Top 10 Homecomings in Recent Sports History

Top 10 Homecomings in Recent Sports History Peter Gammons has returned home to Boston, the town in which he started his magical ride to becoming the most trusted and reliable baseball journalist in the game.

A product of The Boston Globe, Gammons is back in Beantown as a NESN studio analyst after spending two decades covering baseball for ESPN.

With a chance to work in the market where it all started for him, Gammons is able to enjoy a special homecoming that very few icons in the sports world get to experience.

But Gammons isn't the only one who's gotten the opportunity to return home. Let's take a look at some of the prominent names in sports that have had the luxury of returning to their roots in recent years.

10. Larry Bird
Born in West Baden, Ind., and growing up there and in neighboring French Lick, Larry Bird became a basketball sensation in high school.

After dropping out of Indiana University, Bird later enrolled at Indiana State, where he became a legend. He led the Sycamores to the NCAA championship game in 1979 against Magic Johnson and Michigan State, but Bird came away with a disappointing loss in the title game.

As you know, Bird went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career with the Celtics, who retired his No. 33. After serving as a special assistant in the front office for the Celtics from 1992-97, Bird returned to his home state to become the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. He resigned as head coach in 2000, but is currently still working for the Pacers as the president of basketball operations.

9. Doug Flutie
Doug Flutie, the native of Natick, Mass., gained fame with his Hail Mary touchdown pass against Miami in 1984 and went on to earn the Heisman Trophy later that season.

After a stint in the USFL and time with the Chicago Bears, Flutie returned to Massachusetts to play for the Patriots from 1987 to 1989. After his time in New England, Flutie floated around the CFL from 1990 to 1997 before getting another shot in the NFL with the Bills (1998-2000) and Chargers (2001-2004).

Flutie was released by the Chargers in March of 2005 and, to the surprise of many, decided to sign with the Patriots for the 2005 season. His career had come full circle.

In the regular-season finale against the Dolphins, Flutie successfully drop-kicked the ball through the uprights for an extra point to put the finishing touch on a lengthy and unique career.

8. Joe Torre
After playing 18 major league seasons without a postseason appearance and managing for another 14 without a World Series, Joe Torre was still without a championship.

Before the 1996 season, though, the Brooklyn native returned to New York City to take over the Yankees, replacing the fired Buck Showalter as headlines like "Clueless Joe" sat atop the New York papers, questioning George Steinbrenner's decision to hire Torre.

But after years of chasing a title, Torre earned a ring in his first season in the Bronx with the Yankees. In fact, Torre would go on to reach the postseason in all 12 of his seasons as the manager of the Yankees, winning six AL pennants and four championships.
 
7. Roy Williams
Roy Williams spent his time as a student at North Carolina playing on the JV hoops team and studying the coaching methods of varsity head coach Dean Smith.

After graduating from the school in 1972, Williams returned six years later to serve as an assistant under Smith. He kept this role through the 1988 season, as the team went 275-61 during his tenure as an assistant. The team won the 1982 NCAA championship with Williams on the staff, and he is credited with recruiting Michael Jordan to the school.

In 1988, Williams became the head coach of Kansas and remained there for 15 seasons. He posted a 418-101 record while in Lawrence, including a trip to the title game in 2003. Williams was rumored to be the likely candidate to take over at UNC when the position opened following the 2003 season, but he quickly shot down those rumors.

However, shortly thereafter, Williams ended up taking the job at North Carolina and returning to his alma mater. In just six seasons since heading back to Chapel Hill, Williams has already led the Tar Heels to two national championships.

6. Ken Griffey Jr.
When Junior left the Mariners for the Reds after the 1999 season, he was at the top of his game. After he left, it was all downhill from there.

Aside from Junior's first season in Cincinnati, he never regained his MVP form and failed to truly live up to the hype of the megadeal the Reds gave him in his nine seasons away from the Northwest.

But last year, at the age of 39, the kid who saved the Seattle franchise with his 1995 postseason heroics returned to play at the ballpark he helped build. Now 40, Griffey is expected to be back for another season with the Mariners in 2010.

5. Andy Pettitte
In his first nine seasons in the Bronx (1995-2003), Andy Pettitte won 20 games twice, pitched in the postseason nine times, appeared in six World Series and won four titles.

But in an effort to be closer to his Houston home, Pettitte left via free agency after '03 to sign a three-year deal with the Astros. Pettitte appeared in another World Series (2005) with the Astros, but came up short against the White Sox in a four-game sweep.

The left-hander returned to the Bronx in 2007 for a one-year deal worth $16 million and helped the Yankees continue their consecutive postseason appearance streak. The Bombers were ousted in the ALDS in '07, but still chasing that elusive fifth ring, Pettite signed on for 2008 to continue his second tour in the Bronx.

After a forgettable 2008 for Pettitte and the Yankees, the lefty decided to come back again with an incentive-laden contract in 2009. This past season, Pettitte won the clinching games of the AL East title, the ALDS, the ALCS and the World Series for the Yankees, bringing a 27th world championship to the Bronx, and finally finishing off his collection with a full hand’s worth of rings.

4. Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi's time in pinstripes has always been associated with his memorable triple at Yankee Stadium off Greg Maddux in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, but after 2009, Girardi will be remembered for something else.

Girardi played four seasons with the Yankees (1996-1999) before finishing his 15-year career with the Cubs and Cardinals. He retired after a stint in spring training for the Yankees in 2004, and instead joined the YES Network's broadcast booth.

Girardi returned to the game in 2005 as the bench coach for Joe Torre before accepting the managerial job with the Marlins prior to the 2006 season.

In one season with the Marlins, Girardi carried the young and inexperienced club into wild-card contention, earning himself the NL Manager of the Year award. But problems with owner Jeffrey Loria led to Girardi's firing following the season.

Girardi returned to the broadcast booth for YES and Fox in 2007, and turned down the Orioles manager job during the '07 season. And after Torre left the Yankees following the Yankees' ALDS exit in 2007, Girardi was hired to be the new manager of the pinstripes.

After a tumultuous 2008 season that saw the Yankees miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993, Girardi changed his ways and brought the Yankees back to the World Series in 2009, winning the franchise’s first title since 2000.

3. Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr was arguably the most dominant hockey player to ever put on skates. The greatest Bruin ever revolutionized the notion of an offensive defenseman and helped bring the Bruins back to the top of the hockey world.

But after 10 seasons in Boston, Orr left for Chicago due to some shady wheeling and dealing by his agent, Alan Eagleson. In three years and two seasons with the Blackhawks, Orr would only play in 26 games before retiring after the 1979 season.

The NHL waived the three-year waiting period and put Orr into the Hall of Fame at the age of 31. It was in January of 1979 that Orr got to come back to Boston to thank the city for its support as the Bruins retired his No. 4. More importantly, the fans got to thank him for 10 entertaining seasons and two Stanley Cup championships.

2. Mark Messier
"We'll Win Tonight" was the headline that had the New York metropolitan area talking before Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. Down three games to two, Mark Messier guaranteed the Rangers would bring their series with the Devils to a Game 7, and the captain made good on his promise, scoring a hat trick to help the Blueshirts overcome a two-goal deficit and win the game.

The Rangers went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years that season thanks to a game-winning goal from Messier in Game 7 against the Canucks, a win that brought bedlam to Broadway.

Messier would play three more seasons in New York before leaving via free agency to join those same Canucks. But after three seasons in British Columbia, Messier returned to the Rangers to finish out his career, spending four more seasons in the Big Apple.

Even now, Messier is still a special assistant to the president and general manager for the Rangers.

1. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan left the Chicago Bulls prior to the 1993-94 season, retiring due to what he called a lack of desire to play the game. The greatest player in his sport, Jordan decided he instead wanted to try to play baseball in order to fulfill his father's dream of MJ playing in the bigs.

But Jordan hit just .202 with the Birmingham Barons in 1994, and that was enough for "His Airness."

Jordan returned to the Bulls in the middle of the 1994-95 season, wearing No. 45 — as his No. 23 already hung from the rafters at the United Center following his earlier retirement. The Bulls weren't able to get back to the finals in Jordan's first season, but they soon returned to form, winning three straight titles from 1996-98.

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