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Most Clutch?

Who is the most clutch athlete in history? As it is the offseason for many sports, it is a good time to address big questions like this one. Top candidates include:

Gretzky, Jordan, Elway, Bill Russell, or if you are from the Boston Area -

Larry Bird or David Ortiz.

A good article about this comparison is available here:

The following is an excerpt:

"Four years ago, back when David Ortiz was just The Fat Guy on the Twins, I tackled "Pacino or DeNiro?" and called it the most important mailbag question in Sports Guy history. Now I'm wondering if that question has been surpassed by "Big Papi or Larry Legend?", which could have kept me awake for the rest of the summer if I didn't take a swipe at it.

Is there even an answer to the question? Would it be like asking "Who would win a fight between Batman and Superman?" or "Who would you rather see topless, Scarlett Johansson or Lindsay Lohan?" Should I even WANT to answer it? Am I committing basketball blasphemy for even trying?

Aw, what the hell. Call it a special edition mailbag: One question, one topic, and hopefully not one ticket straight to hell."


Clutchness: Here's where this becomes just about impossible. Bird, Jerry West and Michael Jordan are the three greatest clutch players of all-time by any calculation, unless you want to get crazy and throw Big Shot Rob in there as well. But Bird probably made 30-35 game-winners and buzzer-beaters during his career, along with dozens of game-clinching free throws (I can remember him bricking big free throws only twice in that entire decade, which is saying something). Plus, he came up with the most famous clutch steal of the past 40 years (the Isiah game), was indispensable in deciding games and made the two biggest shots of the '81 and '84 playoffs (the banker against the '81 Sixers in Game 7; the turnaround over Magic in Game 4 of the '84 Finals). Just recently, ESPN Classic ran some random Celts-Blazers game from 1986 when Bird sent the game into OT with a jumper with six seconds left, then made the game-winner in OT in the final five seconds. I mean, he did this ROUTINELY.

Then you have Big Papi, the best clutch hitter of his generation. The Elias Sports Bureau was nice enough to send these numbers along: If Ortiz has one more walk-off hit in 2006, he'll be the first baseball hitter to have six in a single season since the division era began in 1969. ... Since the start of 2005, he's come up 13 times with the chance for a game-ending plate appearance and made an out only once (and he ended up winning that game in the 12th inning). ... He has the most walk-off hits in any four-year span (12, and that doesn't include the three in the 2004 playoffs, which made him the only player in history with three game-ending postseason hits). ... Since he joined the Red Sox in 2003, he has 15 walk-off hits and the rest of the team has 19 total. ... Since Aug. 1, 2004, Ortiz has hit 21 home runs in 138 at-bats in Late-Inning Pressure Situations (no other player has more than 13). ... Dusty Baker has the most career walk-off hits (25, including the playoffs), but Ortiz is 10 behind. And just for the record, none of those stats include all the times when he tied a game or gave the Red Sox the lead in the seventh or eighth inning.

Now ...

Basketball stars have a 45-50 percent chance of coming through in the clutch. In Bird's case, he was a 50 percent shooter and a 90 percent free-throw shooter, so even if he was being double-teamed, 60/40 odds seem reasonable, especially if someone raises his game in those situations. But a star slugger gets on base 40 percent of the time, only Ortiz dials it up to the 60-70 percent range in big moments (as the stats back up). I can't believe I'm saying this, but Big Papi's current three-year stretch tops anything Bird came up with simply because the odds against Ortiz were greater.

And then there's this: Way back in the spring of 2005, when Ortiz homered off B.J. Ryan to win a day game at Fenway, I officially entered the "We always have a chance to win if we can just get Ortiz up to the plate in the ninth" zone. (I even remember calling my buddy Hench from Rite-Aid after the game and having the obligatory, "All right, Ortiz has to be the greatest Boston clutch hitter of our lifetime, right?" conversation.) And that was about 14-15 gigantic hits ago. During Monday night's game against Cleveland, Red Sox down by two in the ninth, ESPN showed the three upcoming batters for Boston ...

9. Cora
1. Youkilis
2. Loretta

... and like every other Red Sox fan, I found myself smiling and thinking, "All right, if we can just get one guy on, Papi ties this game."

As it turned out, we got two guys on and he won it. The point is, it's not surprising anymore. We EXPECT him to come through. Bird was the same way, but the degree of difficulty is higher in baseball making Ortiz's last three seasons slightly more remarkable. Emphasis on the word "slightly." MINISCULE EDGE: BIG PAPI."

Much more of interest at the link posted above.
I don't know whether I'm bismerching the legends of Boston's past, but I would vote for Ortiz. All I can think about when I hear baseball's clutch plays is those pair of walk-offs Big Papi hit in the 12th or 13th innings to pull out a 4 game streak to take the Sox to the World Series 2004. Call me emotional, but I can't think of a time when I have ever come closer to wanting to kiss a man than I did then.
Big Papi is the guy for me too. If you consider their respective competitors, Larry was at the top of the field but not alone there (Jordan, Magic, etc).

Big Papi on the other hand absolutely destroys his competitors in baseball. There is nobody even close to him in 'clutchness'.
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