Help Select The Best All-Time Boston Sports Columnists

I need your help. Again.

Especially you old-timers.

I’d like to create a list of the best all-time sports columnists here in Boston. The list of potential names is impressive, but who is the best of the best? Who represents the pantheon of Boston sports columnists?

Some potential names you might consider…and this is by no means a complete list. I really need more suggestions, in fact.

  • Clif Keane – Boston Globe
  • Larry Claflin – Boston Record/American/Herald
  • Harold Kaese – Boston Transcript
  • Austen ‘‘Duke’’ Lake – Boston American
  • Bob Ryan – Boston Globe
  • Will McDonough – Boston Globe
  • Tim Horgan – Boston Herald
  • Dave Egan – Boston Record
  • Dan Shaughnessy – Boston Globe
  • Ray Fitzgerald – Boston Globe
  • Leigh Montville – Boston Globe
  • Joe Haggerty – Woburn Daily Times

The list is sort of subjective, so I didn’t include Peter Gammons, as I think of him more as a baseball writer than a general columnist, while Will McDonough did mainly focus on football, but wrote columns about all sports as well, so he’s on the list. Maybe you have your reasons for putting Gammons on the list. Maybe Tim Horgan doesn’t deserve to be considered, so don’t include him, there are no rules here other than they need to be the best.

What I’d like you do is place a comment below in which you list your top three Boston sports columnists of all-time. I’ll use that feedback to compile another list, from which we’ll vote on the all-time best.

Here’s my list, which are all guys I’ve actually read: Fitzgerald (You need this book.) Montville and Ryan.

Feel free to include any stories or reasons why you feel the way you do about your list.

I’ll also have a prize for a random commenter in this list, but I haven’t picked out what it will be yet. (Businesses: Want to donate a prize and get mentioned? Send me an email.)

  • LJ Sandwich

    Best…muddy waters these days. But as far as somebody that has been consistent, uncompromised, and is well rounded, I don’t think you can find anybody but Bob Ryan. Granted, some promising young guys coming up in new mediums, but the shoes are very large to fill. Having met him, I mistook him as a hoop centric guy, but he quickly correctly me, and said “Beisbol been berry berry good to me.” The better part of that story, is that we were both sharing a beer. I don’t see some of the older elitist being so inclined to drop down to the class of the fan. Good guy, struggled recently with a huge personal loss, and still sticks to his beliefs. I think he is worthy of the best.

  • Tony

    Will Mc in by a landslide. How did Hagerty make this list? All due respect to the guy b/c he’s good at what he does but he’s not an all-time great.

    • Turd Ferguson

      Mr. Allen’s rapier wit has obviously eluded you for a brief moment. I would no doubt vote Haggerty, Haggerty and then Haggerty. Right Bruce?

      • Tony

        Turd – one would think that this was Bruce’s attempt at playing to the masses after last week but you just never know…

        • http://www.patriotsdaily.com Scott

          Yes, because nothing plays better to the “masses” than inside jokes about their favorite multi-sport, multi-media columnist, beat writer and radio star.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    #1) Leigh Montville

    #2) Ray Fitzgerald

    #3) Dave Eagan

    The current hacks shouldn’t even be on the list, they spend too much of their time primping and preening for the TV cameras. Instead of focusing on their “craft” they focus on their next ESPN-NESN-WEEI appearence and their writing suffers because of it.

  • JES

    Just a name that probably should be on the list for some consideration, Jackie MacMullan(sp?).

  • JayCee

    It’s Dave Egan, not Eagan.

  • Wahoo

    Ray Fitzgerald hands down. Sharp, witty, outspoken.

    • Agree

      One of Ray Fitzgerald’s best columns had nothing to do with sports, but was about his daughter recieving a doctorate degree. To this day, I remember it.

  • mark

    Well played Bruce

  • Char

    Leigh Montville. Period.

    • Chris in Illinois

      As a young reporter at the Des Moines Register (I was raised a Red Sox fan in Iowa by my Malden-born and Manchester, Conn.-raised father), I had access to the sports wire services. That’s where I discovered Leigh Montville. His wit and snark and brutal honesty had my attention from the first column. I loved to read him, and wasted a lot of time perusing the wire for any of his columns that I had missed. He was the first Boston sports columnist that I truely adored, and the Globe has been the same since he left. As great as Ryan is, Montville was better.

      • Chris in Illinois

        Second-to-last sentence should read: … and the Globe HASN’T BEEN THE SAME … . Good God. And I write for a living.

  • Jason

    Not thrilled to say it, but Borges’s boxing writing probably should be up for consideration.

  • mark

    Tough to include Borges since he was being paid by Don King productions to broadcast and comment at PPV championship fights that he would also have to write columns on for the Globe.

    • mark

      allegedly…

  • Butch O’Keefe

    Not include Tim Horgan.Are you nuts or just too young to appreciate a good writer.Look up some of his columns.A great writer who never distorted the facts.He was the vboice of the fan in his era.Ray Fitzgerald was also another great writer.

    • Bruce

      I wasn’t saying I wouldn’t include him in the discussion, because obviously, I did include him by bring his name up. I meant that some of YOU (meaning the readers) might not think he deserves to be considered. I think he does, and so do you. We’re in agreement.

  • T.J.

    I’m with Bruce on choosing Montville, Fitzgerald, and Ryan—in that order. I do think Borges’ boxing writing deserves a nod, as was said above, but even in that I don’t think he’s risen to the same heights that those three have hit.

    Ryan probably sneaks on the list for consistency, if nothing else, but I’m just a fan of his writing style.

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  • NASCL

    I never really considered McDonough a columnist, but more of an information guy. I freely admit to liking his old weekend thoughts/notes. You know, Danny, Willie didn’t have to call the power brokers. They called him.

  • http://BSMW Corner Blitz

    Fitzgerald and Montville in that order, and no one else on that list comes close when it comes to informative and witty writing that is must read. The good old days are gone as far as Boston columnists are concerned.

  • JONNY MILLER – WBZ

    HORGAN, RYAN, AND RAY FITZ.

  • WasThere

    Ernie Roberts.
    I’m 56 so that explains why I pick Roberts. Sat morning Globe was a must read because of his Sports Page 1 columns on the left. It was full of tid bits and humor and occasionally an inside scoop. Saturday mornings were never the same after he retired.
    Secondly, McDonough. if for no other reason than the NFL had few secrets when he was around. His connections were solid.
    Third, want to pick someone current so I pick Reynolds from the ProJo because he reminds me of Roberts although several of his Saturday pieces relate to RI only folklore.
    Ya I’m an old dog but I know what I like.

  • http://masshysteriasports.blogspot.com DaveR

    1) Gammons

    I’m sorry, but leaving him off is like leaving Lawrence Olivier off a “Best Actors” list because “he only did Shakespeare, really.”

    2) Montville

    The F. Scott Fitzgerald of sportswriters.

    3) McDonough

    Always made at least one good point in his columns, something that rarely happens these days….

    With apologies to Ray Fitzgerald, whom I am too young to have read.

    • Bruce

      I’m sorry, but leaving him off is like leaving Lawrence Olivier off a “Best Actors” list because “he only did Shakespeare, really.”

      That’s solid. I like it.

  • Big John

    Al Hirschberg

    he wrote for the traveler and herald. very in your face, with a lot of good information. interesting angles. also an author. I once interviewed him for my high school newspaper, in about 1966. very nice guy.

    I also liked tim horgan. he used write lists, very funny and informative. he bill liston, a beat writer, bob “chick” whalen. a scout for the Pirates, and don gillis had a sports discussion program on whdh, 850 on your dial, called the voice of sports. it was the best.

    a lot of your list were beat writers and not columnists.

  • Nopointe

    Ryan, Fitzgerald, Haggerty

    Gammons and McDonough were reporters to me, not columnists. Even if they wrote columns in Boston they were really reporters first and foremost.

  • Bruce. NV

    Montville and Fitzgerald.

    Don’t know if I could pick a third, but if I had to, it would be Egan or Ryan.

  • Jay

    Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, Leigh Monville…..no one else is close

  • Fred West Lynn

    I have a certain bias (or lack of perspective, I guess) as my family has been Globe subscribers for generations, so the only time I read other papers regularly was when I delivered them. So that’s that.

    Anyway…

    — Ray Fitzgerald. I had the pleasure of reading him for a couple of decades. Loved the fact that he could really master the “but, after all, it’s just a game” air without getting pompous about it (Hello to the “Toy Department” referencers out there!). Deceptively good stylist, too.

    — Leigh Montville. Now there was a stylist. It seemed that he never was in the paper as often as I’d like,which is the ultimate compliment.

    — Peter Gammons. I think that a lot of the anti-Gammo backlash stems from his post-writing career. In a perfect storm of Boston Sports, he made his big splash just as Fred Lyn,n Jim Rice and the rest of the ’75 cast were making theirs, just as a young TV-38 gambled on putting on 80 games instead of the dozen that the VHF stations would show, just as a then-fresh Dick Stockton was giving a slightly cynical air to play by play. It all came together. Gammons would compare the Sox to battles from mythology and make it work. Erudite, clinical, and with a wide range of interests beyond baseball, which he wasn’t afraid to bring to the column. All yo have to do is read Shank or Nickles’ dreadful impersonation of his Baseball Notes after he left to see that he was different and what he did was deceptively difficult.

    Oh, FWIW, I couldn’t stand Ernie Roberts.

  • Mitch

    I loved Ernie Roberts’ column, especially his “Thoughts While Shaving” segment. Ray Fitzgerald was terrific as well.

    Peter Gammons invented the Sunday notes column, and as a baseball writer/reporter, he was peerless…absolutely peerless…in the 70’s and 80’s.

    Leigh Montville was like an artist with the typewriter. You would read his work even if you had but a passing interest in his subject matter. He was that good.

    When Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy get animated about a subject…particularly basketball and baseball, respectively…there are no two writers whose work I’d rather read than these two men.

    • Hieronymous

      Haven’t thought of Ernie Roberts in years, and you’re right. Can still picture his bespectacled visage in the upper left-hand corner of his column.

  • sarplum

    1) All 3 are globies back in the days of the best sports section in the country.
    McDonough and Gammons for super inside knowledge.
    Kaese who wrote for the Globe long after the Transcript folded.
    Austin Lake, who I loved but can not really give a concrete reason..
    The worst of the worst? Egan, who was nastier than Borges without the knowledge

  • J.R.

    1) Ray Fitz. LOVED reading his work. For those who did not have the pleasure, it was just that — a pleasure.

    2) Leigh Montville.

    3) Bob Ryan.

    Game, set, match.

  • http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com Suldog

    My list of those “inducted on the first ballot” would match yours – Montville, Fitzgerald, Ryan. Another name for consideration, though – how about Bud Collins? I know – tennis was his main thing, and I’ve never been a big tennis fan, but he certainly had the longevity, wrote engagingly about his love, and became a nationally-known figure.

    • D Shvarts

      Bud Collins makes whatever he writes about interesting, regardless of whether it would be interesting outside his column. Definitely worthy of the list.

  • not_jimmy_tingle

    The streets of Cambridge are flooded, and not because of the rain. Tears, my friend. How could you omit Steve Buckley? A grave injustice.

  • Jeff

    Montville, Ryan & Fitzgerald…& Larry Whiteside should be included on list.

  • Frank

    I grew up in the Montville, Fitzgerald, young Ryan, young Shaughnessy and so missed the older guys like Keane and Claflin. It’s got to be Fitzgerald, Montville 1& 2. Twenty five years ago I would have said Shaughnessy 3 but he’s been so wrapped up in himself the last decade or so it’s Ryan.

  • Frank

    OOps forgot Gammons – He would be my 3

  • Bill C.

    I fondly remember the Will McDounough Sunday column. There was nothing like it and there probably won’t be either since the nuggets of info he dispensed he was able to keep to himself all week. Wouldn’t be able to do that today.

  • JeffP

    I always enjoyed Jackie MacMullan,but I didn’t see her listed. I thought she brought the human interest angle into her columns. Plus her basketball writing was the best. I miss reading her.

  • EVMan04

    Joe Haggerty … really? Really?

    • Bruce

      No, not really.

      • Big Jeff

        You’re gonna get a letter in the mail from the little fat one’s mom as soon as he tells her about this slight.

  • Hieronymous

    1. Leigh Montville (“I learned how to fly a few minutes before midnight on Oct. 27, 2004.”)

    2. Ray Fitzgerald (just gave my copy of his terrific “Champions Remembered” to my twelve-year-old nephew)

    3. Bob Ryan

    And Horgan was terrific. Still miss that Sox postgame show he, Upton Bell, and Joe Fitzgerald used to do on 38. Honorable mention too to John Updike, who only did two, but man . . .

    • Hieronymous

      Cheesy to reply to your own message, but for Ryan’s most emblematic column, I’d pick “I-saiah”.

  • Thomas

    Dave Egan of the Record-American known as the Colonel. During the 30s, 40s and 50s no true Boston Sports fan went to bed before reading “The Colonel”
    His pen dripped blood, more often than not Ted Williams’ blood.
    There must be someone out there in the sports writers fraternity who remembers “The Colonel”

  • Andrew

    Will McD gets the nod here. I still miss his Sunday column. Besides, how can you not recognize a guy as cool as this:

    http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com/2008/08/infamous-moments-mcdonough-punches-out-clayborn

    Coolness. Just old school coolness.

  • marcel

    During the ’70s, Leigh Montville wrote a weekly pro football picks column on Fridays in the Globe. The picks were not the real attraction. The commentary that accompanied each pick was hilarious.

    • Brian

      I’d have to go with Montville as well; as someone else noted, regardless of the topic he could make it worth reading, which is probably about as good a compliment as a writer can get.

      As far as his Friday football picks, the one that stands out the most for me is his one and only college pick when in November ’84 he not only called the correct final score, but had Doug Flutie winning the game with a Hail Mary pass as time expired.

      • gman

        i remember those columns as being classic…would love to re-rea that one from 84

  • Tony

    I have to say Leigh Montville.

    Somewhere, I still have a yellowed copy of the last column he wrote for the Globe before he left for S.I. sometime in the late-80s. He wrote about some of the famous things he remembered seeing during his years at the Globe, like watching Harvard tie Yale on a 2-point conversion play with no time left on the clock in that famous 29-29 tie in 1968–while he was standing in the middle of the field! He also mentioned Ray Fitzgerald (I think) holding up a note in the press box during the 8th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, with two men on and two outs and the pitcher’s spot due up, that had the words “Bernie Carbo” scribbled on it, and then he said both of them nodded at each other from across the room.

    Great stuff. He was very, very good, and he never brought an agenda with him.

    • marcel

      Was Leigh Montville the first person to refer to Bob Irsay as “Tiger”?

  • Sean

    Just to clarify, we’re talking straight columnist here – not a reporter or anything else.

    If that’s the case, there’s no question, the king is Ray Fitz. The only other one even in his hemisphere is Leigh Montville in his prime. Gammons and McDonough were great reporters. Ryan would be my call at number three, but I’ve always looked at him as a great analyst – someone who can break down a game.

    If there is any doubt, Ray Fitz wrote the two greatest columns in the history of marathons. One on how it is his life goal to never run 26.2 miles cumulatively for the rest of his live and another on how he couldn’t even drive the marathon route, never mind run it. Both funny concepts that were brilliantly executed.

    • Sean

      I just started laughing all over again just think about the first marathon column when Ray got disgusted with himself for added an extra block running to his total to beat last call at the local tavern.

  • mandb97

    1) Joe Falls

    2) Shelby Strothers

    3) Jerry Green

    This is Detroit’s best sports writers, isn’t it?

  • Bill Brody

    Tim Horgan is without question the greatest sportswriter of all time.
    He deserved world wide aclaim
    His knowledge of the sports world could not be challenged

  • corinne

    Ray Fitzgerald- The Grandaddy of them all…

    Will McDonough– … Fabulous, witty, candid, funny, yet called it VERY much like is was….I miss this guy!

    Peter Gammons– WOW!! Baseball could not, would not be the same w/o PG's insights and observations– sending lots of warm wishes for MANY more years of PG's vision, intutiion and knowledge!

    Leigh Montville— Absolutely fantastic…!

    Bob Ryan— The next bearer of Ray Fitzgerald's mantle….

    Jackie McMillan— The Lady has her stuff together, especially on that basketball court…..Hail Jackie, just keep it going girl!

    Shauhnessy– Got to absolutley love the contraian "curly red-head"….!!!

  • Seapower

    Bob Ryan is the standard bearer but Peter Gammons, Will McDonough and Dan Shauhnessy are soooo ever so close as well it's a tough call. Austen Lake did pretty well after joinging the sports beat from being a straight type columnists.

  • Bernie B

    How about John Gilloly(sp) or Huck Finnegan or Bob Coyne (cartoonist)

    • Bernie B

      ok

  • Leo Coughlin

    Obviously, a lot of young lads weighing in here who do not remember the very best Boston once had — Dave Egan, Record; Austen Lake, American; Bill Cunningham, Post and later Herald; Harold Kaese, Transcript and later Globe; Jerry Nason, Globe; Bill Liston, Post. Those were the best of a very good lot. Gone forever. Nothing good in sight — now it's all TV illiterates and the worst of all, the ESPN circus.

  • Ralph Bertolucci

    what, no mention of Joe Giullotti? He was one of the best baseball writers on the Herald. Ater he retired joe became an official score keeper at Fenway.__My other choices are Timmy Horgan, Peter Gammons and Joe Fitzgerald. And an honorary mention of Will Mc. I knew Will, he was a regular guy, his fame never over-took him. He would lecture me on the evils of camel cigarettes that i smoked for some 45 years.