Major League Baseball requires that its managers engage in a full-blown news conference a few hours before every postseason game. At the 2016 World Series, this allowed me a chance to ask the stupidest question of my long career.
It was at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in the tense moments before the seventh game of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. It was a situation that required a really futile and stupid gesture.
When Indians manager Terry Francona took his place behind the microphone and breathed a deep sigh, I pounced.
“Would you say this is a must-win game?’’
Francona understood the lame attempt at humor and broke up laughing.
Game 7. The two best words in sports. It’s the only time the most overused and stupid question in sports actually applies. Game 7 is the only game that is truly “must-win” for both teams.
The Bruins are playing a Game 7 Tuesday night at the Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs. There will be tension. There will be noise. There probably will be blood.
The Maple Leafs are carrying the torch for a country that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 26 years, and a hockey-crazed city that hasn’t won a playoff series in 15 long seasons. The Bruins see a pretty clear path to a Stanley Cup if they can get past the Maple Leafs at home in Game 7.
Where is Bill Russell when we need him?
Reggie Jackson was Mr. October. Billy Crystal was Mr. Saturday Night. Joe DiMaggio was Mr. Coffee.
Bill Russell is Mr. Game 7. Russell played in 10 Game 7s during his 13-year career and won ’em all. This helps account for his 11 championship rings. Because of Russell, the Celtics did not lose any Game 7s until the spring of 1973, when the New York Knicks defeated them at the Old Garden, but only because John Havlicek (shoulder injury) had to play lefthanded.
The Celtics are 22-10 in Game 7s.
Game 7 has not been a friend to the Red Sox. Overall, the Towne Team is 3-6 in winner-take-all Game 7s (the 1903 World Series was best-of-nine, and the 1912 Series ended in eight games because of a tie). From 1946 to 1986, the Red Sox lost four consecutive World Series Game 7s.
The Bruins are 14-12 in Game 7s. That makes Boston 39-28 in “must-win” games.
Game 7 is when Johnny Pesky supposedly held the ball, allowing Enos Slaughter to score from first with the winning run on a double in St. Louis (1946).
Game 7 is when rookie Tommy Heinsohn scored 37 points with 23 rebounds in the Celtics’ 125-123 double-overtime victory over the St. Louis Hawks for the Green Team’s first championship banner (1957).
Game 7 is when Frank Selvy’s potential game-winner rolled off the rim at the Old Garden, allowing the Celtics to beat the Lakers in overtime. It was Boston’s first championship win over the Lakers (1962).
Game 7 is when Havlicek stole the ball (1965).
Game 7 is when Red Auerbach retired from the bench after winning his eighth straight championship, beating the Lakers at the Garden again (1966).
Game 7 is when Bob Gibson beat Jim Lonborg (two days’ rest) at Fenway Park to end the Sox’ Impossible Dream season (1967).
Game 7 is when Jack Kent Cooke hung balloons from the ceiling of the Los Angeles Forum in anticipation of the Lakers beating the Celtics. When Russell’s Celtics prevailed, Auerbach shouted, “What are they gonna do with all those [expletive] balloons?’’ (1969).
Game 7 is when Montreal’s young goalie Ken Dryden stuffed the highlight-reel Bruins, interrupting what would have been a string of three straight Stanley Cups (1971).
Game 7 is when Dave Cowens outplayed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in Milwaukee, to win championship No. 12 and start a new era of Celtic greatness (1974).
Game 7 is when Bill Lee threw an eephus pitch to Tony Perez and watched Perez crush it onto Lansdowne Street (1975).
Game 7 is when the Bruins lost to the Canadiens at the Forum because of too many men on the ice (1979).
Game 7 is when the Celtics beat the Sixers for a third straight time to complete a comeback from a 1-3 deficit in the conference finals (1981).
Game 7 is when the “Beat LA” chant was born when the Celtics lost to the Sixers (1982).
Game 7 is when Cedric Maxwell said, “Hop on my back, boys!’’ (1984).
Game 7 is when Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley cracked heads, paving the way for the Celtics to beat the Pistons and advance to the Finals again. After the game, Isiah Thomas said that if Larry Bird were black, “he’d be just another guy.’’ (1987).
Game 7 is when Grady Little stayed too long with Pedro Martinez (2003).
Game 7 is when the Red Sox routed Kevin Brown early and completed the greatest comeback in baseball history, winning a fourth straight game after trailing, 0-3, to cop the American League pennant on Yankee Stadium soil (2004).
Game 7 is when a young David Price fanned J.D. Drew on a checked swing with the bases loaded (Alex Cora was on third) to kill Boston’s final rally as the Rays won their only American League pennant (2008).
Game 7 is when the Bruins led the Flyers, 3-0, then lost (2010).
Game 7 is when the Bruins beat the Lightning, 1-0, on Nathan Horton’s third-period goal in a penalty-free game to advance to the Cup Finals (2011).
Game 7 is when Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each scored two goals before the citizens of Vancouver set downtown on fire when the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup (2011).
Game 7 is when the Bruins trailed Toronto, 4-1, in the third period, then beat the Leafs in overtime en route to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is Toronto’s Bill Buckner moment (2013).
Game 7. A must-win game.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.