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LEEInks list: Villains in Boston sports history

07.29.10 at 8:10 am ET
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Raiders safety Jack Tatum became an instant villain for this 1978 preseason hit on Patriot Darryl Stingley that left the receiver paralyzed. (AP)

In sports, you can’t have the teams and players you root for without having the villains. You know, the players who aggravate you and get under your skin, but who you probably would welcome if they wore your teams colors … or maybe not.

Patriots villain Jack Tatum died Tuesday after a heart attack. The Pro Bowl safety will forever be remembered for his hit that paralyzed Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game. Though the hit was legal, it didn’t take away the bad taste.

With that said, here is our list of the most villainous characters in Boston sports history. Note that our list is nearly half full with Yankees.

10. Joba Chamberlain

Despite being introduced to the New York-Boston rivalry fairly recently, Chamberlain has already vilified himself in the eyes of Red Sox Nation. In only his first season in the majors, Chamberlain zipped back-to-back fastballs behind the head of Kevin Youkilis in August 2007 at Yankee Stadium. Though Chamberlain was suspended two games for it, there have been other instances where he has had control issues with Youkilis at the plate. Red Sox fans have been adamant that it’s intentional, but Chamberlain denies it. Then again, there was a time when Pedro Martinez had his own problems going inside on New York hitters.

9. Joey Porter

Porter has never been shy with words throughout his NFL career. Leading up to a matchup against the Patriots in November 2009, the Miami linebacker lashed out against New England and most notably, quarterback Tom Brady. Porter criticized Brady for having his own rules when it came to attacking the quarterback’s legs after a game in which Brady seemed to persuade an official to throw a penalty flag after a play. The former Steeler also admitted he possessed a “natural hate” for the Patriots, saying, “Never really too much cared for New England. Still don’t care for New England. The hate’s been there for a while, especially after all the cheating they did back in the day.” In typical Bill Belichick fashion, the New England coach responded by saying, ‘That is not our fight; our fight is on the field.” Can’t help but think though that those comments were bulletin board material that week.

8. Claude Lemieux

Lemieux is the first of two Bruins and Cam Neely instigators on our list. He would antagonize Boston players and get under their skin with his slashing and poking. In this particular video, Lemieux raised his stick into the face of Neely, forcing him to retaliate by fighting. Instead of fighting, however, Lemieux tried to get away, forcing the referees to penalize Neely and not the instigator.

7. Jeff Ruland/Rick Mahorn

As the first tag-team tandem on this list, Ruland and Mahorn were infamous to Celtics fans. Former Celtics radio announcer and legend Johnny Most nicknamed the duo McFilthy and McNasty for their overly physical play as members of the Washington Bullets. In the early ’80s, they would give the Celtics a hard time whenever they played them because they made it a dogfight and refused to play any other style besides grinding it out. While Ruland’s career fizzled out later on with the Sixers, Mahorn went on to play with the “Bad Boy” Pistons and joined Bill Laimbeer, who makes an appearance further down our list.

6. Jack Tatum

Though Tatum didn’t continuously terrorize the Patriots, his infamous hit against Stingley in 1978 was enough to make him a villain in New England history. To make matters worse, it came during a preseason game. Stingley leaped for a pass and Tatum hit him mid-air, damaging Stingley’s spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed. According to Stingley, Tatum never attempted to apologize before Stingley’s death on April 5, 2007.

5. Alex Rodriguez

Though he lands No. 5 on our list, A-Rod was incredibly close to being the Red Sox shortstop through a trade in the 2003 offseason. Following his AL MVP season, Texas and Boston had a deal in place to swap Manny Ramirez and Rodriguez, the game’s two highest-paid players. It nearly went through, but the players association vetoed the trade because Rodriguez had to significantly reduce his salary. New York, in Yankee-like fashion, proceeded to acquire Rodriguez in February 2004 for Alfonso Soriano. Following a memorable fight with Jason Varitek in the regular season that year, Rodriguez permanently placed himself among Red Sox villains in the playoffs with his glove-slapping play on Bronson Arroyo while running down the first base line. After admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs in 2009, Rodriguez now receives some of the most jeers of any opposing player at Fenway Park.

4. Ulf Samuelsson

Similar to Lemieux, Ulf Samuelsson was an agitator and got under the skin of Cam Neely on numerous occasions. He was given the nickname Robocop for the armor-like padding he wore. Though his teammates loved his tough and physical style of play, he generally had a reputation for a being a dirty player. During the 1991 Wales Conference finals against the Bruins, Samuelsson laid a knee-on-knee hit to Neely, which was a factor in Neely’s injury-plagued seasons thereafter. The Boston right winger went from being a 50-goal-scorer to having knee and hip issues end his career prematurely. Neely said he didn’t respect Samuelsson’s style of play and that he hid behind his visor in fights.

3. Bill Laimbeer

There was no one who personified the “Bad Boy” Pistons image as well as Laimbeer . He was a hard and physical player who took liberty in doling out a little extra on every foul. Against the Celtics, it was no different. Most notably, Laimbeer got into fights with Larry Bird and Robert Parish in the 1987 Conference finals against the Celtics. In Game 3, he pulled down Bird as he went up for a layup, starting a scuffle on the floor. As a result, both Bird and Laimbeer were ejected, helping the Pistons to a blowout victory. In Game 5, Parish got fed up with the center and punched him in the face, earning Parish a one-game suspension for Game 6, which Detroit would win. Boston won Game 7, 117-114, to take the series and move on the finals, but Laimbeer was never forgiven by the Garden faithful. (Skip to 2:49 mark.)

2. Roger Clemens

As the only player on our list to play with a Boston team, Clemens quickly went from a fan favorite to one of the most hated opposing players. Though he had a great 12 seasons with the Red Sox in which he won 192 games, tying Cy Young for the franchise record, he began slowing down in his final years with Boston. The Red Sox decided not to re-sign him following the 1996 season and general manager Dan Duquette famously commented that Clemens was in twilight of his career. Signing with the Blue Jays, Rocket won the Cy Young Award in both his seasons with Toronto before orchestrating a trade in 1999 to the rival Yankees, with whom he won two World Series. Combine that with his alleged steroid use, and Clemens is not looked upon very kindly by many in Boston, including one radio personality who was the “victim” of one of Clemens’ beanball pitches.

1. George Steinbrenner

The only non-player to make our list, the legendary owner was a major catalyst behind the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. He didn’t aggravate Red Sox fans on the field, but from the luxury box instead. Steinbrenner wanted to win so badly that he didn’t mind stepping on emotions or obliterating the salary cap to pursue top free agents. At one point, it seemed that Boston simply didn’t have the money to compete with the New York ownership because of Steinbrenner’s commitment to winning. Many believe he ruined the game of baseball and bought players, but no one can take away the seven World Series titles he brought to New York. Though Steinbrenner died of a heart attack in July, the villain aura will continue with his sons Hank and Hal, even if it is on a lesser level. We’ll let ex-Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee have the final say on Steinbrenner.

Read More: Bill Laimbeer, George Steinbrenner, Jack Tatum, roger clemens Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It