Commentary

Five great days in Boston sports

It's not the first time the Celts, Bruins and Sox have given fans a triple treat

Updated: May 7, 2010, 9:27 AM ET
By Jeremy Lundblad | Special to ESPNBoston.com

The Red Sox face the Yankees, the Bruins look to sweep the Flyers and the Celtics take aim at LeBron and the Cavaliers. Friday has the potential to be a great day for Boston sports fans, but not an unprecedented one.

So how often have the Red Sox won a game on the same day as Bruins and Celtics playoff victories? It happened Monday, and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it has happened 12 other times. However, none of those 13 involved a win over the Yankees.

So where would Friday potentially rank in terms of three-sport Boston sweeps? Here's a look at the top five:

5. April 20, 2009

2009 didn't go as planned for any of Boston's teams, but April 20 made anything seem possible. Both the Bruins and Celtics carried high hopes and high seeds into the first round of the playoffs. After a slow start, the Red Sox were just beginning to turn their season around. To top it off, it was Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon featured one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the women's race. Salina Kosgei of Kenya edged Ethiopia's Dire Tune by a mere one second. The marathon set the tone for a marathon day in Boston sports that saw all three teams emerge victorious. For at least one day in 2009, Boston was on top of the sports world.

[+] EnlargeRay Allen and Ben Gordon
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesRay Allen came up big in Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA playoffs.

Celtics 118, Bulls 115

By the end of the day, it was clear this wouldn't be just any first-round series with the Chicago Bulls. In a best-of-seven that saw four overtime games, Boston pulled out a squeaker in Game 2 thanks to Ray Allen. The Celtics were looking to prove they could win without Kevin Garnett, who sat in street clothes. (Well, actually, he stood for most of the game.) After scoring only four points in Game 1 and missing the final shot, Allen continued to struggle with only two first-half points. The second half was a different story, as a pair of Connecticut Huskies put on a scoring clinic. Ben Gordon finished with 42 points, while Allen exploded for 28 in the second half alone. In the end, Allen got his chance for redemption with the score tied at 115. A hobbled Rajon Rondo found Allen, who knocked down an off-balance, game-winning 3 with just two seconds left. Adding to the day's theme, several Red Sox players, including that day's winning pitcher, Justin Masterson, were in attendance.

Bruins 4, Canadiens 2

The Bruins took the first two games of their first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens. But with Game 3 in Montreal, a third straight win would not come easily. Montreal got on the board first, but Boston answered with two goals of its own. With the score tied in the second period, it was a former Canadien who put the Bruins ahead for good. Michael Ryder, a healthy scratch for much of the 2008 playoffs with Montreal, exacted revenge on his former club, putting home the rebound of a Dennis Wideman shot. Boston went on to sweep its rival, winning its first postseason series since 1999. The Canadiens' 100th season ended with arguably their worst playoff series ever.

Red Sox 12, Orioles 1

The Red Sox woke up early on Patriots' Day, and so did their bats. On the 70th anniversary of Ted Williams' debut, Boston exploded for 12 runs to complete a four-game sweep of the Orioles. Capped off by a six-run seventh, the game was never really in doubt, giving the fans in the Monster seats plenty of time to watch the marathon behind them. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia did the bulk of the damage, combining to go 7-for-12 with six runs. Meanwhile, David Ortiz showed signs of life, cracking a double and a triple. Strange fact: It marked the 10th straight season in which Ortiz hit a triple, a streak that has eluded Derek Jeter, among others. After a 2-6 start, the win was Boston's fifth of 11 straight.

4. April 28, 1974

The Bruins and Celtics have never won a championship in the same year, but in 1974 it seemed a strong possibility. The Bruins, two years removed from hoisting the Cup, finished with the best record in the NHL. With John Havlicek healthy after battling a shoulder injury in the 1973 playoffs, the Celtics finished atop the Eastern Conference. On April 28, the Celtics took on the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals, while the Bruins continued their march toward the Finals.

Celtics 98, Bucks 83

Much like the 2010 Cavaliers, the 1974 Bucks had the best record in the NBA and featured the league MVP (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The Celtics had a clear strategy going into Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Milwaukee: Let Kareem do his thing, and stop everyone else. With Oscar Robertson showing all 35 of his years and Lucius Allen out for the remainder of the playoffs, the Celtics turned up the pressure. "We're going to press no matter what," said Jo Jo White. "There's nothing they can do about it. They can't hire a helicopter to bring the ball up." The plan worked, as Abdul-Jabbar scored 35 points, but no other Milwaukee player had more than 12. Havlicek led the Celtics with 26 points, while White added 19 points and 7 assists. Dave Cowens, assigned the task of handling Abdul-Jabbar on his own, put up 19 points and 17 rebounds, outrebounding the MVP. With the win, the Celtics stole home-court advantage, ultimately cutting down the nets in seven games.

Bruins 6, Blackhawks 2

With the series knotted at two, the Bruins needed to hold serve against the Blackhawks at home before heading out to Chicago for Game 6. On a team with both Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito at their peak, it was a man about to turn 39 who stole the show. Johnny Bucyk put home a pair of goals, including a breakaway on which he seemingly found the fountain of youth. "I almost had a heart attack, but I don't think about my age," Bucyk said of his second-period goal that opened the floodgates. Esposito deposited a pair of goals against younger brother Tony, who was pulled during the second intermission after allowing six goals. The elder Esposito became just the 11th player with 100 career playoff points. The Bruins took a 3-2 lead in the series, ultimately advancing to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Flyers.

[+] EnlargeDwight Evans
AP PhotoDwight Evans helped lift the Sox over the Royals on April 28, 1974.

Red Sox 5, Royals 4 (13 innings)

Fred Lynn and Jim Rice wouldn't make their debuts for several months, but another rising star provided the heroics for the Red Sox in a three-hour, 45-minute marathon against the Kansas City Royals. Backed by a strong start from Roger Moret, the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on a solo shot by Dwight Evans. Bernie Carbo stole home in the eighth to make it a two-run game. Dick Drago came in to close the game out, but gave up a two-run home run to Hal McRae that sent the game into extra innings. Then, in the top of the 13th, Cecil Cooper stepped to the plate. Hitless in his first five at-bats, Cooper drove a Doug Bird offering over the fence in right-center. Drago, still in the game after blowing it in the ninth, escaped the bottom of the inning to preserve the victory. The win was the lone bright spot during a stretch of 10 Red Sox losses in 11 games.

3. April 24, 1977

It was shaping up to be Philadelphia's year in both basketball and hockey. The Flyers and 76ers were top seeds in the playoffs, but needed to get through their Boston counterparts in order to advance. The rivalry between the cities was heated to begin with. After this crazy day on which both cities hosted playoff games, it only became more intense thanks to controversial officiating and a bizarre hockey ending. Meanwhile, a future Hall of Famer tossed a shutout that helped turn around the Red Sox season.

[+] EnlargeTommy Heinsohn
Dick Raphael/Getty ImagesTommy Heinsohn's penchant for disagreeing with NBA referees goes back to his days as head coach of the Celtics, and beyond.

Celtics 124, 76ers 119

Tom Heinsohn berated the officials and the Celtics struggled to close out a game. Not much has changed in 33 years. The Celtics saw a 22-point lead dwindle to a single point when an unlikely hero emerged. Not Dave Cowens, who connected on his first 10 field goals, and finished with 37 points and 21 rebounds. Nor was it John Havlicek, who added 12 points and 15 assists. With the Celtics staring a three-game deficit in the face, Fred Saunders hit a running hook shot over Julius Erving to stop the bleeding. The Celtics won 124-119, evening the series, though Philadelphia would ultimately advance to the conference finals. After the game, the real story was the officiating. With NBA refs on strike, including eight picketing outside the Garden, substitute officials were brought in, including a 25-year-old named Joey Crawford. In total, 80 free throws were attempted, 46 by the 76ers. Needless to say, Heinsohn, then the Celtics' coach, didn't take it well. According to The New York Times, on four separate occasions he was so disgusted by the officiating that he left the bench and walked into the stands. After the game, he didn't hold back, calling it "the most incredibly poorly officiated game I have ever seen." He accused referee Richie Jackson of wearing "a Julius Erving T-shirt under his working gear." Imagine if the Celtics had lost.

Bruins 4, Flyers 3 (OT)

Game 1 of the semifinals could not have started any better for the Bruins. Taking the Philadelphia crowd out of the game, Boston scored the first three goals. But this one was far from over. The Bruins tried to milk their lead, taking only two shots in the third period. The Flyers took advantage, drawing the deficit to one in the closing minutes. With goalie Bernie Parent on the bench for an extra attacker, Bobby Clarke tied the game with just 29 seconds remaining in regulation. With momentum clearly with the Flyers, the Bruins brought out an innovative strategy for overtime: Shoot the puck. Perhaps Parent, untested in the third period, would be rusty. That's when things got interesting. Rick Middleton flung a soft wrister from afar that was put aside by Parent, but actually stopped on the red line. Parent tried to clear the puck, but wound up knocking it into his own net. "I made the save but it ended up behind me, near the red line," Parent said, according to the Associated Press. "I took a swing to bring it back and I missed, and on a second attempt I pushed it in." The Bruins went on to sweep the Flyers before losing in the finals to Montreal.

Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 0

If you think the 2010 Red Sox are off to a slow start, perhaps 1977 offers some optimism. Boston ultimately won 97 games that season, but was just 4-7 entering this day. The win began a stretch of 14 wins in 19 games. Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, in his second season in Boston, tossed a three-hit shutout. Dwight Evans and George Scott both went deep. For Scott, it was his first home run with Boston since returning from five seasons in Milwaukee. The game is also the source of a fun piece of Red Sox trivia. In the ninth inning, Dave Coleman entered the game as a pinch-runner for Carl Yastrzemski and scored. Coleman never got a hit in 12 major league at-bats, but he did cross the plate this once.

2. April 14, 1980

Thirty years ago, the two biggest shows in town were in transition. Two years removed from the John Havlicek era, the Celtics were about to throw Dave Cowens yet another retirement party. Likewise for the Bruins -- Johnny Bucyk's 21-year tenure had ended, and goalie Gerry Cheevers was about to hang up his skates and put on a suit. If not uncertainty, the new decade at least brought unfamiliarity. But on April 14, a pair of rookies staked their claim on the playoffs and made a statement about the future. Oh, and it was also the home opener for the Red Sox.

Celtics 138, Rockets 121

Larry Bird's arrival as a rookie led to a 32-win improvement, taking the Celtics from worst to first in the Atlantic Division. He won rookie of the year and led the team in scoring and rebounding. But in his first playoff series, the rookie looked like, well, a rookie. The Celtics won the first three games against the Rockets, but Bird hadn't topped 18 points. In Game 4, the Rockets employed a strategy that awoke the scorer. Winless in nine games against Boston, including the regular season, the Rockets decided to pick up the pace. "We like it when someone tries to run with us," said Cedric Maxwell, who poured in 27 points. For Bird, the floodgates opened right away. He scored 15 points in the first quarter on his way to 34 in the game. It was the first great playoff performance of a career filled with them. The Celtics swept the Rockets with a 138-121 victory. A 14th banner was still a year away, but Bird was taking off.

[+] EnlargeRay Bourque
Scott Levy/Getty ImagesRay Bourque was just 19 when he chipped in with three assists -- and a game misconduct -- in the Bruins' Game 4 playoff win against the Penguins in 1980.

Bruins 6, Penguins 2

Trailing 2-1 in a best-of-five opening-round series, the Bruins had already evened the series in Pittsburgh. That meant the puck would drop in Boston for a deciding Game 5. The Bruins left little to chance in this one. The scoring started when Peter McNab put home the rebound off a Ray Bourque slap shot. Sixty-eight seconds later, Bob Miller made it 2-0 before five minutes had elapsed. The Bruins pushed the lead to 4-0 going into the second intermission. Just 19 years old, Bourque chipped in with three assists, and a game misconduct. With the game out of reach, a melee in the third period led to 57 penalty minutes being assessed. The Bruins went on to lose to the Islanders, the eventual champs, but Bourque was just beginning his storied career.

Red Sox 3, Tigers 1

With a fifth-place finish on the horizon, 1980 wouldn't be the most memorable Red Sox season. Yet the home opener always brings fresh optimism, and this was no different. In Dennis Eckersley and Jack Morris, two of the top pitchers of the upcoming decade took the hill. Though he allowed just one run, Eckersley barely escaped the first inning. But then he settled down to pitch six scoreless innings before a rain delay chased him prematurely. Tom Burgmeier came on to pick up the save. Fred Lynn was the offensive star, going 2-3 with a home run, in what was the beginning of a decade of punishing Morris to the tune of a .387 batting average.

1. April 24, 1983

No Boston team won a title in 1983, and the Patriots were just two days away from selecting Tony Eason over Dan Marino in the NFL draft. But April 24, 1983, will go down as one of the most exciting days in Boston sports history. It had everything. Both the Celtics and Bruins faced series-deciding playoff games. Better yet, both games were at the Boston Garden, adding to the palpable buzz in the city that Sunday. All three Boston teams were victorious, and there was the heartwarming story of an aging Bruins veteran who became an unlikely playoff hero. But ultimately, the day will be remembered for a single bizarre incident: A man named Tree almost bit Danny Ainge's finger off. Suddenly, throwing a towel doesn't look so bad.

[+] EnlargeDanny Ainge
AP Photo/Paul Benoit Danny Ainge's bizarre altercation with the Hawks' Tree Rollins, in which Rollins bit Ainge's finger, is legendary.

Celtics 98, Hawks 79

Larry Bird nearly put up a triple-double with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Kevin McHale came off the bench for 14 points in the second quarter alone. In the deciding game of a best-of-three opening-round series, the Celtics topped the Atlanta Hawks 98-79. But after the game, all anyone was talking about was "the bite." Tree Rollins threw down a dunk in the third quarter. Running back on defense, he became entangled with Ainge, who took an elbow to the face. Eight inches shorter and 47 pounds lighter, Ainge charged, tackling Rollins to the floor. Soon everyone was involved in the fracas. Somewhere at the bottom of the pile, Rollins bit Ainge's finger, which would ultimately require five stitches and a tetanus shot. "The Tree bit me," said Ainge after the game, according to The New York Times. "He almost bit my finger off, man, all the way down to the tendon." Ironically, while Ainge and the Hawks' Mike Glenn were ejected, Rollins stayed in the game. Ainge still sports a scar on his finger from the bite, which achieved legendary status courtesy of a classic Boston Herald headline: "Tree Bites Man."

Bruins 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

A Game 7 went to sudden-death overtime, and it was the second-most memorable game played at the Garden that day. Facing the Buffalo Sabres in the division finals, the Bruins trailed 2-0 in the second period. Barry Pederson finally lit the lamp for Boston with his 10th goal in 11 games. Later in the period, 34-year-old defenseman Brad Park tied the game at two. It wouldn't be the last the Sabres would hear from him. In overtime, Pederson won a faceoff in the Sabres' zone, drawing the puck back to Park. His initial shot was blocked, but as Park swooped in for his own rebound a trio of Sabres struggled to get to their feet. Park's second shot found the back of the net, and the Bruins took home the Adams Division title. After several major knee operations, the defenseman had considered retirement during the previous offseason. "It's my biggest thrill in hockey," Park said after the game, according to The Washington Post. "I'd never scored an overtime goal and I'd never won the seventh game."

Red Sox 4, A's 2

Dwight Evans supplied the offense and John Tudor locked down the A's hitters, as the Red Sox finished a day with a winning record for just the second time all season. Evans hit a solo shot in the top of the first inning, but Boston would be held scoreless by Mike Norris for the next six innings. Trailing 2-1, Eddie Jurak and Wade Boggs led off the eighth with back-to-back singles. Evans then took Steve Baker deep for his second home run of the game, giving Boston a 4-2 lead. It was the eighth of 22 multi-homer games in his career. Bob Stanley shut down the A's for the final two innings to pick up the save.

Jeremy Lundblad is a researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information

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