The Top 10 Cult Heroes in Boston Sports

Toasting the city's most memorable oddballs, fringe players and bench warmers.

When it comes to Boston sports, there's no shortage of star power. But around here, sometimes the fringe guys end up getting a weirdly extensive amount of attention. So here's a list of my favorite local cult heroes. (These are sentimental picks, of course. If you have any suggestions, let me know.)

10. Walter McCarty

“Waltah” probably wouldn’t be on this list without Celtics color man Tommy Heinsohn. McCarty, who played for Boston from 1997 to 2005, was Heinsohn’s favorite player. Any time the gangly forward did anything remotely positive, Heinsohn yelled, “I LOVE WALTAH!” Somehow, it never got annoying. (To me, at least.)

9. Mosi Tatupu

The late running back never had more than 578 rushing yards in a season, but he was a beloved member of the '80s Patriots. At the old Foxboro Stadium, Tatupu had his own endearingly grammatically incorrect section, “Mosi’s Mooses.” And as far as I know, he was the first Patriot referenced on The Simpsons.


Mosi Tatupu's cheering section, “Mosi's Mooses” in Sullivan Stadium. Photo via the New England Patriots

8. Trot Nixon

I abhor the “dirt dog” trope, and I was always frustrated when he got injured, but Nixon deserves a spot on this list. The outfielder with the gnarly hat was tremendous during the Red Sox's postseason runs of 2003 and 2004.

7. Bill Curley

Back in the mid-’90s, when most of the local pro teams were terrible, college basketball was pretty huge. Other than maybe Marcus Camby, no single player around here was more celebrated than Curley, the 6-foot-9 forward who led Boston College to the Elite 8 in 1994. The Eagles’ upset of defending champ North Carolina (which had Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse) in the second round of the NCAA tournament landed Curley on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

6. Kendrick Perkins

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Perk, who spent nearly a decade in Boston before getting traded to the Thunder in 2011. I miss the scowl, which really was a front. He was a warm, funny dude. I wish he were still a Celtic.

5. Shawn Thornton

I’d never stoop to calling the Bruins tough guy a goon. In 2010-11, he was an important part of the Stanley Cup-winning B’s. The winger is also an accomplished on-ice pugilist. (Check out his C.V. on Hockey Fights.) And to his credit, he’s a big softie. Here’s Thornton reading “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the Pops:

4. M.L. Carr

He was a one-man cheering squad in the early ’80s, waving his towel from the Celtics bench. In the final years of his career, Carr’s minutes dwindled, but people often forget that for five straight seasons, from 1975-76 through 1979-80, he never averaged fewer than 11.1 points per game. Carr was pretty funny, too. In November 1984, when asked to name Larry Bird’s most amazing feat, he said, “Once we went out to eat and he picked up the check.”

3. Larry Izzo/Larry Whigham

I couldn’t just pick one of the two Larrys. Whigham (1994-00) and Izzo (2001-08) were standout special teamers for the Patriots. In the summer of 2002, months after New England won the Super Bowl, the latter mailed a photo of himself and three other ex-Dolphins on that Pats squad to former Miami teammate Zach Thomas. In the picture, the four guys, Izzo, Terrell Buckley, Greg Ruegamer, and Damon Huard, were all wearing their championship rings—on their middle fingers. Said Thomas, to the Sun Sentinel, of his buddy Izzo: “He’s got issues.”

2. Blaine Lacher

For a short stretch during the 1994-95 season, Lacher, a rookie goalie, played like an All-Star. He went 19-11-2 with a 2.41 goals against average and led the Bruins to the playoffs, where they lost to New Jersey in the first round.

He struggled at the outset of the 1995-96 season, and his nickname devolved from “The Lock Net Monster” to “Let ’em in Lacher.” He played his last NHL game on December 14, 1995. He was, however, a sensation, albeit a temporary one. “It was the best year of my life,” Lacher told the Globe in 2004. “I think it was more special because it was in the (Boston) Garden. You hear your whole life how old and awesome the building is, but you don't believe it until you see your first rat yourself.”

1. Dave Roberts
“He’ll never have to buy a drink in this town again,” is a cliché, but with Roberts, it's allowed. The speedy backup outfielder’s steal of second base in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series set the stage for the Red Sox's historic comeback. Roberts, a cancer survivor, is the San Diego Padres' first base coach. If you see him at a bar, send a beer his way.