Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Favorite Athletes


I have several lists of "Favorites" on the righthand column of my blog. One of the categories is "Favorite Athletes." I am a sports nut. I was never a great athlete (in fact, I was rather subpar), but I love sports . . . as a spectator!

My favorite sports are football and baseball. I also like golf, tennis, and basketball. If playing is involved, add volleyball to the list.

From my list of favorite athletes, it should be obvious who my favorite teams are: the Dallas Cowboys (pro football) and the St. Louis Cardinals (pro baseball). Add the Oklahoma Sooners to the list if we are talking college football. And, don't forget the San Antonio Spurs (pro basketball). Of course, to throw a bone to my Colorado friends, I must add the Denver Broncos as a distant second NFL favorite, and, after this past season, the Colorado Rockies have supplanted the L. A. Dodgers as my second favorite baseball team.

Now back to my favorite athletes . . . .

I love athletes who are first and foremost gentlemen away from the game . . . good sportsmen, great husbands and fathers and members of the community. I root for those who have overcome great difficulties to become what they are today. Of course, it helps if they wear a star or a redbird on their uniform/jersey!

My favorites . . . .

#1- Roger Staubach . . . would any self-respecting Cowboy fan have any other at the top of his (or her) list? Simply the greatest . . . a legend! My only regret? I was only 10 years old when he retired from the NFL (I still remember his announcement . . . broadcast on the radio as I was in the car with my family reurning from a trip to Oklahoma). The only game I remember vividly with him playing at quarterback is the 1978 Super Bowl . . . vs. Denver . . . Dallas creamed them, 27-10!!! And, against an old Cowboy at that . . . Craig Morton.

#2- Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean . . . Hall of Fame pitcher for the "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis Cardinals of the 1930's. I was born in 1970, so how did "Dizzy" make the list? Strat-o-matic Baseball gets the credit (my junior high through high school years were spent playing Strat-0-matic!). My team? The 1934 Cardinals. Dizzy was 30-7 that year and won two games in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers (his brother "Daffy" won two more to hand the Cardinals the Championship).

#3- Bill Bates . . . simply the toughest Dallas Cowboy to ever wear the uniform. And, that says a lot for a franchise that boasts the likes of Randy White, Bob Lilly, "Too Tall" Jones, Darren Woodson, Roy Williams, and Charles Haley. I am wondering when Jerry Jones is going to get around to retiring #40 and installing Bates in the Ring of Honor.

#4- Nolan Ryan . . . I was already a big fan the night I saw Ryan interviewed following his record 7th no-hitter (his closest competitor has only 4!). Instead of celebrating with champaign or a night out on the town, Ryanwas interviewed while he was riding an exercise bicycle . . . his work was not done for the night. Hard work. Perseverance. Nolan Ryan knew the secret to success. (Another Ryan highlight: beating Robin Ventura senseless when the White Sox 1B charged the mound on him.)

#5- Jack Nicklaus . . . even with a Tiger on the prowl, the "Golden Bear" is still the definitive golfer of all time . . . and a class act off of the course.

#6- Pete Sampras . . . quiet, unassuming, "lights out" on the tennis court. Never the showman, always the professional.

#7- Joe "Ducky" "Muscles" Medwick . . . another "Gashouse Gang" alum. One the of the most forgotten greats of the game. He was the best all-around hitter in the National League during the 1930's. He is the last NL batter to win the Triple Crown (1937). His picture graces the top of this post.

#8- Michael Irvin . . . the reason I have written this post. Michael Irvin has not always been one of my favorites. There was a time I was embarrassed he was a Dallas Cowboy. But, Irvin is a changed men, and I am quite impressed with his transformation. He puts himself forward now as a man of God, committed to his faith and family, and from what I can tell, he is extremely sincere. Did you hear his induction speech given at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August? It was the most profound speech I had ever heard from an athlete. His words preach!!! (Another selling point? I met Michael Irvin, and shook his hand, when he was a rookie with the Cowboys . . . that man has big hands!)

#9- Satchel Paige . . . if it had not been for the blatant racism in baseball during the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, Satchel would have gone down as the single greatest pitcher in the history of the Major Leagues. His stuff was unbelievable. He comes as close to a pitcher being able to "call his pitches" and get anyone out at anytime.

#10- Albert Pujols . . . another Cardinal . . . perhaps, by the end of his career, the greatest hitter the Cardinals have ever had. And, that says a lot for a team that has boasted Stan Musial, Ducky Medwick, Johnny Mize, and the incomparable Rogers Hornsby.
Beyond my Top 10 . . . Tim Duncan, Tony Romo, Randy White, Tony Gwynn, Francis Oimet (thanks to the Shia LaBouf movie I recently saw), Chris Evert (had to have a female on the list), George Foreman, David Robinson . . . .
Of course, no list of athletes would be complete without mention of a coach. My favorite coaches list begins and ends with one name . . . no either need apply. His name? Tom Landry. Who else's name belongs there?


Those are my favorites. How about yours?

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