston sports. In the first of four straight must-win games the Red Sox forced the game into extra innings. Clutch pitching by Curtis Leskanic, whose arm was hanging by a thread, prolonged the game until the 12th when David Ortiz hit a walk-off homerun. The momentum in the series had begun to swing.

2) Vinatieri Sends it into Overtime (January, 2002)
I was living in Dallas, Texas when this game was played. My roommate and I were entertaining a small gathering of friends when I decided to turn on the television to see the playoff game between New England and Oakland. At first I thought the reception was messed up. Then I realized all the white fuzz on the TV screen was from the game in Foxboro that was being played in a blizzard. In the fourth quarter the Patriots had a final chance to drive the ball to attempt to either tie or win the game. In the midst of the drive Tom Brady seemed to fumble the ball while standing in the pocket on a pass play. The referees determined that the play was not a fumble based on a little-known rule known as “the tuck rule.” Brady was attempting to tuck the ball away when he fumbled. The Patriots kept possession. They continued to drive through the snow (and over the woods to Grandma’s house) when the drive stalled at the 29 yard line. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was called on to kick a 45 field goal through the snow and gusting wind. If he made the kick the game would go to overtime. If he failed the Patriots would lose. The kick was a low line-drive that barely cleared the uprights. The game was going to overtime and the Patriots had passed a major challenge in this Super Bowl winning season. Check out the video highlights of this crazy game.

1) Dave Roberts’ Stolen Base (October, 2004)
It is game four of the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox trail the series against the Yankees zero games to three. The Red Sox need to do what has never been done before: win four straight elimination games. In game 4 the Red Sox entered the bottom of the 9th trailing by a run. On the mound for the Yankees is a rested Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher ever to play baseball and a player who is especially filthy in the playoffs. While Dave Roberts’ stolen base is the most memorable moment in this series and is the play that came to define Boston’s first World Series championship in 86 years, this moment was sandwiched between, and made possible by, two others.

First, Sox hitter Kevin Millar began the inning working a rare walk against Rivera. Speedy Dave Roberts pinch ran and everybody knew he was going to attempt to steal second. The Red Sox recognized that their only shot at victory was to play aggressively. Everyone knew that Roberts was going to try to steal. Rivera and Roberts played cat and mouse and eventually Roberts made his break, sliding in just ahead of Jeter’s tag. Moments later Bill Mueller sharply hit a ground ball up the middle, past Rivera and through the infield. Roberts scored on the play to tie the game. From that moment it was still a long, uphill climb to win the series. But, when Roberts stole the base Boston fans could begin to imagine the impossible.