Sports

Top Boston Sports Stories Of 2013

December 19, 2013 6:20 AM

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(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

(Photos by Rob Carr and Jared Wickerham, /Getty Images)

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

That calendar you have sitting on your desk or pinned to your wall is about to become obsolete, but there are plenty of memorable dates that can never be erased from 2013.

It was a unique year for the Boston sports scene. It had everything from warm welcomes to testy good-byes, euphoric wins and heartbreaking losses, and, of course, Tim Tebow.

It was a year that may not be topped in some time, so here is a look at the sports stories of 2013.

Red Sox Go From Worst To First, Win World Series

One year ago, the Red Sox were still recovering from a debacle of a season under manager Bobby Valentine.

2012 was one to forget for Sox fans, as the team won just 69 games. Hopes weren’t too high heading into 2013, as many predicted the Red Sox would have a decent rebuilding year in John Farrell’s first season as manager but few predicted that would end in a playoff appearance.

Some thought they could compete for one of the two AL Wild Card spots,  but not many predicted the team would run the table throughout the season and clinch their first AL East title since 2008. Even fewer predicted they would steamroll their way through some of the best pitching in baseball to the franchise’s eighth World Series crown.

If you did, buy me a lottery ticket and send it to the station, please.

While fans and media alike had low expectations for the 2013 Red Sox, the team never saw this as a rebuilding year. Instead, it was about redemption. From the start of spring training, the group of bearded ballplayers believed they would be on top of the baseball world in the end, and they never faltered along the way.

Their not-so-regular season saw them win 97 games — the most since the 2004 World Champs won 98 games. Their late-game mojo returned as they walked off 11 times, something the 2012 club only did three times.

Boston’s run of regular-season dominance carried over to the postseason. When the Sox lineup struggled, their starting pitching came through. When the pitching needed a boost, they got timely hits (mostly home runs or grand slams) off the bats of David Ortiz, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. And it never hurts to have a closer who only throws strike after strike, leaving batters with very little chance of actually making contact.

The power arms Boston faced along the way included David Price, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, and Boston got to each of them. Ortiz was nearly impossible to get out during the World Series, and his third ring further cements his legacy in Boston sports greatness.

It all culminated in the Red Sox clinching their first World Series at Fenway Park in 95 years. Not bad for a team many didn’t give a chance in March.

Bruins’ Epic Playoff Run

The NHL lockout left Boston fans thirsty for hockey, and that thirst was quenched with an amazing playoff run from the Bruins.

After finishing the shortened regular season 28-14-6, the Bruins were heavy favorites in their first-round matchup with Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But after taking a 3-1 series lead, Boston nearly blew it by letting the Leafs win the next two games, and looked all but done when they trailed 4-1 in the third period of Game 7.

But the Bruins pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history, scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation — two in the final two minutes — to force overtime. Six minutes into extra hockey, Patrice Bergeron ended it all, sending the Bruins into the second round and radio play-by-play man Dave Goucher into pandemonium.

After easily dispatching the New York Rangers in five games, the Bruins pulled off an improbable sweep of the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins dominated Pittsburgh as Tuukka Rask allowed just two goals the entire series, shutting down stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well as Jarome Iginla – the man who became enemy No. 1 for spurning Boston a few months prior at the trade deadline.

Boston fell short in the Stanley Cup, falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. The B’s owned a 2-1 series lead, but the season ended with Boston losing three straight – including a devastating loss in Game 6. Boston had a 2-1 lead in the final minutes of the game, but the Blackhawks scored on Rask twice in a 16-second span to clinch the cup.

Though it didn’t end with the Bruins raising the Cup, the playoff run was a remarkable one. From the comeback against the Leafs to the sweep of the Penguins, there are many storylines that will never be forgotten. Gregory Campbell played nearly two minutes on a broken leg against the Penguins, forever immortalizing himself as a Bruins folk hero. Patrice Bergeron could have died in that disappointing Game 6 against the Blackhawks, taking the ice with broken rips and suffering a hole in his lung during play.

And for a few stories on the lighter side, it’s hard to forget about the U.S. Army Rangers jacket that became the team’s playoff symbol, or the JetBlue pilot who asked if a crying baby was Sidney Crosby on a flight back to Boston.

The disappointing (and rather sudden) end of the run is something fans will want to strike from their memories, but it sure was one heck of a ride.

Hernandez Arrested, Charged With Murder

This was truly one of the more crazy stories in the history of sports, let alone 2013.

When word first came down that Aaron Hernandez was being investigated for the murder of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found less than a mile away from Hernandez’s North Attleboro home, no one really knew what to think. But no one could get enough.

News vans parked outside Hernandez’s home for days at a time. Helicopters hovered over his SUV as he made his way into Boston. All the while, the tight end said he was innocent.

Read: Kraft Says Hernandez “Duped” Patriots Organization

Then it all came to a head with Hernandez being brought out of his home in handcuffs on June 26. A few hours later, he was cut by the Patriots. Not long after that, he was officially charged with murder.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Since, we’ve heard of the bubblegum and bullet shells in his rental car – in which Lloyd allegedly rode the night of his murder. We found out that Hernandez is also being investigated in a 2012 double-homicide in Boston, and there’s a flop house in Franklin that has some wondering if Hernandez was some sort of Avon Barksdale-like drug kingpin.

There’s rumors of gun trafficking, numerous off-field issues during his college days in Florida, and even a heated threat to Wes Welker during Hernandez’s rookie season. We learned more of Hernandez’s difficult youth, and how it started to spiral out of control after the death of his father in 2006.

Read: Fans Line Up At Gillette To Exchange Hernandez Jerseys

Hernandez has maintained his innocence from prison in letters to pen pals (who turned around and sold those letters, so we use the term “pal” loosely).

From a football standpoint, the Patriots lost a player that was supposed to be one of Tom Brady’s most dangerous targets on the field. But all of that took a backseat to the fact a human life was taken away, and a person who many saw as a reformed individual is the one who allegedly pulled the trigger. (Continued…)

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