Want to impress your friends and win some bets? Here are 32 facts about the remaining 32 contenders in Boston’s Biggest Sports Legend tournament.
Red Auerbach was the Branch Rickey of the NBA. Auerbach drafted the first African-American player in 1950 (Chuck Cooper) and was the first to start five African-Americans in 1963. In 1966, Auerbach hired Bill Russell as the first African-American coach of a major sports franchise.
The coach is a lock for the Hall of Fame in Canton, but Bill Belichick has a bit of Hollywood in his history, too. He had a guest spot on the TV show Rescue Me, in which he struck up a conversation with Bruins great Phil Esposito.
In 1974, Larry Bird dropped out of Indiana University after just 24 days and returned home to French Lick. He enrolled in the nearby Northwood Institute but dropped out there as well. Bird then took a job with the Street Department and picked up garbage, repaired roads, removed snow and mowed lawns for a year before going to Indiana State University.
Tom Brady was drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft. He also attended the 1981 NFC championship game with his father when he was 4 and witnessed Joe Montana connecting with Dwight Clark in the end zone for "The Catch" that sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Tedy Bruschi was determined to make a name for himself during his college career at Arizona, but it wasn’t easy. He missed the first three games of his freshman season because of a pinched nerve, played three games and then was redshirted because of a broken thumb. Then, Bruschi started in just one of 12 games in 1993. Despite all of that, he still managed to tie the NCAA Division 1-A sack record with 52.
Phil Esposito was hired as general manager and vice president of the New York Rangers in 1986 and had an interesting front office career. The impatient commander made 43 trades in his three years at the helm, fired two head coaches and took over behind the bench just before the playoffs in 1987 and 1989.
In 1986, Dwight Evans hit a home run off Jack Morris at Tiger Stadium on the first pitch of the major league season — the first time that had ever happened in MLB history. It was one of four Opening Day home runs Dewey hit.
As a child, Carlton Fisk dreamed of playing for the Boston Celtics. He played on the University of New Hampshire basketball squad before being selected in the 1967 draft by the Red Sox.
Though he’s obviously best known in the United States for the Miracle in Miami, Flutie is revered for a bit more north of the border. In 2007, the Framingham, Mass., native became the first non-Canadian to be elected into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. During his CFL career, he was named Most Outstanding Player six times, and in 2006, he was named the CFL’s Greatest CFL Player by TSN.
Terry Francona’s major league career was hampered by injuries, but Tito had his moment in the sun before he stepped onto a big league field. In 1980, he led the University of Arizona to the College World Series title and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
Nomar Garciaparra has soccer in his blood. His cousin, Arturo Javier Ledesma, plays for Necaxa, a professional soccer club in Mexico, and his uncle is legendary Mexican soccer goalkeeper Javier "Zully" Ledesma.
John Wayne and John Havlicek have more in common than a first name. Havlicek’s nickname, Hondo, was a nod to the Western movie icon, since many believed Havlicek resembled Wayne in the movie Hondo.
Even before Rocky Marciano was born, someone close to his family had an inkling that he would make a name for himself with his fists. Upon giving birth to her son, Marciano’s mother received a card decorated with boxing gloves and reading, “Welcome to another champion.”
Pedro Martinez weighed around 135 pounds when he began his pro career and was so skinny that the Dodgers threatened to fine him $500 if they caught him running. Pedro liked jogging because it built up his legs and stamina, so he paid $20 to the night watchman at the Dodgers' academy to let him run.
It’s not news that Neely has appeared in a handful of movies — including Dumb and Dumber, Mighty Ducks II, Monument Ave. and Me, Myself and Irene. But Neely, who also played Detective Jerry in What's the Worst that Could Happen?, wrote a book upon retirement. Hockey for Everybody: Cam Neely's Guide to the Red-Hot Game on Ice explains hockey fundamentals to people who enjoy watching the game but don't necessarily understand all of the intricacies of play.
The Bruins went to great lengths and measures to make sure Bobby Orr wound up wearing Black and Gold. Boston secured the rights to Orr when he was just 14 years old, arranging for the future legend to play for the Oshawa Generals in the metro Junior A league.
Coach Don Cherry gave Terry O’Reilly a second nickname to go along with “Bloody O’Reilly” — “Taz,” in honor of the Tazmanian Devil.
David Ortiz was originally known as David Arias at the beginning of his professional baseball career with the Seattle Mariners. After being traded to the Minnesota Twins, he changed his name, becoming the Big Papi Red Sox fans all know and love.
He may have been cut from his high school hoops team in his freshman and sophomore years, but Paul Pierce participated in the 1995 McDonald's All-American Game as a senior alongside future NBA stars Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. Pierce was a contestant in the game's Slam Dunk Contest, which was won by Carter. Seven years later, the Inglewood native made a cameo in the 2002 music video "Tight Whips" by the 504 Boyz.
Manny Ramirez is regarded as a hitting savant, but he’s also worked very hard at his craft in his career. Still, he wasn’t always all there. In his early days in Boston, Manny admitted that he didn’t keep track of balls and strikes when he batted until he had two strikes.
One of Jim Rice’s favorite shows is The Young and the Restless. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Rice mentioned that he was watching the show when he got the call that he had made the Hall.
Bill Russell nearly opted out of playing for the U.S. basketball team in the 1956 Olympics to compete in track and field. Russell was ranked as one of the 10 best high jumpers in the world, but decided to play basketball instead and won the gold.
Milt Schmidt was born on March 5, 1918, in Kitchener, Ontario — a city known as Berlin prior to World War I. At 14, Schmidt dropped out of school so he could support his family. At 17, he turned down Art Ross’ initial $2,000 offer to join the Bruins’ organization and played another year of juniors. Schmidt eventually made his debut with the Bruins in 1937.
Curt Schilling is a big fan of multiplayer online role-playing games, most notably World of Warcraft. He is currently developing his own game along with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.
Eddie Shore was the first great Bruins tough guy, and he established what it means to be a Big, Bad Bruin. Yet it almost didn't happen. Shore was a baseball and soccer player until he took up hockey in college.
Jason Varitek’s number (33) is retired by his alma mater, Georgia Tech. He the only Yellow Jacket baseball player to have his number retired. Varitek holds the record for most games played, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, home runs in a game, RBIs, total bases and walks in a season.
Adam Vinatieri isn’t just a kicker. Yes, he has ice water in his veins, but he’s much more athletic than his job title suggests. In high school in Rapid City, S.D., Vinatieri was a letterman in football, soccer, wrestling and track.
Tim Wakefield's knuckleball is obviously tough to hit, but it's nearly as hard to catch. Because of those two facts, he's tied for the major league record for most strikeouts in an inning with four. On Aug. 10, 1999, Jason Varitek dropped the third strike of the third out, allowing Johnny Damon to reach base for the Royals.
Ted Williams stole just 19 bases in his career, but is one of just three (Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson) to swipe a bag in four different decades. After his playing days, Williams became an expert fly fisherman and was inducted into the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2000.
Being one of the best hitters in Red Sox history paid the bills, but there are certain things that money can't buy. That's why Yaz went back to school in 1966, earning his degree from Merrimack College and fulfilling a promise to his parents that he would graduate from college.
Ever wonder how the biggest pitching legend in the world came to be known as Cy? Born Denton True Young, the right-hander had a blazing fastball early in his career and was nicknamed Cyclone, which was later shortened to Cy.