Bob Ryan

They fit nicely into Tradition

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / June 26, 2011

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Aren’t we great?

Hmm . . . perhaps we should rephrase that.

Aren’t we lucky?

There’s no arguing which North American city has had the most successful run of 21st century sports franchises. Boston has already had seven champions in the four primary team sports. Throw in the two NCAA hockey championships won by Boston College and the one taken home by Boston University, and that’s 10 recent occasions to salute one of our teams as the unquestioned best.

Not that any of us has scored a touchdown, hit a home run, sank a 3-pointer, or stopped a puck in any of these high-level competitions, but simply by caring as much as we obviously do, we can claim to be at least a teeny-weeny part of the story. So I would implore my fellow citizens of New England to make an attempt to act humble when in the company of the less fortunate American sports fans — that is to say, everyone else.

Yes, even New Yorkers.

Given the latest rousing success story — the Bruins appear to be raising Stanley Cup celebrating to a new level — the timing is right to remember that one of our great New England traditions is honoring tradition. We are embarrassingly blessed to have had in residence scores of exceptional athletes. And one of our primary ways to celebrate them is the annual event put on by the Sports Museum known as, yup, The Tradition, which will take place Tuesday night at TD Garden.

This is the 10th annual event, and thus the Sports Museum is proud to present a true top-of-the-line attraction. Joining Willie O’Ree, Micky Ward, Ty Law, Mike Lowell, and Bobbi Gibb on the podium will be one of the truly great basketball players, and, more important in these parts, one of the truly great Celtics. That would be No. 33 himself, Larry Bird.

The evening’s format works very nicely. Ticket buyers enjoy a gala reception, during which they get to mingle with the honorees. Each honoree has a presenter, and after the appropriate remarks, he or she takes a seat on the stage for a stimulating discussion in which the presenter joins WEEI’s Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley to engage in some reminiscences. You never know for sure where that will go. It’s not as though there’s a script.

The Class of 2011 is a truly diverse one.

O’Ree was a true pioneer as the first African-Canadian to play in the National Hockey League. He did so despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye, the result of having been struck by a puck two years earlier than his 1958 debut with the Bruins. He played in two games during the 1957-58 season and 43 in 1960-61 before becoming a Western Hockey League legend. He has devoted his life to teaching and promoting the game he loves, most recently as director of youth development for the NHL’s diversity task force. He will receive the Hockey Legacy Award.

Ward’s fascinating life (some of it, anyway) was celebrated last year in the entertaining movie “The Fighter,’’ which ended before the tale of his three memorable fights with Arturo Gatti could be told. The Lowell native is not just one of the greatest New England-bred fighters ever. He may be the toughest, period. He will receive the Boxing Legacy Award.

A two-time All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and a Pro Bowl MVP, Law will be remembered around here for anchoring the defensive backfield on all three Patriots Super Bowl champs. Released following the 2005 season in a salary cap move, he was never really replaced. Law will receive the Football Legacy Award.

Essentially a throw-in on the Josh Beckett deal, Lowell left Boston five years later as a beloved member of the team. This pro’s pro was the MVP of the 2007 World Series, following a season in which he drove in 120 runs while playing an impeccable third base. We in the media will always remember his extraordinary civility. He will receive the Baseball Legacy Award.

You talk pioneer, you must cite Bobbi Gibb, who had the effrontery to think that a female had just as much a right to run the Boston Marathon as a male. She finished first three times as an “unofficial’’ entrant in 1966, 1967, and 1968 before being given official credit in 1996. She will receive a Special Achievement Award.

And then there’s Larry.

The three championship teams he led will always be remembered. His statistical achievements are in the books. But Bird’s lasting legacy was to play the game with a combination of skill, intelligence, and passion that had every fan thinking that if only he or she could play at that level, that’s the precise game he or she would want to play. He was the personal embodiment of all the good things basketball has to offer. Bird will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

A general admission seat is $200. A reserved seat is $300. That, admittedly, is a lot. But all proceeds go to the Sports Museum, a vital local treasure. This would be a wonderful belated Father’s Day gift or birthday gift, or just a thank you for that great sports fan who has enriched someone’s life. Or you can simply reward yourself for rooting home all those championship teams.

For information, go to Start a personal tradition by going to The Tradition.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

The Tradition
A night to honor Boston sports legends.
When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
Where: TD Garden.
Tickets: $200 and $300, at TD Garden box office, Ticketmaster outlets, or

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