Boston Red Sox chosen as Sportsmen of Year over Olympian Phelps

After World Series victory, Sports Illustrated selects 1st pro team to win award

Honors

November 29, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Michael Phelps won eight medals at the Olympics, but it was the Boston Red Sox, winners of the World Series for the first time since 1918, who were honored as Sports Illustrated's Sportsmen of the Year - the first major professional sports team to receive the award.

"Every Sox fan everywhere shares in this with the team," SI managing editor Terry McDonell said.

The issue hits newsstands Wednesday.

The Red Sox made an unprecedented rally from a 3-0 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. They then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series to put an end to the supposed "Curse of the Bambino."

Boston pitcher Curt Schilling is part of the SI honor for the second time. He and Randy Johnson shared the honor after helping the Arizona Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series. The only two-time individual winner is Tiger Woods (1996, 2000). Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski is the only individual Red Sox player honored as SI Sportsman (1967).

A recording on Phelps' cell phone last night said it was not in service. His mother, Debbie, was reached at home, where she had learned the outcome along with everyone else while watching on television.

"Boston broke the curse," she said. "It's a team of quite impressive athletes. Every one of them is a sportsman of the year."

Debbie Phelps, who said her son is in Michigan, watched the program alone. She said she did not envy the Sports Illustrated editors who had to make the selection, calling it a "job I wouldn't want."

During the past year, Michael Phelps, of Rodgers Forge, seemed to embody the award, except this month, when he was charged with driving under the influence, and even then, responded admirably, shouldering the blame, acknowledging he made a mistake and then using the incident to instruct others what not to do.

At the Olympics, Phelps twice demonstrated the meaning of the word "sportsman." He decided not to compete in the 200-meter backstroke, which could have been what Sports Illustrated called a "safe" gold-medal event, to compete in the 200 freestyle. In the 200 free, he faced a field that included swimmers who had produced the four fastest times in the history of the event, including Ian Thorpe, his top rival.

It meant Phelps gave up a nearly sure chance for a gold for a "classic encounter," in which he set an American record but finished third, ending his bid for an unprecedented number of gold medals.

During the Olympics, he also gave up his spot on a men's relay team so teammate Ian Crocker could compete.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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