Bob Ryan: “After all these years, he still has game”

Bob Ryan at his home in Hingham.

June 7, 2022 By Mark Blaudschun

Photos by Josh Ross

Bob Ryan is in the middle of his day. Working on a Sunday column for the Boston Globe (which Ryan now does on a twice-monthly basis), lining up his regularly scheduled appearances on television sports chatter shows such as ESPN's Around The Horn, getting ready for his next podcast, and going off on Twitter about a topic that peaked his interest.

And if you are a talk show host and want an "expert" opinion with credentials, Bob Ryan can fill any time slot.

This comes from a man who "retired" as a sports columnist at The Globe 10 years ago.

But, then again, Bob Ryan, an iconic figure in sports journalism, a transplant from New Jersey, came to New England more than 54 years ago as a wide-eyed college freshman in 1964 at Boston College with a passion for sports and life--which remains.

As it has been for the past 48 years, Ryan's home base is Hingham, where Ryan is on this Friday afternoon, having lunch at a restaurant in Hingham Harbor.

With Ryan, there is only warp speed as he dives into subjects such as the Red Sox floundering and the legitimacy of the Celtics as NBA champion material.

Not that it matters.

What makes Ryan special, almost unique among media figures who have obtained celebrity status--and he has--is the total lack of pretense.

The Bob Ryan that the public sees on the sports talk shows is the same person who will debate the Belichick vs. Brady value at a place where you might drink an adult beverage while watching the Super Bowl.

What makes Ryan special is that he is the quintessential sports fan.

Ryan's latest passion is a new book (his 15th), In Scoring Position: 40 years of a Baseball Love Affair.

Hingham resident and long time Boston Globe sports reporter and ESPN commentator Bob Ryan has a new baseball book out called In Scoring Position.

"Niche journalism for sure," says Ryan in talking about the book he and baseball researcher Bill Chuck put together, chronicling the highlights of the more than 1,500 games Ryan has attended since '1977...

In so many ways, the book, about Ryan's habit of keeping score in every baseball game he attends, is typical of the man.

Ryan is a list guy.

Before the pandemic hit, Ryan listed each movie he saw in theaters every year, a list that often topped the 150 mark.

Or ask Ryan about the number of "venues" Ryan has watched college basketball, another passion.

"That's venues, not campuses," said Ryan. "And right now, it's 210.'"

It is a quirky by product of Ryan, the sports fan. As someone who had the honor of working with Ryan for 25 years, I have seen some of those moves closely and personally.

More often than not, Ryan's appearance at an event can turn into the main event.

I provide three incidents I witnessed involving Ryan the celebrity as much as Ryan the journalist.

I was with Ryan in Sydney in 2000 covering the Summer Olympics for the Globe when Ryan was asked for an autograph and a picture at a downtown Sydney restaurant.

I was also with Ryan covering a Sr. PGA event in Salem, Ma. in which the legendary Arnold Palmer, in the latter stages of his career was among the tournament leaders going into Sunday's final round.

Ryan and I were following Palmer and his legendary "Army" of followers.

As we walked, I heard a murmur from the crowd, "That's Bob Ryan."

And finally, this.

At the 2009 Final Four in Detroit, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson conducted a press conference, promoting a book they had done together.

Ryan was sitting in a room of a few hundred reporters, just watching, when Johnson was asked a question by a reporter sitting 10 feet away from Ryan.

As he always has done, Johnson looked directly at the person asking him his question, which also brought Ryan into Magic's field of vision.

"Hey, Larry," said Magic, nudging Bird. "There's Bob Ryan; Bob, how you doing?"

Ryan smiled and said he was doing just fine.

The point here is that at the age of 76, Bob Ryan is a legend in his own time and completely comfortable with it.

Ryan and his long-time wife and travel partner, Elaine, first arrived in Hingham in May of 1973 when they were house shopping.

"We were renting a place In Norwood," said Ryan. "I was on the road a lot, and Elaine was looking and said we should check out this place in Hingham. We loved it and wanted to put in an offer, but we had to do a few things. So I put $20 dollars down to hold the house."

Even Ryan laughs at the number now. The Ryans' arrived and have never left the town that has become part of their DNA

What is remarkable about Ryan is that he has not become jaded by the change in athletics to follow the money operation.

Ryan is a long-time season ticket holder for Red Sox games but is just as invested interest wise in the Bruins, Patriots and of course, Celtics.

But there are no boundaries with Ryan.

A few years ago, Ryan started paying close attention to the Hingham girls' basketball team, led by a diminutive point guard named Gracie Bennis.

"I don't think she was 5-feet tall," said Ryan with a laugh. "But she had game."

And that probably best describes Bob Ryan.

After all these years, he still has "game."

4 thoughts on “Bob Ryan: “After all these years, he still has game””

  1. Great article. I always enjoyed his podcasts taped right from Stars and been reading his columns and stories my whole life. We’re lucky to have him as a neighbor

    • I met Bob many years ago at the old breakfast place in Hingham “The Good Egg”. I was wearing a Celtics T shirt as it was a few days after Bird announced his retirement. I asked Bob pointing to my Celts shirt “what do we do now?” And he said “savor the memories”. Ive run into him many times and he’s as friendly as ever. Amazing talent and a good guy. Another Hingham gem – like McCullough.

  2. I was at Fenway about 10 years ago and saw him sitting, by himself, a few seats away from me. I thought “that’s Bob Ryan”. I introduced myself and asked him if I could take a selfie of us (which I never do). He said sure. Now I’m pretty sure he was scoring the game.


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