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Tom Brady is headed to New England this week for what promises to be a memorable night.

On the occasion, we’re exploring where Sunday’s Buccaneers-Patriots game ranks when it comes to the most notable returns in Boston sports history.

A few caveats: We’re not including Babe Ruth coming back to Fenway Park for the first time with the Yankees in 1920. While there are a few nuggets here and there, there’s precious little information on what happened; a New York Times story made no mention of any fan reaction when it came to the 6-0 Boston win on April 19, 1920, at Fenway, despite the fact that Ruth went 2 for 4 with a double. Boston sports talk radio must have been ablaze that afternoon.

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And while he would have been a prime candidate, Bobby Orr never actually played a game with the Black Hawks in Boston, so he is not on this list.

Here’s our top 10, ranked by pregame hype and in-game drama.

10. Wade Boggs

The 1992 season was the 11th of Boggs’s career with the Red Sox, and marked his first sub-.300 year. The veteran third baseman ended up leaving Boston that offseason to sign with the Yankees.

He returned to Fenway next May, and received a mix of boos and cheers in his first at-bat. He ended up going 4 for 4 with a walk in a 7-2 win for the Red Sox, and thanked the fans who were cheering him.

“It would be hard to think of another player in any sport who would generate such a wide range of reception for his first game back in his old city,” speculated Dan Shaughnessy. “For weeks and months, Boggs had put up a phony front, telling us that the Red Sox meant nothing, and that a game in Fenway would be ‘just another game.’ It wasn’t.”

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Adam Vinatieri was on the winning side when the Colts beat the Patriots in Vinatieri's return to Gillette Stadium in 2006.
Adam Vinatieri was on the winning side when the Colts beat the Patriots in Vinatieri's return to Gillette Stadium in 2006.The Boston Globe - The Boston Gl/Boston Globe

9. Adam Vinatieri

The legendary kicker made his first appearance in Foxborough as a member of the Colts on Nov. 5, 2006, and the only time he heard cheers was when he missed a pair of field goal attempts in Indianapolis’s 27-20 win.

He did connect from 23 yards and 31 yards on the night, and seemed to take the boos with a good spirit, telling reporters he understood their feelings. “It was fun. They’re great fans,” he said. “They do whatever they can to get their team an advantage.”

Vinatieri would go on to play 14 seasons with the Colts. His last season was in 2019, at age 47.

8. Ray Bourque

After he was dealt to Colorado, Bourque returned to Boston as a player for the final time on March 24, 2001, and he had a pair of assists in an Avalanche win. He was cheered all game long, with several ovations. Afterward, he took one last spin around the FleetCenter ice, and offered a final wave before leaving.

“If yesterday was an old friend saying so long, then he said it best, with a simple wave of his hand and a simply wonderful game,” wrote Kevin Paul Dupont.

7. Pedro Martinez

While there was a lot of bitterness when it came to some other returns, that wasn’t the case when Martinez returned to Boston with the Mets on June 28, 2006.

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Maybe it was because Boston was already a full year in the rearview mirror; he had signed with New York after the 2004 season. Maybe it was because he was greeted with wild cheers all night.

Or maybe it was because the Red Sox jumped on him early (he allowed eight runs on seven hits in just three innings). Regardless, it was a mostly positive experience for everyone involved.

“Regardless of the result of the game, I’ll always remember this as one of the best moments of my life,” Martinez said after the 10-2 loss.

Drew Bledsoe was picked off four times in his return to Gillette Stadium.
Drew Bledsoe was picked off four times in his return to Gillette Stadium.The Boston Globe - The Boston Gl/Boston Globe

6. Drew Bledsoe

The former Patriots quarterback came to Foxborough with Buffalo on Dec. 8, 2002. In that one, Bill Belichick got the better of his old QB as New England emerged with a 27-17 win.

Bledsoe was 32 of 51 for 328 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the Patriots defense intercepted him four times.

“It certainly wasn’t the way I envisioned it,” Bledsoe said. “I wanted to walk off that field victorious.”

5. Kyrie Irving

Irving made multiple returns to Boston after he left for the Nets, both with and without fans. The Nets made several stops at TD Garden in Irving’s first season with Brooklyn (2019-20), but Irving was MIA on each of those occasions.

When he was healthy, the pandemic meant he didn’t face the Boston fandom — even after burning sage on the court prior to a preseason game in 2020. He scored 37 points in a game in Boston on Dec. 25, 2020, in front of an empty building.

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With fans back in their seats for the start of the postseason — and Irving hoping fans would steer clear of “belligerence or racism” — he came to Boston on May 28, 2021, and had 16 points in a Brooklyn loss in front of a COVID-limited crowd of under 5,000.

4. Johnny Damon

A beloved member of the 2004 Red Sox, Damon signed with the Yankees following the 2005 season. On his return to Fenway in May 2006, he was greeted with steady, sustained boos, and a mixture of fake money and real bills as he warmed up in the outfield.

As he stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the first inning, he was was greeted by roughly 30 seconds of boos and a few cheers, which increased when he took off his helmet and waved it to the crowd.

The weird subplot here? This was the same game that heralded the return of Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher Doug Mirabelli, who got a police escort from Logan Airport and was in such a rush to get on the field that he played the first inning without a cup.

3. Bill Parcells

The former Patriots coach drew the ire of many local fans when he decided to forsake New England after the 1996 season and head to the Jets. He returned to Foxborough with Gang Green on the night of Sept. 14, 1997, and in a game labeled “The Tuna Bowl,” he managed to push the Patriots before New York fell in overtime, 27-24.

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2. Carlton Fisk

The New England native and perennial All-Star left the Red Sox as a free agent following the 1980 season. On Opening Day 1981, he was greeted with boos as a member of the White Sox, but according to all accounts, he was able to turn those to cheers as the game went on.

He delivered the go-ahead homer in the top of the eighth for Chicago, setting the stage for a 5-3 win for the White Sox.

“I was more nervous today than I was my first game as a rookie,” Fisk said. “But it was a nice kind of nervous. An exciting nervous.”

He played 13 seasons with Chicago.

Fenway fans reacted after Clemens struck out 16 Red Sox in eight innings in his return to Fenway in July 1997.
Fenway fans reacted after Clemens struck out 16 Red Sox in eight innings in his return to Fenway in July 1997.ROBINSON-CHAVEZ, Michael GLOBE S

1. Roger Clemens

The one against which all other returns will be judged.

In his final four seasons with the Red Sox, the former Cy Young Award winner went 40-39, then signed with the Blue Jays in the offseason, as Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette hinted he was in the “twilight of his career.”

Clemens returned to Fenway with Toronto on July 12, 1997, and was absolutely dominant, firing eight innings of four-hit baseball and striking out 16 on the way to a 3-1 win over a hapless Boston lineup. His parting shot was a death stare in the direction of the owner’s box as he left the mound.

“It goes down as the night that the former Red Sox ace returned and struck out 16 of his former teammates, turning critics into disciples, and thoroughly embarrassing the already besieged Boston brass,” declared Shaughnessy. “If Bill Parcells is going to beat this, his Jets are going to have to whip the Patriots, 49-0, at Foxborough Sept. 14.”

Clemens would go on to play 11 seasons after leaving the Red Sox.


Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.