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Trying to recapture glory days

With two Super Bowl wins in the last three years, the Patriots have enjoyed the greatest stretch in franchise history, and they've been lauded for doing it with team play. Here are examples of when the other sports franchises in town distinguished themselves in similar fashion.

The object is to win, correct?

So try these numbers. In 13 seasons with the Celtics, Bill Russell walked away with 11 championship rings. In the course of his career, encompassing college, Olympic competition, and the NBA, he played in 21 winner-take-all, someone-is-going-home-tonight games, and his record was 21-0.

Thirty-five years after his retirement, Russell remains the ultimate mythic figure in Celtics history. He is, quite frankly, the ultimate mythic figure in the league's history, assuming you would agree that the reason they all play in the first place is to win.

Playing alongside Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, and Jungle Jim Loscutoff, Russell won. Playing alongside Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Satch Sanders, and John Havlicek, Russell won. Playing alongside Bailey Howell, Don Nelson, Emmette Bryant, and Larry Siegfried, Russell won. He won in 1957, '59, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '68, and '69. He did not win in 1958, when he was injured during the Finals, and he did not win in 1967, when Wilt Chamberlain and the 76ers simply played better. This means he was beaten, fair and square, once in 13 years. And he avenged that defeat twice before he decided it was time to retire.

Sadly, those magnificent Celtics teams from 1957-69 were cult favorites, playing in a town far more attuned to hockey than basketball. Subsequent teams led by such great players as Dave Cowens and Larry Bird attracted more fans. But none of their squads, while bigger and quicker, played the game with more flair and intelligence than those Russell teams, and none of them would feature Russell, the man who made the blocked shot an art and who got more rebounds a team just had to have than any person in history.

The greatest team sport achiever in American sport history played here for 13 years. Never forget that.

You had to be there in order to understand just how big the Big, Bad Bruins were in this town.

Old-timers may stump for the 1938-41 Bruins teams as the best we've ever seen, but, with all due respect, there was no Bobby Orr on those clubs. And no one ever has been bigger in Boston at any point in our sports history than Bobby Orr in the glory years from 1968-72, when you needed an asbestos glove to handle a Bruins ticket.

It wasn't just Orr, either. Phil Esposito became the first man to score both 100 (126, in '68-69) and 150 (152 in '70-71) points in NHL history. We were all on a first-name/nickname basis with them: Bobby, Espo, Cheesie, The Chief, Pie, Turk, Hodgie, etc., etc., etc. They played an uptempo, swashbuckling brand of hockey, scoring a staggering 399 goals in '70-71 (a season that ended in a stunning playoff upset to Montreal, a team that had finished 36 points behind in the regular season), and 330 goals in '71-72. That '70-71 club featured the Nos. 1 (Esposito, 152), 2 (Orr, 139), 3 (Johnny Bucyk, 116) and 4 (Ken Hodge, 105) scorers in the league.

The Cups came in 1970 and '72. The '70 triumph was sweet because it was the team's first since 1941. The Bruins had tied Chicago for the league's best record during the regular season, but there was no question who was Boss during the Stanley Cup proceedings. The Bruins went 12-2, the highlight a four-game sweep of the Blackhawks in the semifinals. A similar sweep of the expansion St. Louis Blues gave Boston the championship. Orr's overtime goal on a feed from Derek "Turk" Sanderson won it.

Two years later the Bruins were nothing less than tyrannical, piling up 119 points in the regular season and rolling through the playoffs. The final victims were the hated New York Rangers.

As great as the others were, Boston's marquee player through it all was the incomparable Orr. Veteran player and coach Al Arbour put it best: "They have balance, they have magnificent goaltending and then, when everything else seems to run out on them, they've got Bobby Orr, the greatest thing that ever showed up on ice."

True then, and true now, and, yes, that includes Gretzky, Lemieux, and anyone else you can think of.

It's sad, but oh, so true: the Golden Era of Red Sox baseball took place when grandpa and grandma were in diapers.

The Red Sox were the preeminent team in the American League from 1912 through 1918, winning four pennants and four World Series while finishing second twice and fourth once.

Only one player had a role in all four World Series triumphs. That was Hall of Fame right fielder Harry Hooper, a nonpareil fielder and clutch hitter who would have had his number retired here if players had worn numbers at the time.

But the rest of the roster churned over during those seven years, which meant there was some pretty sagacious wheeling and dealing going on.

The key figure in the last two championships was a guy named Babe Ruth, who won 18 games as a lefthanded starter in 1915 and who went 3-0 in his next two World Series, including a 2-1 triumph over Brooklyn in Game 2 of the '16 Series (throwing 13 shutout innings after surrendering a leadoff homer to Hi Myers in the first) and a 1-0 Game 1 victory over Chicago in the '18 Series. He would throw a then-record 29 2/3 scoreless innings in World Series competition, a record he always said was his proudest baseball achievement.

But by 1918 he had attained as much acclaim as a hitter (.300, 11 HRs, 66 RBIs) than as a pitcher (13-7, 2.22).

The Red Sox won those four championships under three different managers. Jake Stahl was the skipper in 1912. Bill "Rough" Carrigan was the manager in 1915 and '16. Ed Barrow was the manager in 1918.

Things reached a summit with a six-game victory over the Cubs in 1918. They finished a desultory sixth in 1919, after which owner Harry Frazee sold The Babe to New York. The Red Sox finished a cumulative 547 1/2 games out of first in the next 13 years. And we are, of course, awaiting patiently for another championship team. 

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