Most politicians have at least one infamous quote they wish they could take back.
"Read my lips: No new taxes."
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski."
"We found the weapons of mass destruction."
"If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period."
"Varitek splitting the uprights."
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino spent two decades mangling the names of great Boston athletes past and present. He leaves on Monday as Boston's longest-serving mayor, with 20 years in office.
Others can discuss and debate the mayor's record when it comes to political and policy successes and failures. If you judge the mayor by how well the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and nearby Patriots did while he was in office [and who wouldn't], his rule was an unqualified success. He reigned over the opening of the
Shawmut Center Fleet Center TD Banknorth Garden and held firm against the Red Sox building a new Fenway Park, a decision that was vindicated by both the team's eventual actions and history.
Twenty years ago, the Patriots were on the verge of moving to St. Louis, the Celtics were mired in the post-Larry Bird era and struggling after the loss of Reggie Lewis and the Red Sox, led by Butch Hobson and All Star third-baseman Scott Cooper stumbled to a fifth-place finish in the A.L. East.
During Menino's tenure, the city's pro sports teams won eight championships. Even more impressive is the gains they've achieved in the past 20 years. The new Garden eventually helped to prod the host Bruins into increasing their salary commitments, a move that paid off in 2011 and again in 2013 [at least until the last two minutes of Game 6 against Chicago.] The revival, renovation and centennial of Fenway Park kept the Red Sox viable in 2012, otherwise the team's worst overall year since the Johnson Administration.
As Menino leaves office, the city's teams are enjoying a Gilded Age of Boston Sports that is the envy of the nation. And his final term ends on the heels of the Red Sox winning the "World Series Cup" for the first time at Fenway Park in 95 years.
While the mayor may or may not have had anything to do with how well or poorly his city's teams did on the field or at the box office, he was always there to share in their success, as any smart civic leader would.
While he was front and center for those Duck Boat parades and shared the stage with winners from each team, his lasting memory will be his "Meninoisms" that became the ionic stuff of Boston sports legend.
The list begins and ends with his most infamous line, "Varitek splitting the uprights." which came during the unveiling of the Bobby Orr statue outside TD Garden back in May of 2010 [video above].
Ionic indeed. Although many fans in the crowd of about 500 were not pleased at the time and grumbled at the mayor's gaffe while others yelled "Vinatieri" in reference to the actual player who split the uprights against the Rams.
There's an entire generation of young Boston sports fans who aren't old enough to remember what really happened on the first Sunday night in February of 2002 in New Orleans.
Well, kids, that wasn't it.
At the "Fenway 100" celebration at Fenway Park in April of 2012, Menino recalled Red Sox glory days of the past: "2004 coming in here when Davey Roberts stole second base, Mueller [supposed to be pronounced Miller] hit the double, got him in, then Ortiz won the game. There's so many ... Jim Lomberg had that great year he had."
That would be Red Sox right-hander pitcher and noted skier Jim Lonborg in 1967.
The mayor always had a keen if not entirely accurate sense of Boston sports history, as evidenced by his analysis of the Celtics-Heat series in 2012. Time travel was a specialty, as the past and present collided once again.
If only the legendary "KJ and Hondo" had anything left in the tank for Game 7.
He was never shy about offering his thoughts on upcoming games, as well. Here's his memorable breakdown the Patriots-Broncos playoff game following the 2011 season:
Wekler, Grabowski and Hernandez kept Mayor Menino from having to put that Broncos jersey on Paul Revere.
"Colorado Rocky beah, ugh."
His Honor was far from finished with mangling Rob Gronkowski's name. During his 2013 pre AFC title game conference call with the mayor of Baltimore, he managed to work in a reference to Vince Wilfork while correctly naming Stevan Ridley.
Well, Hernandez is in jail, awaiting trial for murder charges in the death of Odin Lloyd. Both Gronkowski and Wilfork are gone for this season with injury and Ridley lost four fumbles and found himself benched for a period of time.
Maybe there's a "Curse of the Menino" that we're not aware of.
Neither Gonk, Wilcock, Ridley or any of the four Tom Bradys could not get it done against the Ravens in this past January's AFC championship game and the Patriots lost 28-13.
Lest we forget Menino's introduction of the long-time NBA commissioner:
All hail Donald Sterns!
The Mayor has poked fun at his "Meninoisms" on more than one occasion and it's been speculated that some of them are by design rather than human error.
We'd like to think they were a result of both.
"Varitek splitting the uprights" is simply too precious to have been scripted.
Former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, he of "Manny Ortez" fame, once called the 2011 Conn Smythe and Venezia Trophy winner Tim O'Brien, referred to Lambeau Field as Lambert Field and said Eddie Yost - who never played in Boston - was his favorite Red Sox player of all time. While Kerry gave Menino a legitimate challenge in the "Name Mangling" category, the mayor stands alone.
He was truly one of a kind.
And he wasn't always messing up the names we know and love.
In addition to his solid handling of the Boston Marathon bombing's aftermath and the role he played in helping to coordinate the first responders' efforts and city's healing process, he saved perhaps his best line for a letter written over his signature to Rolling Stone magazine criticizing the magazine for its August 2013 cover.
"The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them."
Farewell, Mayor Menino.
And thank you for your service to the City of Boston.
Marky Welsh has one tough act to follow.
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