A few years ago (okay, 47 years exactly),
a man a legend named Bobby Baun broke his leg in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. He was hit in the ankle with a shot, went off to the training room and was told the following: His leg was broken.
Most athletes would have quietly accepted their diagnosis and returned to the bench in their street clothes – some NBA players…(cough, cough Andrew Bynum) would have enjoyed it – Baun took another route. He asked for his leg to be frozen and then inexplicably returned to the game.
Had the tale ended then and there, Mr. Baun would not be the namesake of the following Hall of Fame, however, the story was far from over. Baun not only returned to the lineup, he went on to score the winning goal in overtime. Yes, the man continued to play with a broken leg even when the game went to overtime. Then he scored the game winner, with the series on the line for the Leafs.
Baun was far from finished – he went on to play in Game 7 and help lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup. The fellow in the picture on the right who shows no indication of the broken leg while he jubilantly celebrates with Lord Stanley is the Patron (Padrone and Godfather) of only the most dedicated and resiliant in sports history. The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame honors those who fought through normally horrendus injuries or illness to play in the toughest of times.
How does an athlete become eligable for The Bobby Baun Hall of Fame?
1) The injury / illness must be significant – Playing with a slight head cold does not count for anything here. The injury must be serious enough that the player would normally sit out but instead choses to tough it out.
2) Only playoff time counts – An injury sustained during the regular season and played through is important, but in the playoffs there must truly be no such thing as an injury. The stage on which the athlete played through the injury definitely plays a factor: if your team is being massacred in the first round and you play through a torn knee does not mean as much as triumphantly returning to a Stanley Cup Finals game with your team on the brink of elimination and scoring the winning goal in ot despite your broken freaking leg!
3) The return to the Game / Series must have a positive impact on your team – If you should not have played and made the team worse, you will not get as high a place in the Bobby Baun HOF; conversely, if the team won and you were the reason, your rank will be much higher. Ideally, the team should win the Championship led by the injured player.
4) Lifetime durability will be given a special section.
5) Andrew Bynum / Wilt Chamberlain / Greg Oden / Alex Mogiliny need not apply. Additionally, playing hungover does not equal playing with an injury. Sorry 1990’s Cowboys.
6) Superstars stepping up means more – Let’s face facts: if Michael Jordan plays with an injury and dominates, he will have a larger overall impact on his teammates then if Bill Wennington triumphantly returns from a torn clapping hand.
7) A new class is eligable each year at the end of August.
Without further ado, some of the initial inductees to the Bobby Baun HOF:
Baun, Bobby – See above.
Jordan, Michael – Scoring 38 points in an NBA Finals Game was a frequent occurance for His Airness. Scoring 38 points with a brutal flu and single-handedly leading his team to victory in Game 5 the 1997 NBA Finals was a once in a lifetime event. Jordan was weak, feverish and collapsed in Scottie Pippen’s arms at the conclusion of his Epic Game.
Elway, John – We are slightly cheating here because we have no proof Elway was actually injured at any point in the Super Bowl…but he most certainly was. When he stretched out and took a brutal hit to gain a crucial third down in the fourth quarter against Green Bay it showed just how much Elway wanted his first ring. He definitely earned every inch of it and personified winning at all costs to an entire generation.
Ripken Jr, Cal / Favre, Brett – Special mention goes to these two men who fought through all kinds of injuries (including, in Ripken’s case a freak broken nose at an All-Star photo shoot) and emotional trauma (the death of Favre’s father) to become the “Iron Men” of their respective sports.
Howe, Gordie – Not Hockey’s Iron Man…but he should be. “Mr. Hockey” excelled for nearly four decades in Pro Hockey (you read that right…4 decades) and played well into his 50’s (even making an All-Star Game in the WHL). Tough as nails and one of the greatest hockey players ever, Gordie simply did not believe in either aging or injures.
Pierce, Paul – In Game One of the 2008 NBA Finals, Paul Pierce was carried off the court after a nasty collision. The Lakers proceeded to have their way with the Celtics. Pierce had never made it past round 2 in the playoffs until this point and he made the most of it. His dramatic return led to a Celtics victory in the Game and completely shifted the entire series. Rumors swirl about the actual degree of his injury but his impact on the game and series upon his return negates all speculation.
Yzerman, Steve – Stevie Wonder injured his knee early in the 2001/2002 Campaign and while this would have stopped most NHL’s cold, he had other priorities. Chief among them was winning the Stanley Cup. Playing on one leg for the entire season and playoffs, Yzerman was able to achieve his goal. In the process he won the Conn Smyth trophy and essentially willed the Red Wings to victory.
Koufax, Sandy – The 1965 World Series is one that has gone down in history due to the remarkable performance of Sandy Koufax. His arm had been bothering him all season and by the World Series appeared to be in serious danger of falling off. Despite the pain, Koufax dominated all season…then refused to pitch Game 1 of the Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. (At this point you are wondering how he could possibly be eligable for the Bobby Baun HOF…but just you wait…) Koufax pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5, leading the Dodgers to a 3-2 Series Lead…then returned to pitch Game 7 on two days rest – with his still injured arm. All Sandy did in Game 7 was throw a three hit shutout to clinch the series. Shockingly, he was voted MVP.
Kesler, Ryan – Against the San Jose Sharks, Kesler “blew a tire” and was carted off while panicked Canucks fans went into near cardiac arrest. Fortunately, not playing was definitely not in the cards and Kesler immediately returned to score the goal that sent Game 5 to OT. He would play the entire 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on one leg.
Rondo, Rajon – After a bad collision with Dwyane Wade, Rondo got up and his arm was pointing the wrong direction. He left, then came back and proceeded to win Game 3 singlehandedly. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat realized he could not play defense and torched him the rest of the series. He makes the HOF for his immortal post-game comments; when asked how his arm was, Rondo responded “Still broke, hurts pretty bad, but I’ma keep playing”.
Bossy, Mike and the 1983 Islanders – The 80’s Islanders played through everything. After defeating Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, Gretzky and Kevin Lowe noted that no celebration came from the Isles locker room. Instead, everyone was hurting and getting treatment. Lowe commented “that is what it takes to win”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Inagural Class of Inductees for the Bobby Baun Hall of Fame.