Remembering a true Hall of Fame era with Celtics, and other thoughts

Remembering a true Hall of Fame era with Celtics, and other thoughts

Sixteen men.

eleven Hall of Famers.

Nine Hall of Fame players.

Only two of the 11 Hall of Famers are still alive: 94-year-old Bob Cousy and 83-year-old Tom “Satch” Sanders.

This sad, ceaseless march of time crossed my mind Thursday when I spoke to Satch about the death of his longtime teammate, Bill Russell.

“Russ had been ill, off and on, for the last five of six years,” said Sanders. “He always pulled at my heartstrings a bit when he showed up at some of the events and people were supporting him. It bothers you when someone is supposed to be the Man of Steel. It occurred to me when [Wilt] Chamberlain also died.

“Russell was just so strong you never thought he would die. Even though we clearly recognize that everybody goes down that path, it still was unnerving when it occurred. The last time I saw him in person was at John Havlicek’s service [in 2019].”

Russell’s Celtics were two-time champs when Red Auerbach drafted Sanders out of NYU with Boston’s first pick in 1959.

“Russell had his tear duct torn early in that exhibition season,” said Sanders, “and I had a chance to play a lot in the center position, and that helped me an awful lot. I played the pivot relatively well, but when Russell returned, he said, ‘Get out of the way. Get out of the middle. I don’t want to see you in there.’

“The young guys had no names where he was concerned. He never called you by your name. He would say, ‘Young boy, get out of there.’ It was an easy decision for me.

“There was no question in my mind about his ability to rebound and block shots. I had seen him come into the [Madison Square] Garden when I was in college. I had seen him destroy Holy Cross and block Tommy Heinsohn’s shots.

“Russell had a thing about Heinsohn because Tommy had tried to elbow him at the jump ball, trying intimidation. That was a mistake.”

In the fall of 1962, Russell, Heinsohn, and Sanders were the Celtics’ starting frontcourt. Cousy was in his final season, starting in the backcourt with Sam Jones. Havlicek was a rookie, one of four Hall of Famers coming off the bench.

Sixty years ago.

▪ Quiz: Name the two major league pitchers who surrendered homers to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds (answer below).

▪ Chaim Bloom outraged his players and lost some of his front office support with his robotic, impersonal treatment of Christian Vazquez at the trade deadline.

Meanwhile, we’d love to know if the Sox actually had eyeballs on all the “prospects” they’ve acquired. The Red Sox are on trial for their lives. Please tell me their chief baseball officer hasn’t pinned their hopes to exit velos and spin rates.

▪ NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase is clubhouse leader for Tweet of the Year with this one: “Jarren Duran would thrive in that part of Alaska where the sun sets for two months.”

▪ Bob Kraft and the Patriots Industrial Complex are in full-blown overdrive to get Kraft into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s like just before the Oscar nominations when studios take out full-page ads promoting their films (“For Your Consideration”). I’m expecting “Bob Kraft for Hall of Fame” candy bars to be handed out at Gillette’s Security Command media gate this season.

▪ The Patriots were wronged by Tom Brady and the Dolphins, and Miami was punished for tampering, but let’s not forget the good old days when embedded stooge Greg Schiano was delivering players to the Patriots while he was coaching the Buccaneers. Schiano traded Aqib Talib and LeGarrette Blount to Bill, then ran off Darrelle Revis, which allowed Revis to sign with New England as a free agent.

▪ Serena Williams. Perhaps the greatest female athlete in history. Consensus GOAT of women’s tennis. She showed the way for young girls and athletes of color and young moms. It will be Brady-esque, Tiger-esque if she can go out on top at the US Open next month (which would give her 24 majors, tying her with Margaret Court).

But let’s not gloss over some of the bad court behavior. Like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, and many other players, she could be boorish toward chair umpires and opponents.

▪ The late, great Vin Scully grew up in the Bronx, near the Washington Heights neighborhood that produced Manny Ramirez. Scully told me this story in 2009 when Manny was a Dodger: “I talked to Manny about it once. I mentioned that I was from 180th Street and he said he was from 168th Street and that was it. There was no response from either of us. But my school was on 175th Street, so his house was on my route. The neighborhood was 99 percent Jewish in my day. Now it’s probably 100 percent Hispanic.”

▪ It was a big deal in Japan when Shohei Ohtani became the first player in the “traditional” big leagues to hit 10 homers and record 10 pitching wins in the same season since Babe Ruth did it for the Red Sox in 1912.

▪ Buck Showalter has vaulted ahead of Ralph Houk into the top 20 for career wins by a major league manager. Tony La Russa (second), Dusty Baker (ninth), and Terry Francona (16th) are the other active managers in the top 20.

▪ On the same night (Wednesday) that David Price picked up his first win of the year for the Dodgers, Red Sox reliever Darwinzon Hernandez pitched an inning of relief, gave up two earned runs, and saw his ERA drop from 22.24 to 21.60.

▪ Watching JD Martinez now reminds me of the final days of Jack Clark in Boston in 1991 and ’92.

▪ Paul O’Neill’s unvaccinated status is forcing the Yankees to do a few headstands when they honor the former slugger on “Paul O’Neill Day” at Yankee Stadium next Sunday. As reported by the New York Post, no Yankee players will be allowed to interact with O’Neill.

O’Neill is part of the YES Network’s Yankee broadcast team, but he works all the games from his home in Cincinnati.

▪ Post Hockey Hall of Fame scribe Larry Brooks is urging the Islanders (50th anniversary season) to retire the jersey number (18) of 81-year-old Eddie Westfall, who played seven seasons for the Islanders and was their first captain.

Westfall played 11 seasons with the Bruins and was part of two Stanley Cup teams with Bobby Orr. The Bruins lost him when they left him unprotected in the 1972 expansion draft.

▪ It’s not too early to pre-order Tyler Kepner’s spectacular “The Grand Stage — A History of the World Series,” due out in October.

Kepner, emerging as the best baseball writer in the nation, has new stuff on John McNamara’s controversial move of sending up Mike Greenwell to hit for Roger Clemens in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Clemens claims it was Mac’s decision, but the manager always said, “My pitcher asked out of the game.”

After McNamara died in the summer of 2020, his widow called to reinforce the point, telling me, “When the chips were down, Roger spit the bit.” Maybe the most Red Sox thing ever.

▪ Charlie Baker, now Maura Healey. Back-to-back governors who played basketball at Harvard? What are the odds?

▪ No. 6. Retired forever by the NBA. Perfect.

▪ Quiz answer: Frank Tanana and Rick Reuschel.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.

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