By Mark Paulette
From the highs of David Ortiz’s farewell tour, to lows like the greatest injustice to ever permeate the National Football League (you know what I’m talking about). 2016 was anything but lacking for memorable moments to us New Englanders. Let’s take a look at the, or should I say, ‘my,’ ‘Top 16 of ’16.’
16. Benny’s Web Gem, 8/22/16 – Less than 20 games into his Big League career, Andrew Benintendi channeled his inner Mike Trout to make one of the top home-run saving catches in recent years. ‘Benny’ covered 92 feet in an all-out sprint before fearlessly launching himself at the Trop’s short left-field fence to bring back a no-doubt round-tripper off the bat of Tampa’s, Steven Sousa Jr. The 22-year-old’s meteoric rise would be derailed by an ankle injury in the days following the robbery, but the Sox’ top prospect provided plenty of excitement turning in one of baseball’s plays of the season.
15. Brock Holt Spurs Grand Comeback North of the Border, 4/8/16 – In just their third game of the season the Boston Red Sox scored a signature win, toppling the AL East favorite Blue Jays, in stunning fashion. Trailing 7-2 after four innings, the Sox rallied to load the bases in the top of the sixth when up stepped the ‘Sultan of Swat’ himself, Brock Holt. Brock chose that very moment to sock his first career grand salami and swung the momentum in favor of Boston. The Sox then tied the game and eventually took the lead on back-to-back RBI hits from David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning, showing the first example of ‘never say die’ mentality the lineup would employ throughout the season. Did you really think I was going to do a top 16 of ’16 and not include Brock Holt?
14. Jimmy Garappolo and Jacoby Brissett Win First Career Starts, 9/11/16 & 9/22/16 – The Arizona Cardinals finished the 2015 campaign as one of the final four teams standing in the NFL. They began the 2016 season getting shredded on their home turf by Jimmy G, who threw for 264 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots scored a rare upset win in primetime. Two weeks later after Garappolo went down with a shoulder injury, rookie QB, Jacoby Brissett stepped in on another primetime stage to guide the Pats to a 27-0 win over the now playoff-bound, Houston Texans. Take that, Roger.
13. ‘Hey, Now, [Steven Wright] You’re an All Star,’ 7/7/16 – Steven Wright was selected to the 2016 American League All Star squad by his peers after posting a stat line of 10-5/2.68/94 in the first half. It was a storybook first three months to the season for the 32-year-old knuckleballer, who entered the year with seven career major league victories. It’s been quite the two-year span for Wright. 2015: meets Mark Paulette, 2016: MLB All Star.
12. IT Saves Celtics Season with 42-point Effort, 4/22/16 – On the verge of falling into a 3-0 deficit to the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Isaiah Thomas took over the T.D. Garden and led the C’s to their first postseason win in three years. Thomas dropped 42 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including five 3’s, as the 5’9” guard became the ninth Celtic since 1964 to score 40 or more points in a playoff game.
11. Big Papi’s Final Walk-off, 5/14/16 – The greatest clutch hitter in baseball history delivered his 23rd and final walk-off hit on a Saturday afternoon to beat the Houston Astros. Ortiz previously tied the game in equally dramatic fashion with a 9th-inning RBI triple. Then in the 11th, Papi roped a long double into the triangle to give the Sox a 6-5 win. With the double, Ortiz also became just the third Major Leaguer in history to record 500 home runs and 600 doubles, joining Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron.
10. Mookie’s Hat Tricks, 5/31/16 & 8/14/16 – Mookie Betts feasted at Camden Yards in Baltimore throughout the 2016 season, but none more than on May 31, when he homered in each of his first two at-bats, tallying three dingers in all with five RBI in a 6-2 Red Sox win. Then, on a steamy Sunday afternoon in mid-August, (with The Drive well represented in the crowd in the forms of Mark Paulette, Sterling Pingree and Aaron Jackson) Mookie crushed three homers and plated eight RBIs in a 16-2 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 24-year-old became the 21st player in MLB history with a pair of three home run games in a season, and joined Ted Williams as the only Red Sox to accomplish the feat.
9. Celtics Conquer the Oracle, 4/1/16 – The Celtics played a fickle April Fool’s joke on the eventual Western Conference Champion Warriors, knocking off Golden State 109-106 and snapping a 54-game win streak by the Warriors at the Oracle Arena. Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and six assists, Evan Turner added 21/5/5 and Jared Sullinger turned in the game’s lone double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as the C’s earned a marquee win, handing Golden State their first home loss in over 14 months.
(This is part one, check back here for numbers 8 – 1 in part two on Thursday.)
Mark Paulette is the PVC for The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.