Obnoxious Boston Fan

Ted Williams Hawks Cigarettes and Other Notable Boston Sports Endorsements

Ted Joe Cigs

Ted Williams and many other pro athletes during the last century endorsed cigarettes.

Muhammad Ali hawked roach traps on TV.

Joe Namath got creamed by Farrah Fawcett in the name of Noxzema and wore Beautymist panty hose.

But a horse endorsing sneakers?

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California Chrome will attempt to be the first horse in 36 years to win the Triple Crown Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. He'll be up against a field that includes Wicked Strong, the Bay State-based colt whose owners are donating a portion of his earnings to The One Fund.

California Chrome has landed an endorsement deal with footwear company Skechers and has been sporting a blanket featuring the company's name and logo this week while prepping for Saturday's Belmont.


Tom Brady and those UGGs may have finally met their match.

This year's Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi wore Skechers as millions cheered him on from Hopkinton to Boston.

"We're a marketing company that just happens to be in the footwear business," Skechers executive Robert Greenberg said in a media release. "We're spending a couple bucks to the roll the dice and if this horse wins it all, we'll be part of it." ESPN reported it's the most lucrative in horse racing since UPS aligned with Big Brown in 2008 before his Belmont Stakes run.

When it comes to "bizarre" athletic endorsements, California Chrome's horse-shoes may have trouble cracking the all-time Top 10.

The Orlando Sentinel [Disclosure: I worked there for nine years], this week compiled an interesting list of the strangest sports endorsements of all time.

Tops on the Sentinel list, and mine as well, is this clip featuring the "Greatest of All Time" knocking out roaches for d-Con traps.

Ali hocking roach traps. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and dodge like a roach?

Ali's quest to both make an endorsement buck even took him to Alaska in the name of Motorcraft Batteries.

We decided to take a look at some of the most memorable and, at least with the hindsight of history, awkward ads featuring some of Boston's greatest athletes.

Williams was marketing machine during his decades in Boston and made plenty of commercial pitches during and after his career with the Red Sox.

In one sense, he was a mini-Peyton Manning of his day. Peytie Pie, of course, did not serve two tours with the Marines, fly 39 combat missions over Korea or cover John Glenn's hide as his wingman.

And there's no way Peyton could this badass with a Lucky in his mouth.

Ted Lucky

Tobacco companies routinely employed "doctors," celebrities, and athletes like Williams to convince the public to "Always Buy Chesterfield" or inform consumers that Luckies are "Toasted To Taste Better." Some of the earliest baseball cards in the late 19th and 20th century were manufactured by cigarette makers, including the infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card that sold for $2,105,770.50 in 2013.

When Ted didn't have a cigarette in his mouth, he spoke to the kids.

Teddy Ballgame Post Photo

Post cereal patches, collect them all.

Williams is a member of Fishing Hall of Fame and spent years as a spokesman for Sears' line of outdoors and sporting goods.

Ted Guns

"It's one of the smoothest pumping shotguns I've ever used," Williams said.

Any athlete today, retired or active, would probably catch hell from half the internet if he endorsed firearms of any sort in 2014. Williams, no doubt, would have had choice words for each critic.

In 1982, Williams urged voters to get out and cast ballots for the All-Star Game, sponsored by Gillette.

Then there's this all-time classic NSFW clip featuring Williams trying to get through a 30-second spot for Citrus Hills.

That was the location of his final home in Florida. The development about 75 miles north of Tampa once contained the Ted Williams Hitter's Hall of Fame. That has since closed and re-located to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

But Ted's "f-bombs" live on.

About six decades before there was a NESN, there was J.J. Nissen bread. Williams appeared on a series of commercials for Maine-based bakery in the late 1980s.

This isn't quite a commercial, but 60 years before Rob Gronkowski appeared on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Williams was a contestant on "What's My Line?" On that show, a series of semi-notable media-types were blindfolded and asked a series of questions to a mystery guest. It didn't take long for panelist Bennett Cerf, who was one of the founders of Random-House publishing back in the day.

Boston Bruins' great Bobby Orr remained a star-pitchman after his NHL career ended. Boston fans went plenty nuts over Orr during his brief but spectacular time with the Bruins.

Here, he shills some nuts himself.

Orr may be the only person on the planet who could made a mini-van look cool:

Larry Bird's commercial legacy is almost as legendary as Larry himself.

His Michael Jordan-McDonald's ad from 1993 often ranks among the best Super Bowl commercials of all-time.

Bird came out of retirement to play for Team Miller Lite in the mid-1990s.

Shoots great, less filling.

Meanwhile, his 1986 Converse spot with Magic Johnson was historic in forging their deep personal friendship and was a milestone 30-second spot in sports TV marketing.

This 1982 spot for Chardon Jeans, which apparently were applied with a spray gun, wasn't nearly as legendary. It's one the former Celtic probably wishes never made it to You Tube.

The greatest NBA player of all time, Bill Russell, has experienced an endorsement renaissance in recent years. That's mainly due to those Pepsi "Uncle Drew" mini-series of ads with Kyrie Irving and, drum roll please, Kevin Love.

To remind Russell, he won 11 straight titles in Boston.

Russell rung up some marketing cash in the early 1970s after his days with the Celtics with a series of ads for AT&T and the Bell System. Before its breakup in the 1980s by the Justice Department, AT&T was the country's only major telephone company ["Ma Bell"] and the Bell System of local phone companies ["Baby Bells"] fell under its massive umbrella.

The operator can't help you save money, but Rondo will drop plenty of dimes if Love comes to Boston.

In addition to "Yaz" bread and those special "Yaz's Kielbasa Power" sausages during his playing days, Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski told us it was "Miller Time" during the 1985 All-Star Game.

A fully-Yaz-sponsored summer cookout.

"There are no stars on a potato farm."

He is never to be confused with the other "Yaz.."

Thankfully, this spot never aired.

Tom Brady makes "news" nearly every time he appears in a commercial, some of which have become stand-alone featured clips on video sites like "Funny or Die."

Unlike Bird and those skin-tight jeans from the 1980s, Brady has no trouble looking all Brady even when he shows up in a spot for those aforementioned UGGs.

We'll close out this far-from-complete list [send along your favorites] with a Manny Ramirez "SportsCenter" spot that aired for the last time ESPN on July 31, 2008, the same day that news of Manny's trade from Boston to the Los Angeles Dodgers broke.

Given the tepid offensive production generated by Boston's lineup, seeing Manny in a Red Sox uniform again isn't the worst thing that could happen.

As long as he doesn't do any cigarette ads by mistake.

The OBF Column is written by award-winning journalist, Bay State native and Boston.Com columnist Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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