Monday, August 5, 2019

Greatness Witnessed, Greatness Remembered

A recent post over at The 5 Tool Collector has evolved into a blog bat-a-round. The post prompts us to recall the best player from the first game we ever witnessed live, and the best player we ever seen. To be honest, I was going to skip this one. My memory on these things are horrible, and I didn't think I could recollect enough to make this post worthwhile. In the end, I decided to give it a shot for no other reason than an exercise in creative writing.

Let's get this out of the way: I have never seen an NBA or NFL game in person. I'm not much of a basketball fan, so I never really had interest in watching a game. My daughter has shown a slight  interest however, and I have taken her to a few University of Virginia Women's Basketball games. I couldn't tell you anything about the players though, or if any of them have gone on to the WNBA.

I surprised myself with the NFL though. I'm not a huge football fan either, but I grew up right in Buffalo Bills territory. When I was growing up, the Bills held their summer training camps at the State University of Fredonia, just a town over from me. I watched numerous squad practices, saw legends like Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith, but never went to an actual game. Go figure.


Greatest Player (First Game/All-Time): Roger Clemens


1990 Fleer #627 Roger Clemens (POD)

Now is my jam, baby! I've been to numerous games at the Major league level. I've been to 4 different stadiums, not including all the Spring Training games I've attended. I've seen a lot a great players, including a few Hall of Famers! Funny thing is, the first game I ever went to featured the greatest player I ever seen all-time, so the Rocket gets both awards here.

Clemens was my favorite player growing up. I have often been asked how a kid from Western New York ended up a Red Sox fan. I started really getting into baseball in the mid-80's, and Clemens was arguably the best player in baseball. He became the guy I looked for in the box scores of my local paper, and as he played for the Red Sox, they became my team.

My first game was at the old Cleveland Stadium. The Indians were one of the closest teams to my hometown and my dad took me to see the Red Sox play at the "Mistake By The Lake". I don't remember much about the game - I know the Red Sox won, someone hit a home run, and it marked the 20th win of the season for Clemens.

The last fact alone allowed me to go onto Baseball-Reference and figure out the game was on August 30th, 1990. He pitched a complete game, striking out 9 in a 9-2 win. Luis Rivera hit the home run.


Greatest Player (First Game) - Dave Andreychuk


1991-92 Pro Set Platinum #8 Dave Andreychuk

Hockey is my second favorite sport. I know my first game was in Buffalo to watch the Sabres play, but I remember nothing! I couldn't tell you the year, who they played, who won - I'm drawing a complete blank. I'm taking an educated guess that Hall of Famer Andreychuk, who played in Buffalo from 1982-1993, was likely the best player from Buffalo at that time.

Greatest Player (All-Time) - Alex Ovechkin


2006-07 McDonalds Upper Deck
#50 Alexander Ovechkin

This one was easy, because it is such an obvious choice. I had the special privilege to be in Washington DC on New Years Day in 2015. There, I went to Nationals Park to watch the Washington Capitals take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 NHL Winter Classic. It was an amazing game, with Washington's Trevor Brouwer scoring the winning goal with less than 20 seconds left in regulation. Ovechkin earned 1st star with a goal and assist.

Slapshot and me enjoying the game


Greatest Player (First Game/All-Time) - John Tavares


1993 Nastasi MILL Lacrosse #26 John Tavares
I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't know there was a professional lacrosse league here in America. The Buffalo Bandits joined the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (now the National Lacrosse League) in 1992. I went to one of those games that year and although I don't remember much from that game either, I do recall enjoying it and appreciating the fast-paced action. I had to do a bit of internet research, but finding the best player was easy. John Tavares (not to be confused with his hockey playing nephew with the same name) was a 3-time MVP and currently holds the all-time records for games, goals, assists, and points! I pretty much got to watch the Babe Ruth of indoor lacrosse.


Greatest Athlete (First Show/All-Time) - Hulk Hogan


1985 Topps WWF #29 Stretched To The Limit!

I'll let you decide if this counts as a "sport" or not, but I just had to include this one! I was really into WWF wrestling in my youth, and got to see some of the stars live once. The main event was Hulk Hogan vs Kamala, The Ugandan Giant. The one image forever burned in my mind is the sight of the 6'7" 380-pound Kamala leaping over Hogan during the match. Hulk Hogan is of course a legend in the sport and a pop culture icon.

So, yeah, I some some pretty impressive athletes in my time!


  1. I remember a time when the lines were drawn and you were either a Gooden or Clemens fan. I was a big time Gooden guy. Never been a huge fan of Clemens, but always admired his work. Definitely one of the greatest pitchers in my lifetime. I can't say for sure... but I'd guess that I saw him pitch at least once during the 80's at the Coliseum.

  2. My first Baseball game was a Red Sox Mariners game back in 2009. I'd have to say either David Ortiz or Ichiro for the best player. Since I'm biased, I'll go with Big Papi.