Rob Gronkowski’s departure from the New England Patriots offered a reminder: There sure have been some fascinating athletes to come through this region.
As such, NESN.com is taking local fans on a lighthearted trip down memory lane by highlighting 10 “charismatic characters” in Boston sports history. You know, those enthralling players with big personalities who captivated audiences for reasons beyond their on-field performance.
Kevin Millar was a unique personality in the Boston Red Sox’s clubhouse.
The former Red Sox slugger spent three seasons in Boston from 2003 to 2005. Between his work on the field and his interesting motivational tactics off the diamond, Millar played a major role in the Red Sox breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” and winning the World Series in 2004.
Ahead of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Millar had a bold take to fire up his team. With the Red Sox down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, rather than fear a potential sweep, Millar said the Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Game 4.
“Don’t let us win tonight,” he declared. “This is a big game. They’ve got to win because if we win, we’ve got Pedro (Martinez) coming back (in Game 5), and then (Curt) Schilling will pitch Game 6, and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don’t let the Sox win this game.”
While it’s uncommon for someone to come out and tell the other team not to “let” your team win, it seemed to work. The Red Sox won that game in dramatic fashion — Millar drew a key walk against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning — and the rest was history. Boston overcame New York in seven games and subsequently swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, giving the Red Sox their first World Series title in 86 years.
That same year, Millar joined Johnny Damon and his other Red Sox teammates in calling themselves “idiots.” But like the first motivational technique, it meant no harm. Rather, they were speaking to the team chemistry they all had together as one unit.
Who could forget the famous video of Millar singing karaoke to “Born in the USA” which occasionally played on the big screen at Fenway Park?
If one thing’s clear, it’s that Millar had an interesting motivational technique — with a good taste of humor.
— Kevin Millar often shouted in 2003.
“We’re just the idiots this year. We feel like we can win every game. We feel like we have to have fun — and I think that’s why this team is liked by so many people out there,”
— Johnny Damon, before the 2004 ALDS.