Category Archives: Sports

Sports: Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Anxiety hasn't been classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. But the evidence is mounting. Uploaded by

True confession to start: I’ve never won a fantasy football league. And the most embarrassing part is that I’ve really tried. I’ve studied before the season, bought several preseason magazines, subscribed to an online advice service, and paid attention to injuries and matchups throughout the season. And some guy who doesn’t know how Tom Brady does in Sunday night games vs. divisional opponents wins the league. It’s only a matter of time until I have an ulcer.

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In case you’re a fantasy football denier, the principles are easy. Ten to fourteen people form a league, and choose offensive players (well, they’re more offensive if they don’t score), a kicker, and a defense. Then a stat service provided by such organizations as ESPN or Yahoo! tracks how your players perform each week, and you win or lose depending on how your team does compared to that week’s opponent.

Some people can’t handle the stress. They have to get their stats in real time in order to gloat or fret. The worst is when your best fantasy player is up against your favorite pro team, and you find yourself hoping your pro team wins, but the score is 50-49, and your fantasy quarterback throws for 500 yards and seven touchdowns in the losing effort. Has the American Psychiatric Association classified Fantasy Football Anxiety as a legitimate disorder? I don’t think so.

But the evidence is mounting.

Sports: Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas won MVP honors three times, played in 10 Pro Bowls (three-time MVP), and won the NFL Championship in 1958 and 1959. Uploaded by

Johnny U. can’t be credited with single-handedly making the NFL into America’s favorite sports league. Nor was he the league’s first superstar. But he did lead his Baltimore Colts to a sudden-death overtime victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 Championship Game. And he did revolutionize the position of quarterback, helping to make the forward pass the game’s most exciting play.

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Unitas played collegiately at Louisville. At that time, the Cardinals weren’t exactly in the upper echelon of college teams – they played (and often lost to) such powers as St. Bonaventure and Eastern Kentucky. Unitas played both offense and defense and proved to be quite an athlete. Still, no pro team wanted him after graduation, and he worked in construction to get a paycheck. In one of their all-time smart (lucky?) moves, the Baltimore Colts invited him to try out before the 1957 season. He made the team, and became a starter midway through that campaign. Neither the Colts nor the NFL were ever the same.

Unitas set a boatload of records, most of which have been exceeded by pass-happy offenses of recent years. One remarkable one stands, however. He threw a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games, something Marino, Fouts, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, and Manning have been unable to match. Unitas was named league MVP three times, and selected him as the sixth-greatest player of all time.

Sports: Man o’ War

Blood-Horse magazine's panel of horse-racing experts selected the 100 greatest thoroughbreds of the 20th century. Secretariat was number 2. Man o' War was chosen number 1. Uploaded by

Think of him as “Secretariat: The Prequel.” In 1920, the Triple Crown of horse racing had not yet been recognized as the standard of excellence it’s since become. And Man o’ War’s owner felt the Kentucky Derby came too early in the year for a three-year-old to race a mile and a quarter. But Man o’ War did win the Preakness (in a Pimlico track record time) and the Belmont (by 20 lengths).

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During his racing career, Man o’ War won 20 of 21 races. The one he lost? He got off to a horrific start (starting gates didn’t come until later) and got trapped in the middle of the pack. Even so, he came on strong down the stretch, finishing just a nose behind. The winning horse’s name? Upset.

When Sports Illustrated compiled its list of the top 100 athletes of the 20th century, Man o’ War came in at number 84. Yeah, I know. It’s a horse. But get this. A panel of horse-racing experts at Blood-Horse magazine compiled its list of the top 100 thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th century. They named Man o’ War number one. Secretariat (Great American Things, April 24, 2010) came in second.

Sports: Mia Hamm

High school champion, NCAA champion, Olympics champion, World Cup champion, professional champion. Mia Hamm - Champion. Uploaded by

As Americans revel in our improbable and wildly dramatic Women’s World Cup victory over Brazil this week, lots of us remembered back to the last time women’s soccer captured the national imagination. Mia Hamm led that American squad in capturing the World Cup, capped by a dramatic shootout win over China before 90,000 crazy fans in the Rose Bowl.

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Mia Hamm was always an individual soccer phenomenon. She led her high school team to the state championship. At UNC, she took the Tar Heels to four NCAA championships. She was the youngest American woman ever to win a World Cup at the age of 19 on the 1991 squad. She led the 1996 and 2004 women’s teams to gold medals in the Olympics. And her Washington Freedom team won a professional championship in 2003.

Now Hamm is the mother of twins (she married baseball star Nomar Garciaparra) and manages the Mia Hamm Foundation for patients with aplastic anemia, and their families. Her adoptive brother, Garrett, died of the disease. Did she lead women’s soccer to the promised land some predicted following that 1999 World Cup? No. But her athletic career and personal achievements have made all Americans proud.

Sports: Mary Lou Retton

At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Mary Lou Retton earned five medals, the most of any individual in that Olympics. Uploaded by

Everyone knows you can’t become a world champion gymnast if you live in Fairmont, West Virginia. But that didn’t stop Mary Lou Retton, who drew her inspiration from Romania’s Nadia Comaneci. She learned from the best trainer in town, but when she started to demonstrate Olympic-caliber talent, she moved to Houston. There she trained under the best – Béla and Márta Károlyi, the couple who trained Comaneci before they defected to America.

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Retton made her name in 1983-84, winning the American Cup, two American Classics, and the Japanese Chunichi Cup. Then came the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She trailed Romanian gymnast Ecaterina Szabó with two events remaining in the All-Around competition, but scored a perfect 10 in her floor exercise and vault to win the gold medal by .05. The first American ever to win the All-Around, she also earned two silver medals and two bronze in 1984. Her five medals were the most earned by any athlete at that Olympics.

Her accomplishments earned her the honor of being Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year – and the first woman ever on a Wheaties box. And, appropriately, the 4’8″ giant in her field received induction in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.

Sports: Daytona 500

First run in 1959, the Daytona 500 is unique in sports because it's NASCAR's most prestigious event, and it comes at the beginning of the racing season, not the end. Uploaded by

It’s the Super Bowl of stock car racing, and it’s run each year just a few weeks following that game, the biggest event in sports. The Daytona 500 isn’t far behind, though. It’s unique because it’s the most prestigious event on the NASCAR schedule, and it comes at the beginning of the racing year, not the end. There’s no question, though, that it gives the racing season a supercharged opening weekend. Compare that to, say, the first NBA game of the year. NBA? What’s that?

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The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, with Lee Petty (Richard’s pa) taking the checkered flag. We’re used to “500 mile” races now, but Daytona was just the second for stock cars (Southern 500 was first). Probably the most memorable event in race history was its most tragic, when Dale Earnhardt crashed during the 2001 race while protecting his teammates and died. Now, ten years later, the sport still hasn’t recovered from that dark day.

Many of the greatest names in NASCAR history have won this race. Those who have won more than once include:

  • Richard Petty (7x)
  • Cale Yarborough (4x)
  • Bobby Allison (3x)
  • Dale Jarrett (3x)
  • Jeff Gordon (3x)
  • Bill Elliot (2x)
  • Sterling Marlin (2x)
  • Michael Waltrip (2x

Sports: Sam Snead

Sam Snead still holds some impressive records - such as the most all-time PGA Tour victories (82) and the oldest golfer to win a PGA event (the Greater Greensboro Open at age 52). Uploaded by

“Slammin’ Sammy” Snead is one of the sub-class of professional golfers whose personality almost eclipses their talent. He was a country boy from near Hot Springs, Va., and he lived at Hot Springs most of his life. He was a part of one of the most competitive threesomes ever to play the sport, with Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. Nelson was the gentleman, Hogan the iconoclast, and Snead the class clown.

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But he was an incredible golfer. He won an incredible 82 PGA Tour events, a record that still stands. He won three Masters, three PGA Championships, and one British Open. His one professional disappointment was never winning the U.S. Open. He certainly had his chances – he finished in second place four times. He has the record for most tournaments won in a single year, 11. He played on seven Ryder Cup teams, and was a three-time captain.

Snead had a beautiful swing that was often emulated. He loved long drives, a major part of his game, especially when his putting began to let him down as he grew older. Slammin’ Sammy is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.

Sports: Pro Football Hall of Fame


The Pro Football Hall of Fame has recently opened two new exhibits: Pro Football Today and Moments, Memories, and Mementos. Uploaded by

It’s unfortunate that professional football (then the American Professional Football Association) had its origins in Canton, Ohio, because that’s where the Hall of Fame organizers felt obligated to place their shrine. Nothing against Canton; I’ve never been there, it might be a fine place for all I know. But it’s neither the quaint old-time village that Cooperstown is for baseball, nor an appealing destination as South Bend, Indiana is for the college game.

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The original building, opened in 1963, has been expanded several times, so that it now totals just over 82,000 sq. ft. Unfortunately, the exterior still looks like a giant juicer. It’s too bad that some of the money raised for expansions didn’t go to improving the architecture.

But it’s the inside that matters, and that’s a fascinating place for football fans. Two new galleries, Pro Football Today and Moments, Memories, and Mementos bring the latest computer and video technology to celebrate the great players and biggest events in the sport’s history. From the game’s greatest legends to the players of today, the Hall brings the artifacts and history of pro football to life. The Hall will bring back lots of memories and provide hours of enjoyment to fans. Even if it is in Canton, Ohio.

Sports: The Boston Marathon


The Boston Marathon isn't for beginners. In fact, the qualification standards are strict, and participation is limited. Uploaded by

When Patriots Day approaches (that’s the third Monday in April, for those of you non-Massachusettians. Massachusetters. Bay Staters. Whatever) all eyes in New England turn toward Boston and the running of the Boston Marathon. It’s America’s oldest marathon, dating back to 1897, having reportedly been influenced by the marathon at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

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Unlike some marathons, not everyone is eligible to participate at Boston. You have to qualify based on completion time in another sanctioned marathon. Starting in 2013, that time would range from 03:05:00 for a male under 35 up to 05:25:00 for a female over 80. And because so many people want to run this marathon, the registration time is extremely short for all but the most experienced runners. You have to know when registration is open and get your name in the field quickly.

Approximately a half million people line the course as the marathon makes its way through eight cities and towns, with the finish line in downtown Boston’s Copley Square. The Boston Red Sox traditionally play a game at 11:00 in the morning on race day, and the crowd lingers following the game to cheer runners in the race’s last mile.



Sports: The Harlem Globetrotters


In their 80+ years of existence, the Globetrotters have played more than 20,000 games in 118 countries. And they've almost never lost. Wow - these guys must be good. Uploaded to Flickr by New Jersey State Library.

The first whistled notes of “Sweet Georgia Brown” let you know that basketball wizardry — and more important, lots of laughs — are coming. The Globetrotters are in the house.

They’ve been around since the late twenties, and are reported to have played more than 20,000 games in 118 countries. Their usual opponents are the greatest optimists in sports, the Washington Generals. The Globetrotters’ record in this series: 13,000+ wins, 6 losses.


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During their early years the team was a showcase for black basketball players who couldn’t play against white teams. The Globetrotters have actually retired several numbers, including Wilt Chamberlain (played for one year before being accepted into the NBA), Meadowlark Lemon, and Curly Neal.

Over the years, entertainment became their focus, and today they’re one of the best family-friendly acts touring the country. If you’ve never see them, take a kid and go. I promise it’ll be an immensely enjoyable experience — but don’t be surprised if you enjoy it more than the kid.

Originally posted April 18, 2009

Sports: David Robinson


David Robinson is a 2x NBA Champion, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Hall of Famer. But his character is even more impressive than his résumé. Uploaded by

There are two kinds of athletes we cheer for. First are those who perform for our favorite teams, easily identified by their team uniform. Much rarer are the players who we root for because of the kind of persons they are away from the bright lights. David Robinson is more than a Hall of Fame basketball player; he is a true role model not for athletics, but for character.

We saw this at the beginning of his NBA career, because it was delayed two years so he could fulfill his obligation to the US Navy following his graduation from the Naval Academy (Great American Things, July 18, 2010). Robinson’s service earned him his nickname “The Admiral.” Listing his basketball accomplishments would take a post all its own, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Rookie of the Year
  • NBA Champion (2x)
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • NBA 50th Anniversary All-Star Team
  • Olympic Gold Medal (2x)

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But as great as Robinson’s basketball career was, all who know him recognized that his character was even greater. Just one example – in 1991, Robinson visited some fifth graders at an elementary school in San Antonio. He promised that he would give a $2,000 college scholarship to all who stayed in school. In 1998, he made good on his promise – but he gave them $8,000 instead. Robinson’s main charitable effort has been the Carver School in San Antonio, a free private school for underprivileged children. To date, he and his wife have donated $11 million to fund the academy.

Greg Popovich, Robinson’s coach in his final years with the Spurs, had this to say about his star player: “He’s got much more sense than to stay involved in basketball. He’s got a lot of interests that actually have impact on the world and have some value, unlike the rest of us. He’s way too committed to real life to do something as silly as basketball the rest of his life.”

Sports: Bonnie Blair


Apollo Ohno has now surpassed Bonnie Blair in total Olympic medals earned, but with five, she still has the most golds. Uploaded by

Maybe you’ve seen the kids at the shopping center, raising money to go to a national tournament, or to sports camp. Maybe they washed your car, or sold you some doughnuts. In Champaign, Illinois, a young speed skater named Bonnie Blair wanted to compete in Europe, but lacked the funds to make the trip. So the local police department took the initiative to hold raffles and bake sales — and the money was raised.

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Bonnie Blair definitely made the Champaign police department proud. The year following her trip, she won the U.S. indoor speed skating championship. She won again the next year, and competed in her first Winter Olympics. She didn’t win a medal, but her time was coming. In 1988 in Calgary, she won a gold and a bronze. Next in Albertville in 1992, two more golds. Then in Lillehammer in 1994, two more golds. Apollo Ohno has now won more total Winter Olympics medals, but Blair still has earned the most golds.

For her accomplishments, Blair was named winner of the Sullivan Award in 1992, given to the outstanding American amateur athlete. And in 1994, she was co-winner of Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, and the Associated Press chose her as Female Athlete of the Year. But winning has always had a different meaning for her. “Winning doesn’t always mean being first,” she said. “Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.”

Sports: Arthur Ashe


Arthur Ashe won the NCAA Singles Title, the U.S. Amateur Championship, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon. But we remember the man, not just the athlete. Uploaded by

Richmond, Virginia’s Arthur Ashe knew the highest highs and the lowest lows in his too-brief lifetime. He won three of Grand Slam events of tennis – the U.S. Open (1968), the Australian Open (1970), and Wimbledon (1975). And yet he had serious heart problems that required multiple surgeries, during one of which he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. He died at age 49.

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Ashe showed talent early at a sport that was all but closed to African-Americans. He had to move to St. Louis to find a place where he could play tennis without bias, and went all the way across the continent to UCLA for college. In 1968 he became the only person to win both the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year. But in 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass. More heart problems required more surgery in 1983. A few years later he fell ill, and learned that he had HIV.

Ashe took an active role in the civil rights field, visiting South Africa and being arrested in the U.S. outside the South African embassy at an anti-apartheid rally. His leadership in all areas of his life didn’t go unappreciated. The main stadium at the home of the U.S. Open is now Arthur Ashe Stadium, ESPN gives a special ESPY award named the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and President Clinton honored his memory with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Sports: Joe Namath


How does a guy with a record of 62-63-4, 173 touchdowns and 227 interceptions make it into the Hall of Fame? One way is to be bigger than the game, which Joe Namath was. Uploaded by

Before I get specific about Broadway Joe, let’s give a shout out to western Pennsylvania for its unbelievable string of great quarterbacks. Joe Willie Namath is one, but the list also includes Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, Jeff Hostetler, and others. Namath grew up in Beaver Falls, about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. He received several offers to play Major League Baseball, but chose to play college football for Bear Bryant at Alabama.

That’s a little bit of a puzzler, looking back on it. It’s not that Namath couldn’t play within a team concept, but his personality was so large that it might have been expected to conflict with his coach’s. He was suspended for a couple of

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games once, but he came back the next year and helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship. Instead of signing with the NFL, he chose the rival AFL, whose New York Jets had made him the first pick in the draft. He was a four-time all-star, and led the Jets to the AFC championship in 1968.

1969 was the third year that the AFC champion took on the NFC champ in the Super Bowl (the leagues merged the following year). The first two games were NFL blowouts, and Namath’s Jets were huge underdogs in Super Bowl III. In one of the great upsets in sports history, Namath guaranteed that the Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts – and he made good on his promise. It’s no doubt the single game he’ll always be known for.

Namath was a party guy, and he got in trouble for opening a bar in New York City called “Bachelors III.” What you might call your “unsavory types” became regulars, and the NFL ordered Namath to sell his interest in the club. But far from ruining his reputation, this walk on the wild side actually enhanced it. He’s now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite what are actually very ordinary statistics. But he was a legend, and even today, everyone still loves Broadway Joe.

Sports: Ted Williams


Ted Williams was possibly the greatest hitter in baseball history. Yet he sacrificed five seasons to serve his country as a Naval aviator in World War II and the Korean War. Uploaded by

Many baseball people consider Ted Williams the best pure hitter in baseball history. I’m certainly willing to go along with that suggestion. The 2011 campaign will mark the 70th anniversary of his .406 season, the last time any major leaguer’s batting average has topped .400. He won the triple crown twice, in 1941 and 1947. And he was American League MVP twice – in 1946 and 1949. Can anyone explain how a player who wins the triple crown can not be named MVP?


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Williams seemed to understand before most hitters the importance of bat speed. He used a lighter bat than most of his contemporaries, the better to generate power. That helped him lead the league in homers and RBIs four times. And yet his batting eye was so keen that he also led the league in walks in eight seasons.

As dominant as Williams was, there’s no telling what his career statistics might have been had World War II and the Korean War interfered. Williams served as a fighter pilot in both wars, causing him to miss three prime seasons in the 1940s, and two more in the 1950s. Still he finished in the 500-homer club and had a career batting average of .344.

Beyond his baseball career, Williams was also a noted sport fisherman, and was inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame. Still, it’s his proficiency hitting a baseball that we’ll always remember. Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski said of “The Splendid Splinter”: “He studied hitting the way a broker studies the stock market, and could spot at a glance mistakes that others couldn’t see in a week.”

Sports: Pipe Masters Surfing


The Pipeline Masters is the last event in the Triple Crown of Surfing. It's held in December on Oahu's North Shore, the famous Banzai Pipeline. Uploaded by

This event, one of the Triple Crown of Surfing, takes place each December at Hawaii’s famous Banzai Pipeline on Oahu. This year’s competition will be the 40th anniversary of the event, which is usually won by Hawaiians though there have been eight winners from the US mainland, eleven from Australia, and even one from South Africa. The prize money for the event is $400,000.

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The Pipe Masters is the final event of surfing’s annual Triple Crown, and the event surfers most want to win. They’ll come to Oahu’s North Shore, to Ehukai Beach Park, where powerful waves crash across a shallow reef. “Ehukai” is the Hawaiian word for “sea spray.” They’ll be greeted by hundreds of spectators, many of whom come from great distances to witness the world’s best surfers take on the world’s most dangerous waves.

The Banzai Pipeline regularly features twelve-to-twenty-foot waves, but that alone isn’t what makes the area famous. It’s also the most dangerous surf spot in the world. An average of one person per year dies trying to master these exhilarating waves. Andy Irons, a four-time Pipeline Master, explained the peril. “There are big coral heads that look like anvils underwater. “When you hit those it just splits you open. People die there just from hitting it.” Irons is in the news as this is written, having been found dead in his hotel room from still unexplained causes.

Sports: Joe Louis


Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber," remains one of the greatest champions in boxing history, completing his career with a record of 65 wins and 3 defeats. Uploaded by

Joe Louis is one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. But his contributions to American life went beyond the ring. In an era when, as says, “his people were still subject to lynchings, discrimination and oppression, when the military was segregated and African-Americans weren’t permitted to play Major League Baseball, Joe Louis was the first African-American to achieve hero worship that was previously reserved for whites only.”

Uploaded by of Louis’s success came from a wise public relations approach. White America still had bad feelings about black boxers due to Jack Johnson’s flamboyant lifestyle. Louis followed a strict set of rules designed to give him a clean image, and it worked.

He even became a symbol for America and freedom, in addition to his race. He fought a famous bout against German Max Schmeling in 1938. The Nazis promoted this as another proof that Aryans were superior to other races. They even said that Schmeling’s prize money would be used to build tanks in Germany. In front of 70,000 people at Yankee Stadium, Louis knocked the German out in two minutes and four seconds.

Louis had several other major rivalries during his career. He beat Jim Braddock (“The Cinderella Man”) to win the title initially, and he had two celebrated fights with Billy Conn, winning both. “The Brown Bomber” finished his career with a record of 65 wins and 3 losses. It was said that he was a credit to his race. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon had a response to that: “Yes, Louis is a credit to his race – the human race.”

Sports: Mark Spitz

In the 1972 Olympics, he entered seven events. He won seven gold medals. He set seven world records. Uploaded by

Mark Spitz is remembered as one of the greatest Olympic swimmers ever. He won nine Olympic gold medals, one silver, and one bronze, while setting 33 world records.

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Spitz’s career high point was the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the infamous Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were captured and killed by Palestinian terrorists. He entered seven events and won gold in each – while also setting world records. Initially, he was reluctant to enter the 100 meter freestyle race. He told a reporter, “I know I say I don’t want to swim before every event, but this time I’m serious. If I swim six and win six, I’ll be a hero. If I swim seven and win six, I’ll be a failure.”

Mr. Personality, he wasn’t. Mr. Ego, he still is. Want proof? Here’s the introduction on his official website: “Mark Spitz, most notable athlete of all-time, is synonymous with excellence.” Well, if you don’t tell us about it, Mark, who will?

Spitz is in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. Spitz ranked #33 on ESPN’s list of the SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes.

Sports: Sandy Koufax

Here's the Koufax math: 1 MVP + 3 Cy Young awards + 4 no-hitters + 1 perfect game = 1 outstanding career. Uploaded by

No discussion of the best pitchers in baseball history would be complete without including Sandy Koufax. Though arthritis cut short his career at the premature age of 30, Koufax accomplished some remarkable things:

  • He won three Cy Young awards during a time when only one was awarded each year, not one for each league
  • He was the NL MVP in 1963, something rarely accomplished by a pitcher
  • He pitched four no-hitters and a perfect game
  • He had a career ERA of 2.76
  • He was the youngest former player ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (Great American Things, March 26, 2010

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Beyond his baseball exploits, Koufax earned a special place in American life by making a stand for his Jewish faith. The first game of the 1965 World Series, pitting Koufax’s Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins, happened to fall during Yom Kippur. Koufax would have pitched Game One, but chose to observe his religious holiday instead. The Dodgers lost, and fell behind in the Series two games to zero. But Koufax came back to win Game Five, and then won the deciding Game Seven though pitching on just two days’ rest. He earned his second Series MVP award for his efforts.

Sports: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca were permanently linked by fate, and became good friends. Branca never became bitter about his role in baseball history. Uploaded by

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

That famous call by Russ Hodges punctuated what is probably the most dramatic moment in baseball history. Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit a pitch thrown by Ralph Branca of the Dodgers into the left field seats, securing a spot for his team in the World Series and a place for himself in baseball immortality.

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The play occurred at the end of the 1951 season, and it’s hard for a modern fan to appreciate what a momentous event it was. First, these two teams were then crosstown rivals with fans that chose sides and did so with great passion. And second, on August 11 the Dodgers had a 13 1/2 game lead over the Giants, and finished the season a more than respectable 26-22. But the Giants went on a phenomenal 37-7 tear to pull to an identical 96-58 record. The champion would be determined by a three-game playoff, and the two teams split the first two. Everything was on the line for this last game.

The Dodgers held a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. But the Giants rallied, and with a run in and men on second and third, Bobby Thomson came to the plate. The Dodgers brought in Branca as a relief pitcher, a curious decision considering Thomson had homered off Branca to win the first game of the playoff. With a one-strike count, Branca came in high and inside, and Thomson turned on the pitch and deposited it in the left field stands. And Russ Hodges – and Giants fans across the country – went crazy: