By Michael Hurley and Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Have you ever had an idea so bad that you don’t want to do it at all, so you set up some nearly impossible, when-pigs-fly type of scenario that would force you to actually follow through?
Well, anyway, folks, here is one of those bad ideas. It came when the Patriots were first rumored to be in the mix for Cam Newton in late April. The gist was this: “Ha. Cam Newton. Newton. Newton, Massachusetts. That’s a place.” It led to a discussion between two bored sports writers with no sports to cover about all of the local athletes who have had surnames that match towns and cities in Massachusetts.
Turns out … there have been a lot!
So, with Cam Newton the latest to join that esteemed club, here’s a look at as many Massachusetts-themed Boston athletes we could think of. The rules are pretty simple: does someone have a surname that matches a Massachusetts town? We’re a little bit loose on some pronunciations and spellings, because, again, this is a terrible idea and we might as well whack it up. We’ll go through the folks who don’t rank among the very best first, then we’ll really shine a light on the best that this wildly coincidental list has to offer.
We’re bound to have missed a few, because there are roughly 11 million past and present Boston athletes, and there are more than 300 towns and cities in the Commonwealth. Feel free to add in any overlooked people and places — at your leisure, of course.
Julius Adams, Patriots
Sam Adams, Patriots
Terry Adams, Red Sox
Josh Becket(t), Red Sox
Nick Beverley, Bruins (we’ll let the extra E slide)
Tom Bolton, Red Sox
Rick Carlisle, Celtics
Matt Chatham, Patriots
Sherman Douglas, Celtics
Julius Erving, UMass (it counts!)
Carl Everett, Red Sox
Tacko Fall (River), Celtics (shut up.)
Tony Franklin, Patriots
Larry Gardner, Red Sox
Hal Gill, Bruins
Dougie Hamilton, Bruins
Ray “Sugar Bear” Hamilton, Patriots
Nick Holden, Bruins
Lester Hudson, Celtics
Fred Marion, Patriots
Mike Mil(l)bury, Bruins
Bobby Orr-leans, (OK fine we’re not counting that one WHATEVER)
Lonie Paxton, Patriots
Shavlik Randolph, Celtics
George Redding, Bruins (it’s a homonym, we’re going to allow it!)
Bob Tewksbury (He didn’t play for the Red Sox, but he worked for them, and he worked for NESN, and his name is TEWKSBURY! He counts! How many people are named TEWKSBURY, you know?)
Ted Washington, Patriots
Allen Webster, Red Sox
Glen Wesley (CLOSE ENOUGH to Wellesley, people!), Bruins
Ted Williams….burg OK I know it doesn’t count
And …. scene!
What good is a list without some RANKINGS? Not good at all, is the answer.
So here you go. The very best Massachusetts-towns-and-cities-named-athletes in Boston sports history. Goodness gracious, this bad idea just got worse, baby!
The Best of the Best
Cam Newton, Patriots
Sure, he hasn’t played for the Patriots yet. But he’s the genesis of this entire story going live! That’s worth a spot on the list, if you ask us, which nobody did.
Hey, maybe he can find a nice place to live in Newton. Not a terrible commute to Foxboro, plenty of nice homes, and the home of some fine men’s clothing stores. Sounds like a decent option.
Bill Lee, Red Sox
People in Massachusetts who followed baseball in the ’70s sure do love them some Bill Lee. The appeal is obvious, of course, because of Lee’s unique personality and his reliability from 1969-1978. He’s a Red Sox Hall of Famer and people love him — so he’s good enough to land on our “Best Of” list that doesn’t really matter.
Lee, Massachusetts is a small town out near the western border of the state. It’s much closer to Albany than it is to Boston, and it’s barely closer to Fenway Park than it is to Yankee Stadium. But it’s within the state borders, so it’s still one of ours.
Rick Middleton, Bruins
Any time you can get a nickname like “Nifty,” you’ve done something right. And any time you can get your number to hang up in the rafters at the Garden, you’ve likewise done pretty well for yourself as an athlete.
Rick Middleton played a dozen seasons for the Bruins, racking up 402 goals with 898 assists from 1976-88..
Middleton, Massachusetts has been around a lot longer (incorporated in 1728) and is everybody’s go-to destination for ice cream and mini golf.
Jon Lester (Hey, it sounds like Leicester)
The only difference between Lester and Leicester is that people are less likely to mispronounce Lester on their first try.
In Massachusetts, the town of Leicester abuts the city of Worcester, and it was named after … Leicester, England. According to Wikipedia (it’s our only source for this story), some Minutemen marched from Leicester all the way to Concord and Lexington when they heard there was a bit of a donnybrook brewing out there. That’s a long walk! (Based on endless data and careful calculations, Google Maps says it’s a 14-hour walk; based on absolutely nothing, I disagree.)
Jon Lester was the best left-handed pitcher the Red Sox ever had, but the team traded him away because they didn’t want to pay him what he’d be worth in free agency, even though he had been willing to take a team-friendly discount. It was one of the worst decisions the team has ever made, and everyone involved should feel deep shame.
There’s a lot to like about Lowell!
That’s the pitch that the Merrimack Valley city uses to lure in visitors, but it surely applies to the 2007 World Series MVP as well.
Mike Lowell joined Boston as a “throw-in” when the team really wanted Josh Beckett. “You can have Josh Beckett,” the foolish, boorish Marlins said, “but you must take Mike Lowell and his bloated contract, too!” The Red Sox agreed, and within two years, the Sox had themselves a champion who batted .400 with a 1.300 OPS in a World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies. Bam! Tough break for you, Florida Marlins.
Anyways. There is a lot to like about Lowell, Massachusetts. There’s a UMass there. Plus the Spinners. The Tsongas Center always has some good entertainment. there’s also a cotton mills museum and a quilt museum, in case you are someone who really gets down with textiles. (No judgment here.)
Fred Lynn, Red Sox
Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin. That’s what someone in your family always said whenever you mentioned the city in your lifetime, yes? Yes. If you’re lucky, you may have even gotten a “Wanna go to Boston, Wanna go to Lynn” bounce on someone’s lap as a tiny tot. (Some people go with “Trot trot to Boston…” but we don’t associate with those people.)
And surely, if you’ve ever mentioned Freddy Lynn around an uncle or grandfather or whomever else who enjoyed Boston Red Sox baseball in the 1970s, then you’ve surely heard about the greatness of the Red Sox Hall of Famer. Stick around long enough and they’ll explain that he belongs in Cooperstown.
The city of Lynn is known for many things (car dealerships, mainly) and is also the hometown of Harry Agganis, one of the best athletes of his time. (Have you ever seen his highlight reels? He was like a Mike Vick/Deion Sanders crossover for the 1950s.)
Tim Wakefield, Red Sox
Anyone who lived in Massachusetts from 1995-2011 and also regularly attended Red Sox games all have the same exact story. It goes something like this: Every SINGLE time I went to a game, it was a Wakefield start.
It’s hyperbolic, maybe, but it speaks to what a regular face Wakefield became in Boston after the knuckleballer signed with the Red Sox in late April of 1995. He’d go on to make 590 appearances (430 starts) plus 16 playoff apperances (nine starts) while winning a pair of World Series titles with the club.
Now working as the honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation, it’s entirely possible that Wakefield has participated in a community event in the north-of-Boston suburb which bears his name.
Bill Russell, Celtics
Did you know there’s a Russell, Massachusetts? We did not know there is a Russell, Massachusetts. Apparently, Russell is nestled in the forest, about five miles northwest of Westfield State University. Fewer than 2,000 people live there, and based on the images that pop up in Google Maps, there are many beautiful views to take in within the town limits of Russell.
Bill Russell is also one of the greatest winners the sports world has ever seen, and his 11 championships won with the Celtics speak for themselves and also kind of vault him to the top of any list, no matter how dumb and meaningless that list may be.
So congratulations to Bill Russell and to the town of Russell, Massachusetts. They’re the winners of this here exercise, though if you really think about it, having gone through this magnificent list, aren’t we all winners?