Thursday, March 1, 2018

Top 10 Athletes From Ohio

March 1, 1803: Ohio is admitted to the Union as the 17th State.

Top 10 Athletes From Ohio

Making a list for Ohio was complicated not just by the fact of the 2 long-established major league cities in the state, Cleveland and Cincinnati, more recently joined by Columbus; but also by the role of football in the State.

The National Football League was founded in Canton in 1920, mainly because of Ohio's role in early pro football before that. Before the NFL, the Ohio League was the leading professional football league. And many of that league's teams would join the NFL: The Columbus Panhandles, the Dayton Triangles, the Massillon Tigers, the Portsmouth Spartans, the Akron Pros, and, most successfully both before and after the NFL's debut, the Canton Bulldogs. None of those teams survive today, of course.

And today's NFL teams from the state, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, don't go back nearly that far, although both were founded by Paul Brown, who got his start in Massillon, before moving on to Ohio State. As a result of this football Heritage, you could make a list of the top 10 football players just from Ohio, and still leave out a lot of great players.

Golf, of course, is not a sport, so that lets out Jack Nicklaus of the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, even though Sports Illustrated did name him their 1978 Sportsman of the Year; and, in 2005, George W. Bush awarded him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Honorable Mention to these World Champion Yankees from Ohio: Thurman Munson of Canton, Paul O'Neill of Columbus, Jim Leyritz of the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, and David Justice of Cincinnati. And, though neither ever threw or faced a pitch for the Yankees, Miller Huggins of Cincinnati and George Steinbrenner of the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River. (Note: Never mention to Clevelanders, who tend to be Indians fans, that George is from Cleveland. They're a bit sensitive about it.)

Honorable Mention to Bill White of the Cleveland suburb of Warren. A pretty good 1st baseman and a pretty good hitter who helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, then broadcast for the Yankees from 1971 to 1988, the 1st black person to regularly do so for a major league team. (Jackie Robinson had done so for NBC, but not for any particular team.) Then he served as President of the National League from 1989 to 1994.

He served on the Baseball Hall of Fame's Committee on Veterans, but, in spite of a lifetime's body of work elevating the game, he is not in the Hall. Since he's no longer on the Committee, he is no longer subject to the rule that members are ineligible. (Most ex-players, managers, or executives on it are already in the Hall.) He's 84 years old. What are they waiting for?

Honorable Mention to Baseball Hall-of-Famers from Ohio who didn't otherwise make the Top 10: Buck Ewing of the Cincinnati suburb of Hoagland, Ed Delahanty of Cleveland, Roger Bresnahan of Toledo, Elmer Flick of the Cleveland suburb of Bedford, Rube Marquard of Cleveland, Jesse Haines of the Cincinnati suburb of Phillipsburg, Bill Mazeroski of Tiltonsville, Phil Niekro of Martins Ferry, Barry Larkin of the Cincinnati suburb of Silverton.

Walter Alston of Morning Sun, and the aforementioned Miller Huggins are also in the Hall of Fame, for what they did as managers. So is Branch Rickey of Lucasville, for what he did as a general manager and a de facto owner.

There are actually 2 different World Series Most Valuable Player awards. The one we usually think of was originally the SPORT Magazine Award, and last year was renamed the Willie Mays Award. It has only 1 winner who played for the losing team, Bobby Richardson of the 1960 Yankees, who lost that Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates when Mazeroski hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7, the only time that's ever happened.

For so doing, Mazeroski, also considered by many to be the best-fielding 2nd baseman ever, received the Babe Ruth Award, the lesser of the 2 Series MVP awards, established in 1949, and expanded to be an award for the entire postseason, much as hockey does with the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Gene Tenace of Lucasville and the Oakland Athletics swept the awards in 1972. Mike Schmidt won the SPORT/Mays Award in 1980, while his teammate, Californian Tug McGraw, won the Ruth Award. Steve Yeager of Dayton and the Los Angeles Dodgers was named 1 of 3 winners of the SPORT/Mays Award in 1981, with his teammates Ron Cey (Tacoma, Washington) and Pedro Guerrero (the Dominican Republic); Cey won the Ruth Award.

Honorable Mention to Charlie Gould of Cincinnati. The 1st baseman on baseball's 1st openly professional team, the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings, he was the only member of the team to actually be from Cincinnati, or from anywhere in Ohio or the Ohio Valley.

Honorable Mention to Heisman Trophy winners from Ohio: Frank Sinkwich of Youngstown (1942 for the University of Georgia), Les Horvath of the Cleveland suburb of Parma (1944 for Ohio State), Vic Janowicz of the Cleveland suburb of Elyria (1950 for Ohio State), Dick Kazmaier of the Toledo suburb of Maumee (1951 for Princeton University), Howard "Hopalong" Cassady (1955 for Ohio State), Desmond Howard of Cleveland (1991 for, ironically, the University of Michigan, and MVP of Super Bowl XXXI), Charles Woodson of the Toledo suburb of Fremont (1997 for Michigan, ranked 11th on ESPN's list of the Top 25 College Football Players), and Troy Smith of Columbus (2006 for Ohio State). The 1963 Heisman winner is in the Top 10.

Honorable Mention to Archie Griffin of Columbus. Only 1 man has ever won the Heisman Trophy twice. He's the one, having won it in 1974 and 1975. In 2008, ESPN named ranked him 21st on their list of the Top 25 College Football Players of All Time. But his pro career wasn't nearly as successful, although he did help his home-State Cincinnati Bengals win the 1981 AFC Championship and play in Super Bowl XVI.

In 1991, he was Ohio State's Assistant Athletic Director, and filmed one of those recruiting commercials that colleges show during broadcasts of sporting events. He said that his hard work was rewarded, but just when you think he was going to mention his 2nd Heisman, he said,: "I received something no one else in the world has: A degree from the Ohio State University with my name on it."

He later served as President of Ohio State's Alumni Association, and as a part-owner of minor-league baseball's Dayton Dragons, and is now on the board of directors for Columbus-based Motorists Insurance.

Honorable Mention to these other Football Players not otherwise in the Top 10: Benny Friedman of Cleveland, Clarke Hinkle of Toronto (outside Steubenville), Lou Groza of Martins Ferry, Len Dawson of Alliance (MVP of Super Bowl IV), Paul Warfield of the Cleveland suburb of Warren, Alan Page of Canton, Larry Csonka of Stow (MVP of Super Bowl VIII), Jack Lambert of Mantua, Dan Dierdorf of Canton, Joey Galloway of Bellaire, Cris Carter of the Cincinnati suburb of Middletown, Ben Roethlisberger of Lima, and LeVeon Bell of the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg.

Of those, Roethlisberger and Bell are still active; of the rest, only Galloway is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and with over 700 receptions and over 10,000 receiving yards, he should be.

Honorable Mention to Don Shula of the Cleveland suburb of Painesville. He was a good player, a defensive back in the 1950s, but made his name as a coach. After building the great Detroit Lions defense of the early 1960s, he won the 1968 NFL Championship as head coach of the Baltimore Colts (but lost Super Bowl III to the Jets), then won 5 AFC Championships with the Miami Dolphins, including Super Bowls VII (the undefeated 1972 season) and VIII. He is the winningest coach in NFL history, with 349 wins. When he broke George Halas' old record of 324 in 1993, Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year.

Honorable Mention to Lou Holtz of East Liverpool. Sure, he's an annoying analyst for ESPN. Sure, Notre Dame haters can't stand him. And, sure, his 1 pro job, with the 1976 Jets, was an unmitigated disaster, 3-10. But he's one of the greatest college coaches of all time, going 249-132-7, in a career that spanned from 1969 to 2004.

He was an assistant on Woody Hayes' Ohio State staff that won the 1968 National Championship. At William & Mary, he won the 1970 Southern Conference Championship. At North Carolina State, he won the Peach Bowl in the 1972 season, and the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and the Liberty Bowl in the 1973 season. At the University of Arkansas, he won the 1978 Orange Bowl, the 1979 Southwest Conference Championship, and the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl.

At Notre Dame, he won the 1988 National Championship, the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, the 1990 Orange Bowl, the 1992 Sugar Bowl, and the 1993 and 1994 Cotton Bowls. He was named national Coach of the Year in 1977 and 1988. At the University of South Carolina, he won the 2001 and 2002 Outback Bowls.

Honorable Mention to these Basketball Players not otherwise in the Top 10: Neil Johnston of Chillicothe, Alex Groza of Martins Ferry (Lou's brother), Jerry Lucas of the Cincinnati suburb of Middletown (1961 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year), Gus Johnson of Akron (no relation to the sportscaster of the same name), Nate Thurmond of Akron (a high school teammate of Johnson's), Wayne Embry of New Carlisle, Alvin Robertson of the Cleveland suburb of Barberton, Charles Oakley of Cleveland, and Ron Harper of Dayton.

Johnston, Lucas, Johnson, Thurmond and Embry are in the Basketball Hall of Fame -- Lucas twice, in his own right and as a member of the U.S. team that won the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. If that entire team is in the Hall, and the entire 1992 Barcelona "Dream Team" is, then so should the 1984 Los Angeles team be, which would thus elect Robertson. Groza probably would be in the Hall, if not for the point-shaving scandal of 1951.

Wardell Stephen Curry, a.k.a. Dell Curry, lived in Akron while he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his son, Wardell Stephen Curry II, a.k.a. Steph Curry, was born in Akron. But Dell grew up in Virginia, and Steph in North Carolina while Dell played for the Charlotte Hornets, so neither qualifies for Ohio.

Honorable Mention to Bryan Smolinski of the Toledo suburb of Genoa. Of the 27 men born in Ohio to play in the NHL, the former Islander is the leading scorer, with 274 goals and 651 points. He was also a member of the U.S. team that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Honorable Mention to Michael Rupp of the Cleveland suburb of Parma. His goal opened the scoring in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, giving the New Jersey Devils the Cup. Although he later played for the Rangers, he is still a New Jersey hockey hero. He is now an analyst for the NHL Network and for his favorite team growing up, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

(People growing up in Ohio in the 21st Century can root for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but previously had to make a choice: Ignore the Reds-Pirates, Browns-Steelers and Bengals-Steelers rivalries, and root for the Penguins; or ignore the Indians-Tigers, Browns-Lions, Cavaliers-Pistons and Ohio State-Michigan rivalries, and root for the Detroit Red Wings.)

Honorable Mention to these Ohio Boxers: James Jeffries of the Columbus suburb of Carroll, Heavyweight Champion 1899 to 1904; Johnny Kilbane of Cleveland, Featherweight Champion 1912 to 1923; Ezzard Charles, the Cincinnati Cobra, Heavyweight Champion 1949 to 1951, named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine in 1949 and 1950; Joey Maxim of Cleveland, Light Heavyweight Champion 1950 to 1952; and Aaron Pryor of Cincinnati, Light Welterweight Champion 1980 to 1986.

Honorable Mention to Harrison Dillard of Cleveland. He is the only man to win Olympic Gold Medals in both a sprint and a hurdle footrace. In 1948 in London, he won the 100 meters, making him the unofficial "world's fastest human." In 1952 in Helsinki, he won the 110 meter hurdles. In both, he anchored the U.S. team that won the 4x100 meter relay, giving him a total of 4 Medals, all Gold. In 1955, he was given the James E. Sullivan Award for the best American amateur athlete of the year. At 93, he is one of the oldest living Olympic Gold Medalists.

Honorable Mention to Tony Trabert of Cincinnati. He won the U.S. Open in 1953, the French Open in 1954, and came very close to winning the Grand Slam in 1955, winning the French, Wimbledon and the U.S., but only reaching the Semifinal of the Australian Open.

Honorable Mention to Peggy Fleming of Cleveland. She was the only American to win a Gold Medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, but it made her a legend, the most celebrated American figure skater ever. It's amazing what live color television can do.

Honorable Mention to Scott Hamilton of the Toledo suburb of Bowling Green. He won the Gold Medal in men's figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Bosnia (then Yugoslavia), and has succeeded Dick Button as the voice of American figure skating commentary.

Dishonorable Mention to Pete Rose of Cincinnati. No player in the history of Major League Baseball played in more games, or had more plate appearances, at-bats, or hits -- or outs. He was named to 17 All-Star Games, including at 5 different positions. He won a Rookie of the Year (1963), a National League Most Valuable Player award (1973), 3 batting titles and even 2 Gold Gloves.

He has long been fond of saying that no player has played in more winning games. He reached postseason play 8 times, and just missed 6 others, winning 6 Pennants and 3 World Series, including 1975, when he was awarded the Series MVP and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. He had a 44-game hitting streak, tied for the longest in NL history. The Reds have retired his Number 14, and the fans, for whom he once symbolized baseball for an entire generation, named him to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

But he knew the rule, baseball's one "death penalty" rule, and he broke it anyway. The thing is, if he had come clean immediately, he probably would have been reinstated at the 1st opportunity, as George Steinbrenner was when he was "permanently banned" a year later. And he'd probably have gotten into the Baseball Hall of Fame only a little late. But he blew it.

And he will never be elected to the Hall during his lifetime. They may wait until after he dies to remove him from the "permanently ineligible" list. Because most fans will not want to hear his acceptance speech.

Dishonorable Mention to Kevin Youkilis of Cincinnati. Of all the players on the 2004 and 2007 World Champion * Boston Red Sox, whom Sports Illustrated foolishly gave their 2004 Sportspeople of the Year award, he wasn't the most evil, or the most cheating, but with his ass-wiggling batting stance, he was certainly the most annoying.

How annoying was he? He was so annoying, a Yankee Fan named his blog Fack Youk, giving it a Boston accent. He ended it in December 2012, after Yankee general manager Brian Cashman began one of his dumbest experiments, signing Youkilis, which lasted all of 6 months, 3 months of actual playing time.

Now, the Top 10:

10. Edwin Moses of Dayton. Before March 1976, he had only run the 440-meter hurdles once, but he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team. Four months later, in Montreal, he ran his 1st international race at that distance, and won the Gold Medal. He missed the 1980 Olympics due to the U.S. boycott, then won the event again in 1984 in Los Angeles, and won a Bronze Medal in 1988 in Seoul -- and 33 is a little old for a hurdler.

From September 2, 1977 to June 4, 1987, he won 122 straight races. He won the 1983 Sullivan Award, and shared Sports Illustrated's 1984 Sportsperson of the Year award with gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

9. George Sisler of the Cleveland suburb of New Franklin. He started out as a pitcher, and in his rookie year with the St. Louis Browns, 1915, he outpitched his hero, Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, twice. But, like another lefthanded pitcher who had his 1st full season in 1915, Babe Ruth, he turned out to be a much better hitter.

"Gorgeous George" -- or "Sisler the Sizzler" -- had a .340 lifetime batting average, including American League batting titles in 1920 and 1922. In 1922, he nearly led the Browns to the Pennant, falling 1 game short of the Yankees. He collected 257 hits, a major league record that stood until Ichiro Suzuki got 262 in 2004. For his career, he had 2,812 hits, and he might be much better remembered had he gotten the remaining 188 to get to 3,000.

He also led the AL in stolen bases 4 times, and for decades was regarded as the best-fielding 1st baseman in the game's history. When the Baseball Hall of Fame opened in 1939, there were 25 inductees, 12 of whom were still alive, and 11 of them attended the opening ceremony -- all but Ty Cobb, who got held up getting there and just missed it. Sisler was the last survivor of those 12, living until 1973.

Many people forgot him, but The Sporting News didn't, ranking him 33rd on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999. When the current Busch Stadium opened in 2006, a statue of Sisler was placed outside, even though he never played for the Cardinals.

(The Browns became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, but they have not honored him in any way. And since his last season in the majors was 1930, the last year before every team adopted uniform numbers, there is no number to retire for him, which is another reason why he's not as well remembered as, say, Cobb or Ruth.)

He had 3 sons involved with professional baseball, including Dick Sisler, whose home run on the last day of the 1950 regular season gave the Philadelphia Phillies the National League Pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers -- whose team president, fellow University of Michigan graduate Branch Rickey, had signed him as a scout. George said, "I felt awful and terrific at the same time."

Sisler and Rickey were both charter inductees into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, for their activities at Michigan -- though it should be mentioned that this is not as ironic as it might now seem, because, when they were at Ann Arbor, Michigan and Ohio State were not the arch-rivals that they would become.

8. Ken Griffey Jr. of Cincinnati. The son of a 3-time All-Star right fielder who won back-to-back World Series with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76, he was born in the same town -- Donora, Pennsylvania -- and on the same day of the year (November 21, albeit 49 years later), as Stan Musial. and he might have been a better all-around player than Stan the Man.

Indeed, as a center fielder who excelled in every area of the game, lots of people compared him to Willie Mays -- in Seattle, he even wore Willie's number, 24. Unfortunately, a string of injuries meant that, in spite of everything he accomplished, he was denied the chance to do even more, perhaps making him more comparable to Mickey Mantle.

In 1999, while not yet 30 years old, "Junior" was selected by The Sporting News as one of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and by fan balloting for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. But the 2nd half of his career would be riddled by injury. He still managed to bat .284 lifetime, with a 136 OPS+, 2,781 hits including 630 home runs -- 4th all-time among honest men, including the 2nd half of back-to-back jacks with his father on the 1990 Seattle Mariners -- and 1,836 RBIs, including 8 100+ seasons.

He was a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player, and, in 1995, told the Mariners to "Jump on my back," and he carried them all the way to the AL Championship Series, probably convincing voters to approve the funding for what became Safeco Field, and saving Major League Baseball in the Northwest.

Ironically, the new ballpark was, unlike the homer-happy Kingdome, a pitcher's park, and it's one of the reasons he left. In 8 seasons in his adopted hometown of Cincinnati (Number 24 had been retired for Tony Perez, so he switched to his father's number, 30), he and the Reds never made the Playoffs, and they traded him to the Chicago White Sox, and he helped them win the AL Central Division, after 2 AL West titles in Seattle. But he never appeared in a World Series, giving him more career home runs than anyone who didn't.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility, with a record 99.32 percent of the vote. The Mariners retired his Number 24, and both they and the Reds elected him to their team Halls of Fame.

His son, George Kenneth Griffey III, a.k.a. Trey Griffey, was a receiver for the University of Arizona, and was good enough to be selected for the postseason East-West Shrine Game earlier this year. He was not drafted by any NFL team, and has since been signed and waived by both the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

7. Roger Staubach of the Cincinnati suburb of Silverton. Because he went to the U.S. Naval Academy, which has a national student body, and played for the Dallas Cowboys, it's hard to think of him as being from Ohio, or anywhere therein. But he had to come from somewhere.

In 1963, he led Navy to a Number 2 national ranking before losing to Number 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and won the Heisman Trophy -- and he remains the last player from any of the service academies to win it. He was injured for much of the 1964 season, but was Captain of Navy's baseball team in 1965. In 2008, ESPN named ranked him 9th on their list of the Top 25 College Football Players of All Time.

After graduation, he served in Vietnam, though not in combat, and played on service teams until his commitment was complete. The Cowboys had drafted him, and he was able to join them in 1969. They won the NFC Championship in 1970, with Craig Morton as quarterback, but lost Super Bowl V. He was handed the starting job, and led them to win Super Bowl VI, being named the game's MVP.

A 6-time Pro Bowler, and the 1971 NFL MVP, he became known as Captain Comeback and, after the Cowboys' success led to their calling themselves "America's Team," Captain America. Due to his success at scrambling, he became known as Roger the Dodger -- though he certainly hadn't dodged the draft, military or NFL. He led them to 3 more NFC Championships and victory in Super Bowl XII in the 1977 season.

The Academy retired his Number 12. The Cowboys don't retire numbers, but they haven't given 12 out since he retired after the 1979 season, and they named him to their Ring of Honor. He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, Staubach was ranked 29th. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 46th.

6. Jesse Owens of Cleveland. Certainly, he is the most important athlete on this list. Like his contemporary, Joe Louis, he was born in Alabama, but his family went to the Midwest as part of the "Great Migration" of black people leaving the South for good-paying industrial jobs in the considerably (but not completely) less racist North. He had already equaled the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash at East Technical High School. Then he went to Ohio State, and set all kinds of records in preparation for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Let's end the myth right here: On the opening day of the Olympics, Chancellor Adolf Hitler only congratulated German medalists. The President of the International Olympic Committee told him to greet every medalist, or none at all. He chose none at all -- with an exception for American sprinter Helen Stephens, whom he actually propositioned, and she turned him down -- and this was before Owens competed, so Hitler did not "snub" Owens any more than he snubbed anyone else.

Two days after the opening, on August 3, he won the 100 meters, edging future Congressman Ralph Metcalfe, also black. The next day, he won the long jump, falling short of the world record, which he had already set while at Ohio State. The next day, he won the 200 meters, edging another black competitor, Mack Robinson of UCLA -- Jackie's older brother. Four days after that, he anchored the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team. That's 4 Gold Medals in track & field at a single Olympics, a feat not matched by any competitor since, save one, and in the exact same 4 events: Carl Lewis in 1984.

Owens had won those Gold Medals, and had the Germany fans cheering his name, shattering Hitler's myth of "Aryan supremacy." He was not quite 23 years old. Hitler did, indirectly, stop him from winning any further medals, because World War II ended up canceling the Olympics for 1940 and 1944.

He made money where he could, including, after World War II, helping Harlem Globetrotters founder Abe Saperstein run a new all-black professional baseball league, but it fell apart quickly. "You can't eat four gold medals," he said of his financial struggles thereafter. Eventually, the federal government appointed him a goodwill ambassador, but he never again received the attention that Louis and Robinson did. But, in 1976, President Gerald Ford awarded him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He died in 1980 after decades of heavy smoking, and has become a forgotten legend. I wish I could rank him higher, but his time at the forefront of sports was rather brief.

5. LeBron James of Akron. (While it's only 40 miles south of Cleveland, as an industrial city of 200,000 people, it's not fair to call it a "suburb.") Where to begin? He was the 1st high school basketball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and he's the only athlete to be named their Sportsperson of the Year twice. (In 2012 and 2016. He was preceded by Tiger Woods, but golfers are not athletes.) Being on the cover so often does not seem to have jinxed him.

He went straight from high school to the NBA, to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, and became, except for Michael Jordan, the most-hyped player in NBA history. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2004. As of the 2017-18 season, he had been named to 15 All-Star Games, including 3 times being named the game's MVP. He led the league in scoring in 2008, and in the next 5 seasons, he was named to the All-Defensive First Team. He is a 4-time regular-season MVP.

But it's the postseason where the greatest of the great stamp their legends. In 2007, he got the Cavs to their 1st NBA Finals, but they got swept. After repeated Spring humiliations, and practically begging team owner Dan Gilbert to get better players around him, he played out his contract and, in a live ESPN special, said, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach." The people of Northern Ohio saw this as a massive betrayal, but let the record show that he did respect his contract, rather than forcing a move.

He went to the Miami Heat, played 4 seasons for them, and reached the Finals all 4 years, winning the title in 2012 and 2013. His contract completed there, he made peace with Gilbert, and returned to the Cavs. In his 1st 3 seasons back, he took them to the Finals all 3 times -- meaning he's now been to 7 straight Finals. In 2016, he finally got them their 1st title. For all 3 of his titles, he was named the winner of the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. He also led the U.S. team to the Olympic Gold Medal in 2008 in Beijing and in 2012 in London. He is 33 years old, and could have many more big years.

We are now hearing that he and Cavs management are feuding again, and people are already guessing where he will end up. Give it up, Knicks fans: He didn't want you last time, and he doesn't want you this time. He's had enough with chaotic management.

The Number 23 he wore with the Cavs in honor of Jordan, and the Number 6 he wore with the Heat in honor of Russell, will almost certainly be retired. He will almost certainly be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He will almost certainly be one of the first people selected in 2021 if the NBA names a 75th Anniversary 75 Greatest Players. (I say, "Almost certainly," because, as Pete Rose and the steroid users have shown us, there is no longer any such thing as a sure thing.

But he is not the greatest basketball player ever to come from Ohio. In terms of achievement, he is still behind...

4. John Havlicek of Bridgeport. Like Frank Howard, 4 years older and also a basketball player at Ohio State (but who chose baseball instead, and hit 382 home runs), he was nicknamed "Hondo." He may have been the most versatile basketball player who ever lived, capable of playing all 5 positions.

As sophomores in 1960, he and Jerry Lucas helped Ohio State win the National Championship. They then lost the Final to the University of Cincinnati in 1961 and 1962. Havlicek was drafted by the Boston Celtics, and his 1st year, 1962-63, was Bob Cousy's last year. They won the NBA Championship in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969.

Bill Russell then retired, but in 1970, Dave Cowens arrived, and he and Havlicek became the nucleus of a new great team. They won 68 games in 1973, but were beaten by the Knicks in the Playoffs. They rebounded in 1974, winning the title, and Havlicek was named the Finals MVP. They won another title in 1976, and he retired after the 1978 season. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, and the Celtics retired his Number 17. Chris Mullin later said he wore 17 in Hondo's honor.

Havlicek, Mazeroski, Phil and Joe Niekro, and Lou and Alex Groza all grew up within a few miles of each other, near Steubenville (hometown of singer Dean Martin), across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia, where Mazeroski was born. They also grew up within a few years of each other: Lou was born in 1924, Alex in 1926, Bill in 1936, Phil in 1939, Hondo in 1940, and Joe in 1944. The Niekros and Havlicek were boyhood friends, and would later meet Mazeroski and the Grozas and become friends with them as well.

Sports Illustrated did a feature on them in 1988, calling them "The Valley Boys." It also mentioned some guys they would have been, if not necessarily friends with, at least aware of: The aforementioned Holtz and the much-older Hinkle, Bob Gain of Wheeling (a College Football Hall-of-Famer and Browns teammate of Lou Groza, born in 1929), Calvin Jones of Steubenville (a College Football Hall-of-Famer, born in 1933), Gene Freese of Wheeling (a Pirate teammate of Mazeroski's, born in 1934), Bill Jobko of Bridgeport (a star for Ohio State and the Los Angeles Rams, born in 1935), Chuck Howley of Wheeling (a Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys, born in 1936), and Bob Jeter of Weirton, West Virginia (a Super Bowl winner with the Packers, born in 1937).

The article didn't mention Baseball Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers of Steubenville, because he moved to California as a boy, and he qualifies there, not here.

3. Marion Motley of Canton. Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, is much too small a town to have much chance of producing a player who will reach it. That is not the case with Canton, an industrial city of 72,000, 60 miles south of Cleveland, which was the birthplace of the NFL, and was thus selected as the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It has produced 3 members, Marion Motley, Alan Page and Dan Dierdorf -- and Chris Spielman could one day become the 4th.

In 1946, just as the Los Angeles Rams were reintegrating the NFL with Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, the Cleveland Browns were making the All-America Football Conference integrated from its start, with running back Motley and guard Bill Willis. So pro football is sometimes said to have had "four Jackie Robinsons."

He helped the Browns win all 4 AAFC titles and the 1950 NFL Championship. He led the AAFC in rushing in 1948 and the NFL in 1950. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL's 1940s All-Decade and 75th Anniversary Teams. The Browns have not retired his Number 76, but they have named him to their Ring of Honor, and the University of Nevada has retired the Number 41 that he wore there.

Motley became, after Bronko Nagurski, the model of the big bruising fullback, to be followed by men like Jim Brown and Jerome Bettis. He was also described by Blanton Collier, then an assistant to Paul Brown and later his successor as head coach, as someone who "had no equal as a blocker" and "a great, great linebacker."

When The Sporting News named their 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, they listed Brown 1st, and Motley, who played his last game in 1953, before TV took hold and NFL Films was founded, was listed 32nd. In 2010, the NFL Network listed Motley 74th on their list of the 100 Greatest Players, and Brown 2nd. But no less a player than Motley's quarterback, Otto Graham, said, "There is no comparison between Jim Brown and Marion Motley. Motley was the greatest all-around fullback."

In his 1970 book The Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football, Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman called him the best player in the history of the sport. When "Dr. Z" updated that book in 1984, 14 years later, following a refresher on a lot of old football film, he refused to change that ranking.

2. Mike Schmidt of Dayton. A 12-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a leader of the National League in home runs 8 times and in RBIs 4 times, he has been called the greatest 3rd baseman who ever lived. His 548 home runs led all National Leaguers, and all righthanded hitters, in his generation. (Among American Leaguers and lefthanders in his generation, only Reggie Jackson had more.)

He was named National League Most Valuable Player in 1980, 1981 and 1986 -- the last of these, in spite of the Mets finishing 21 1/2 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1980, he was named MVP of the World Series, the Phillies' 1st title. In 1983, as part of the team's Centennial, fan balloting named him the greatest player in franchise history -- and he still had 163 home runs, an MVP, and a Pennant ahead of him. All told, he helped the Phillies reach the postseason 6 times -- and they'd only done so twice before.

His Number 20 was retired (he said he wore it in honor of his favorite player growing up, Frank Robinson of the nearby Cincinnati Reds), and he was easily elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility. In 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and was ranked 28th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, making him not only the highest-ranking 3rd baseman, but the highest-ranking player who debuted after 1967.

Fast facts with which you can amaze your friends: On June 23, 1971, Rick Wise pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies, and the last out was a line drive to 3rd baseman John Vuckovich; on August 15, 1990, Terry Mulholland pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies, and the last out was a line drive to 3rd baseman Charlie Hayes; in between was the entire career of Mike Schmidt, but he never played in a winning no-hitter.

But Schmidt is not the greatest athlete, or the greatest baseball player, to come from Ohio. After all, as great as he was, there's no Mike Schmidt Award.

1. Cy Young of Gilmore. He was born Denton True Young on March 29, 1867, and by 1889 "Dent" Young was pitching in the minor leagues. He was given a tryout by a team in Canton, and after throwing some of his fastballs against a wooden fence, the manager said it looked like a cyclone had wrecked it. So he became "Cyclone" Young, and this was shortened to "Cy."

Canton became too small for him, and in 1890, the Cleveland Spiders of the National League game calling. Many pitchers who were proven good by then were harshly affected by the 1893 move of the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches. If anything, it made Young more effective. He kept pitching, and pitching, and pitching, until 1911, at the age of 44.
His records of 906 career appearances, 76 shutouts and 2,803 strikeouts have been surpassed by many pitchers, but most of his records are, due to the increase in hitting after 1920 and the rise of the relief pitcher in the latter half of the 20th Century, absolutely unassailable unless there is an equally dramatic change in the other direction: 511 wins, 316 losses, 815 starts, 749 complete games, 7,356 innings pitched, and 29,565 batters faced.

There's no way to know how many pitches he threw, but if we guess that he averaged a little over 4 pitches per batter, that's over 120,000 pitches in his career. Don't show that number to Joe Girardi, or he'll have a stroke. His career ERA was 2.63, his ERA+ 138, and his WHIP 1.130 -- so he wasn't just feasting off the Dead Ball Era: He was great even by the standards of his own time.

He pitched 3 no-hitters, and when he pitched a perfect game for the Boston Americans (forerunners of the Red Sox) against the Philadelphia Athletics (and their own Hall of Fame pitcher, Rube Waddell, no less) on May 5, 1904, not only did it make him the 1st pitcher to throw a perfect game in the American League, or in either League with the 60-and-6 distance, but it made him the 1st pitcher to throw no-hitters in both Leagues.

He didn't have many chances for postseason play. In 1892, he helped the Spiders finish 2nd in the NL, and they wound up beating the Pennant-winning Boston Beaneaters (forerunners of the Braves) for the Temple Cup, although he didn't win a game in that series. In 1903, he went 2-1 for the proto-Red Sox during the 1st-ever World Series, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1904, they won the Pennant again, but the New York Giants chickened out, and the World Series wasn't played.

He won 241 games for the NL Spiders, and another 29 for the AL Indians, so his 270 wins are still the most in Cleveland history, 4 ahead of Bob Feller. He won 192 games for the Red Sox, and Roger Clemens was only able to tie him for the team's all-time lead. In 1947, at age 80, he appeared at the Yankees' 1st Old-Timers Day, in a Cleveland Indians uniform, Number 29. (The Indians have not retired the number for him, but both they and the Red Sox have elected him to their team halls of fame.)

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937, in its 2nd round of elections, with the only pitchers preceding him in the previous year's election being Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. In 1999, 88 years after his last game, and 44 years after his death, The Sporting News ranked him 14th on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, again trailing only Johnson and Mathewson among pitchers. That same year, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, even though he was already 33 years old when the 20th Century began.
This was the only color photo I could find of Cy Young, taken
at that Old-Timers Day in 1947. Ironically, he's holding a bat.
The Chicago White Sox player in the background is
his Hall of Fame contemporary, Big Ed Walsh.

When he died at age 88 in 1955, a month after the end of the season, Major League Baseball established the Cy Young Award, to be given to the most valuable pitcher in the major leagues, since many people thought pitchers, appearing only 1 game out of every 4 in those days, shouldn't be eligible for the Most Valuable Player award. The inaugural honoree, in 1956, was Don Newcombe, and he won the MVP anyway. In 1967, each League was given a separate award.

Because of the historical distinction of the 1st World Series, a statue of Cy Young now stands on the campus of Northeastern University, roughly where the pitcher's mound was at the Red Sox' home at the time, the Huntington Avenue Grounds.

Supposedly, a few years before he died, someone walked up to him and said, "Didn't you used to play baseball?" Cy Young answered, "Mister, I won more games than you'll ever see."

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