Bob Ryan

Robert Parish among fine group at Tradition

Coaches and general managers value dazzling short-term performance from their players. Goes without saying.

But coaches and general managers might value consistent long-term performance even more.

From 1980-81, his first year with the Celtics, through 1992-93, his 13th, Robert Parish had the following high-low range in his shooting percentage: High, .589 (1987-88), low, .535, in both 1991-92 and 1992-93.


And if you saw him play, you know that a very significant percentage of the 7,111 field goals he scored over that 13-year span were not dunks or layups. They were turnaround jumpers, face-up jumpers, or running hooks. He was, by the standards of any era, an absolutely tremendous shooter.

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He was The Chief, and he was indispensable. He was the most reliable of employees, missing only 39 games in 14 full seasons as a member of the Celtics. The record will show that the Celtics won fewer games when they did not have Robert Parish in the lineup than when either Larry Bird or Kevin McHale was missing.

He anchored three championship teams. He played in nine All-Star Games. Oh, and did you know that he played in more NBA games than anyone else (1,611, plus 184 playoff games)? Well, he did.

So what do you think? Do you feel it’s a good idea to have Robert Parish honored next Wednesday evening at TD Garden in the 11th New England Sports Museum bash known as The Tradition?

I do.


Joining The Chief at the awards ceremony will be Rodney Harrison, whose very presence on the gridiron imperiled the physical and mental health of his foes; Alexi Lalas, as much the face and spokesman of American soccer as anyone we’ve ever known; Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs; Title IX rowing protagonist and 1976 Olympian Chris Ernst, whose résumé can hardly be captured in one sentence; and some guy named Pedro who used to pitch a little for the Red Sox.

(Just trying to keep him humble.)

Yes, of course, I’m speaking about Pedro Martinez, who, with all due respect to Cy Young, Smoky Joe Wood, Mel Parnell, Luis Tiant, and Roger Clemens, is the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history.

“I didn’t know how we were going to top last year, when we had Larry Bird,’’ said Rusty Sullivan, the Sports Museum’s CEO, “but I think we’ve at least matched it with this group.’’

Sullivan rightfully points out that Pedro dominated from the mid-’90s to the mid-whatever-we-call-the-first-decade-of-the-21st-century, when there were scores of juiced-up hitters.


“His ERAs and other numbers were so much better than anyone else in 1999 and 2000 that you probably have to go back to Babe Ruth’s batting stats in 1920 and ’21 to see anything comparable,’’ suggests Sullivan.

Sullivan also maintains that Pedro, along with Mo Vaughn, changed the local baseball culture, turning Fenway occurrences from “games’’ to “events’’ to “parties.’’

Now then: Just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about Pedro, there’s a new twist: Each honoree selects someone to present him or her. Parish will have Bill Walton; Ernst will be presented by documentary filmmaker Mary Mazzio and former Globe colleague Jackie MacMullan; Lalas will have Taylor Twellman; Harrison will have his wife, Erika; and Jacobs will have NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Pedro Martinez will have Mayor Tom Menino.

“He’s close to the mayor and he feels that strongly about the city of Boston,’’ explains Sullivan.

You learn something every day, don’t you?

If they ever get around to having anything like The Tradition in San Diego, Rodney Harrison should be in the inaugural class. He spent his first nine years as a major star at the strong safety position for the Chargers, which means he didn’t become a Patriot until he was 31.

Isn’t it interesting that after a two-year absence from the Super Bowl, the Patriots put up back-to-back 14-2 seasons while winning a pair of Super Bowls in Harrison’s first two years with the team? Of course, there were many other reasons, but I’m just sayin’.

Lalas has an unmatched résumé in American soccer. He won the Hermann Trophy as the top college player (Rutgers) in 1991. He was on the 1994 World Cup team. He was the first American to perform in Italy’s Serie A. He helped launch MLS as a member of the Revolution, later starring for a championship Los Angeles Galaxy squad.

He was general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes and an executive in both New York/New Jersey and LA, where he helped broker the arrival of David Beckham. And he is currently in the middle of ESPN’s coverage of the European championships.

Ernst made news at Yale 40 years ago when she led female rowers in revolt against the misogynistic tactics of the administration, whose treatment of its female rowers bordered on inhumane. She now owns her own plumbing company right here in Roslindale.

As for Jacobs, it’s probably smart to honor the landlord.

“Well, yes,’’ says Sullivan, “but this is entirely legitimate. Mr. Jacobs is on the verge of becoming the longest-tenured owner in Boston sports history [after Tom Yawkey]. No one can argue that there has been overall success in the franchise, culminating in last year’s Stanley Cup.’’

And I’ll say that the events of the last several years do suggest that indeed Mr. Jacobs really is interested in something more than selling hot dogs and beer at the Garden. I’m sure Bettman would second that notion.

I have to tell you, though, that my heart will be with The Chief. Wouldn’t I love to see one more of those amazing turnaround jumpers, so often launched from such a scary distance that his actual backward momentum would carry him off the playing floor? I’m sure there will be some video evidence.

This is always a great night. Proceeds go to the Sports Museum, which is a major Boston and New England resource. Go to or call 617-624-1237 for information.

I promise you they won’t keep you there all night, and you’ll actually go home wishing there had been more. Tell me how many banquets or award ceremonies can promise that.