Granted, it derives from a shallow promotional scheme abetted by the shallowest of TV networks. Further, as a product of the random vote of fans, it becomes even more suspect, in that all fans are hardly equally knowledgeable. But the selecting of every team’s so-called “Franchise Core-Four” in the course of Baseball’s annual All-Star festivities has really caught on. Controversy stirs the masses. And it’s spreading to the other games. And why not?
No doubt you’ve noted Red Sox Nation electors have anointed Brothers Williams, Yastrzemski, Martinez, and Ortiz as their “Core Four.” There’s no dispute about Teddy Ballgame or Captain Yaz and precious little about the magnificent Pedro, now bracing for his canonization at Cooperstown. It’s on Big Papi that dispute reasonably focuses. Ever captives of the moment, contemporary fans – a meaningful percentage of whom likely never heard of a Jimmie Foxx or Joe Cronin, both done and gone before they were born – sprang for the loud and ebullient Ortiz, whose heroics they experienced only yesterday.
Other players, however, make claims at least near as valid. Not necessarily the mighty Foxx, who had peaked before arriving here from Philadelphia; same goes for Cronin, whose fame was established in Washington. With any luck, Nomar Garciaparra would have won fourth spot. Only TSW and Yaz had greater seasons than Nomar’s best, before injury croaked him. Bobby Doerr doesn’t quite make the cut, but Jim Rice’s case is near as good as Ortiz’s, if not as dramatic. Tris Speaker seriously tempts me. While his longest stretch of greatness came in Cleveland, Spoke had seven brilliant seasons here in which he hit about .340 and methinks he was a much better all-round player than Ortiz on his sprightliest days, although it was so long ago it’s impossible to prove.
But even if Ortiz holds his own against that pack, he has no chance against Cy Young. For all the reasons old friend K.P Dupont has correctly and extensively argued in the Globe, it’s no contest.
All-time Red Sox pitchers are a colorful lot. For a single season you couldn’t top Joe Wood in 1912 or Gentleman Jim Lonborg in 1967, although Babe Ruth in 1916 gives it a go. For a half dozen seasons, Looey Tiant was fabulous theatre as was later Curt Schilling and long before him, Lefty Grove. Mel Parnell had fine moments. So did Dick “The Monster” Radatz, and Dave “Boo” Ferriss. Were it not for you know what, who would dispute Roger Clemens? Herbie Pennock once pitched here. So did Red Ruffing and Carl Mays. But old Denton Tecumseh True “Cy” Young, winner of 192 games in eight seasons, is the stopper. He’s the rightful “Core Four’s” Number 4.
So what of the other teams in town? I find the Celtics and Bruins relatively easy. The Patriots are another matter.
Celtics: Inevitable no-brainers are Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird, and in that order, mind you. Some might quibble, but filling the card with John Havlicek seems equally beyond dispute.
Bruins: Near as much a slam dunk, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. Bobby Orr, Eddie Shore, and Ray Bourque are automatic, but there’s intense competition for the fourth spot. Denying Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron is painful. Phil Esposito and Cam Neely have claims. So do Jean Ratelle and Brad Park. Very old timers will want Dit Clapper or Tiny Thompson. But in the end it comes down to old favorites Milt Schmidt and Johnny Buyck. Chief has the edge, but sentiment compels me to pick Miltie.
The Patriots: No problem with the top two. John “Hog” Hannah and Tom Brady, in that order. In time, it may prove Gronk Gronkowski belongs. If you demand a franchise founding father, nominees are Jon Morris, Gino Cappelletti, and Jim Nance. In terms of sheer talent, there’s Stanley Morgan and Mike Haynes. But what of Ty Law, Vince Wilfork, Andre Tippett, Willie McGinest, Steve Nelson. Shouldn’t Steve Grogan and Drew Bledsoe be considered? Why not Adam Vinatieri, even if he did only kick? The last two slots are blank. You fill them in.
Noteworthy is how little comment there’s been on the sports pages regarding the Bruce and/or Caitlyn Jenner matter, and that’s as it should be. If Jenner, while still Bruce, was once indisputably a sports titan, that was four decades ago. His brilliant performance at a long ago Olympiad has no connection with the personal choices he has made late in life, as Caitlyn. Such issues now being raised have nothing to do with sport and their merit ought not be debated in sports media, and it matters not whether it’s in approval or disapproval. Just as Jenner’s choices should not be denounced in the sports media, they ought not be celebrated there either. For we of the toy department, the subject is out of bounds.
That’s why ESPN, self-professed last-word on the entire wide world of fun and games, was way off base in the conferring of its Arthur Ashe “Courage Award” on Jenner at their so-called ESPYs. It smacked totally of ESPN’s familiar and relentless self-promotion as well as the egregious exploitation of Jenner and her cause. Granted the ESPYs, a silly parody of Hollywood’s annual dog and pony show, ought not be taken that seriously. But any award named for Arthur Ashe should be, as those of us who had the pleasure of dealing with that remarkable gentleman in his tragically short run of excellence, must insist.
While most sports opinion dispensers have (perhaps smartly) chosen to take a pass on this touchy business, two of the best and brightest in the dodge have spoken up, I think wisely, and with apologies to both, I choose to thumb along with them.
The ever-thoughtful Bob Costas has questioned ESPN’s apparent exploitation of the issue, and also that corporate sporting behemoth’s seemingly endless yearning for attention. And the equally estimable Dan Shaughnessy has noted there are many athletes who much more precisely qualify for the Ashe distinction. Among those Dan specifically nominates is Pete Frates, the gallant ex-ballplayer from Beverly and BC who is dealing with ALS. He has inspired the raising of millions to promote research into that dreadful malaise and devoted the rest of his life to that cause. Who would argue with that?
By the time you scan this, gentle reader, you may know the end of the story at long last. But what I offer here stands no matter the result.
As of this writing, it has been 27 days and counting since Tom Brady had his date with the Wizard of the NFL at said guru’s downtown Gotham throne room behind the magic mirror with all the attendant folderol that the great and all-knowing football Oz ever commands whatever he’s up to. And still, no decision.
The Supreme Court rarely takes so long to deliberate even epic issues. The Dred Scott decision was hammered out in much less time and so, doubtless, was Brown versus Topeka’s Board of Education. One hazards no guess as to what’s about to be handed down from on high by the NFL’s Court of Final Appeals, let alone what eventually any of it will mean. But by one yardstick alone, the Brady-Deflategate contretemps is already guaranteed a certain curious historical stature, no matter the result.
Bear in mind that we’re at the sixth-month anniversary of the oddly stray incident that produced this fiasco. Does the latest interminable delay suggest electrifying new developments in the gathering of facts, or merely Commissioner Goodell’s need to extend his summer vacation in the Hamptons to allow him further rumination on some remote sand dune? We, of course, can’t know for sure, and never will.
But this much alone remains certain: With apologies to Mr. Churchill, it may be said that never has it taken more time at greater expense to resolve a sillier question having so little impact on so few while sparking so much inane comment. Of which you are free to include this, if you wish, as Exhibit A.