Who will be the next Boston sports athletes to have their numbers retired? After Wade Boggs had his #26 retired by the Red Sox on Thursday Night, this topic began to be discussed from a Red Sox standpoint. If you would like to read our post on how Wade Boggs would be viewed today, click on this link. Today, we’ll rank the top ten overall players in Boston sports who should have their numbers retired. This list will include both current players for whom it’s just a matter of time. We’re not including players who have the potential to get to a point where the number could be retired. For example, you won’t see Xander Bogaerts on this list. We’re also including players who have already retired who deserve this recognition and should be considered by the team. It took Wade Boggs over 10 years after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame to have his number retired by the Red Sox. There’s still hope for some other players!
Here’s First Score Boston’s Titletown Ten List of top Boston athletes who deserve to the have their numbers retired.
10. Ty Law – Patriots – #24. Law played ten seasons for the Patriots and the team was in the Super Bowl in four of them while winning three championships. Many fans forget that the Patriots first three championships were built around strong defense and it was Law who was the most impactful player on those defenses. Law was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All Pro with the Patriots. He’s also tied for the team lead in career interceptions with 36. While many fans remember the Adam Vinatieri kick and Tom Brady drive in the first Super Bowl win over the Rams, it was Law’s interception for a touchdown that was the biggest play in that game.
9. Dwight Evans – Red Sox – #24. That’s right. Dwight Evans. Not Manny Ramirez. Both players wore the number and it now belongs to David Price. Evans played 19 seasons for the Red Sox. During that time, he won eight gold gloves. He was an elite outfielder. He also was a great hitter later in his career. In fact, he had more extra base hits that any player in MLB in the 1980’s. He’s in the top five of all-time for the Red Sox in Hits, Home Runs, RBI, and Runs Scored. Evans was a great all-around player and one of the most under-appreciated players in Boston in historical context.
8. Rob Gronkowski – Patriots – #87. Will Gronkowski end up ahead of some players on this list? That is quite possible. However, this list is about what players have done up to this point and we’re not making assumptions on what will happen next. So, the question becomes should a player who played just six seasons have his number retired? In this case, the answer is yes. Gronkowski has dominated the NFL since his rookie season in 2010. He has scored 66 touchdowns in just 80 games. Over a six-year stretch, there has never been a better tight end in the NFL. Because of his dominance, Gronkowski should have his number retired even if he never played another game. This is a player who has the potential to be one of the all-time greats in the league.
7. Danny Ainge – Celtics – #44. Here’s where things get interesting. The Celtics have a different precedent than most teams in regards to retiring numbers. They retire a lot more than most teams. Cedric Maxwell is up there and he never played in an NBA All Star Game. It’s not as much about being elite. It’s more about your contributions to championships. Ainge won two titles as a player in 1984 and 1986. The 1986 team is arguably the best NBA team of all-time. Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Dennis Johnson all have had their numbers retired. Ainge has not. He was big part of a team that made it to four straight NBA Finals. In addition, he has done a very good job as the GM of the team and was the mastermind behind the 2008 Celtics title. Besides Bird and Paul Pierce, who has contributed more overall to the Celtics in the past 35 years?
6. Patrice Bergeron – Bruins – #37. It may be hard to believe, but Patrice Bergeron has already played 12 seasons for the Boston Bruins. He’s only 30 years old and still is in the middle of his prime years. Bergeron’s resume is not filled with big stats. Despite this, he’s already the Bruins 8th all-time scoring leader with 618 career points. He’s ahead of Cam Neely and Terry O’Reilly. Bergeron is a guy who passes the eye test. If you watch the Bruins consistently, you will know that there aren’t many players who are more valuable in the league. Bergeron has already won three Selke Awards as the league’s top defensive forward. He also played a major role in the Bruins Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 along with their Finals run in 2013. He plays hard. He plays hurt. He is a truly rare player and is already an all-time great Bruin.
5. Drew Bledsoe – Patriots – #11. Many New England fans continue to mock Bledsoe as the guy who needed to go in order for the Patriots to win a championship. We get it. Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Bledsoe. However, that doesn’t take anything away from what Bledsoe accomplished as a Patriot. Do you remember what it was like to be Patriots fan before Bledsoe and Bill Parcells arrived to Foxboro? Bledsoe helped turn the worst organization in the NFL to a winning one in just two years. By his fourth season, he led the Patriots to the Super Bowl. In his prime from 1996 – 1999, Bledsoe was a top-five QB in the league. He also made big plays in key moments. Lastly, another point many Patriots fans have selective memory on is that the Patriots would not have won their first Super Bowl if Drew Bledsoe didn’t win the AFC Championship Game vs. the Steelers. Bledsoe was the winning quarterback in two AFC Championships.
4. Roger Clemens – Red Sox – #21. The Red Sox have been going by the rule of only retiring numbers of players who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Clemens isn’t in and the reasoning behind that is a story for another day. The reality is that if you just take Clemens’ career as a Red Sox player, he’s certainly worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. This goes back to the Gronkowski point of dominance. When fans think about Clemens’ Red Sox career, that’s a word that come to mind. In his 13 year career with the Sox, Clemens won 192 games and posted a 3.06 ERA. That’s an average of 15 wins a year for almost a decade and a half. From 1986-1992, he won between 17 and 24 games in every season. He pitched at least 246 innings in each of those seasons. He won three Young Awards in those seasons and an MVP in 1986. He’s the Red Sox career leader in wins and strikeouts. In the modern day, we talk about “quality starts” being six innings and three runs or less. This was a guy who was fully capable for going nine and not giving up a run every time he took the ball.
3. Paul Pierce – Celtics – #34. We now have entered the no brainer part of this post. Pierce’s number 34 will be retired. It’s just a matter of time. Pierce played for the Celtics for 15 seasons and was the face of the franchise during that time. Pierce was on ten All Star Teams during his Celtics career. He helped lead the Celtics to an NBA Championship in 2008. He was the NBA Finals MVP that year. He’s second behind John Havlicek amongst Celtics all-time leading scorers. #34 will fit right in up in the rafters at TD Garden.
2. Tom Brady – Patriots – #12. What?! How can Tom Brady be #2 on any list?! Let’s focus on his accomplishments and we’ll get to the ranking next. Brady is obviously going to have his number retired. He was the starting quarterback for a team that won four Super Bowls and played in two others. The Patriots franchise has been the model of consistency and winning for fifteen years and Brady has been at the front of all of that. Brady can be argued as the best quarterback who ever lived. He’s a winner and we’ve all been privileged to watch this guy play at this level for as long as he has. When the discussion of retired numbers comes up, this is the guy who people will know about 50 years from now.
1. David Ortiz – Red Sox – #34. Why is David Ortiz #1? It’s simple. Because of the impact he made on the city of Boston. Remember what it was like to be a Red Sox fan before 2004? It was 86 years and counting without a World Series Championship. Boston was ridiculed and mocked year after year. It hit another peak in 2003 when the Red Sox lost the ALCS on Aaron Boone’s home run. Opposing fans were coming into Fenway Park and chanting “1918!” David Ortiz, more than any other player, changed that. The Red Sox do not win the World Series in 2004 without Ortiz’ two walk off hits against the Yankees. They don’t win in 2007 without his .332 average with 35 home runs and 117 RBI during the regular season and .370 average with a .508 OBP and 1.204 OPS that postseason. They also don’t win in 2013 without his grand slam against the Tigers and .688 batting average in the World Series. We would very likely be closing in on year 100 of the Red Sox not winning a World Series if it weren’t for David Ortiz. He changed the Red Sox from a losing culture to a winning one. He changed the baseball experience for Red Sox fans. No more ridiculing. No more 1918. The Red Sox went from having the most agonizing fan base to three-time champions thanks to David Ortiz. David Ortiz changed the city of Boston.
So, there you have it. Surely, there will be some varying opinions. It’s pretty amazing that with all of the winning here that we have ten players that could have numbers retired. What a great ride it’s been for Boston sports fans!