Saturday, September 9, 2017

Top 10 Athletes From the District of Columbia

September 9, 1791: The City of Washington and the District of Columbia are created by Congress. Despite the best efforts of many, D.C. is still not a State, and only has non-voting representation in Congress.

Top 10 Athletes from the District of Columbia.

Note: They are only counted if they grew up in, and were trained to play their sport in, D.C. If they were born there, but grew up in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, they count for those States instead.

Honorable Mention to John Thompson of Archbishop Carroll High School. He played basketball at Providence College, and was their all-time leading scorer upon his graduation in 1964. That New England performance led Boston Celtics head coach and general manager Red Auerbach to draft him to be Bill Russell's backup at center. He won NBA Championships in 1965 and 1966, and was then taken in the expansion draft by the Chicago Bulls.

Instead, he took the head coaching job at D.C.'s St. Anthony High School, and by 1972 had a 122-28 record. That got the attention of Georgetown University, whom he coached until 1999. He won 3 different National Coach of the Year awards, and took the Hoyas to the NCAA Final in 1982, 1984 and 1985. The 1982 and '85 Finals were among the biggest upsets in history. But in 1984, he became the 1st black man to coach a National Champion.

His Georgetown players included Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson -- all now, like him, in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He doesn't make this list as a player, but, as a coach, he made a greater contribution to his sport than anyone who did make this list.

Honorable Mention to Eddie Jordan of Archbishop Carroll High School. He played for Rutgers' 1976 Final Four team, played for the Nets, won an NBA title with the 1982 Los Angeles Lakers, and has been head coach at Rutgers, and for the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and his hometown Washington Wizards. He is now an assistant coach for the Charlotte Hornets.

Honorable Mention to other Carroll athletes: Football's John Johnson, Jevon Langford, Jamal Williams and Jeremiah Attaochu; and basketball's Tom Hoover (former Knick and Net), Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Kris Joseph. Former Republican National Committee Chairman and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Michael Steele is also a Carroll graduate.

John Carroll was America's 1st Archbishop, leading a congregation in Baltimore. There is also an Archbishop Carroll High School in Philadelphia.

If you're wondering where Kevin Durant is on this list, he isn't on it. He may have been born in Washington, but he grew up over the District Line in Maryland, the 1st State for which I did this, back on April 28 of this year, so he's listed there.

10. Guy Harris "Doc" White. It wasn't just a nickname: The D.C. native graduated from the Georgetown University School of Dentistry, making him baseball's most successful dentist -- because, while Casey Stengel attended dental school, he never graduated.

Doc White won 189 games as a major league pitcher from 1901 to 1913, losing 156. He and Big Ed Walsh formed a potent lefty-righty tandem that helped the Chicago White Sox win the 1906 World Series. There was no All-Star Game to honor him, but he led the American League in earned run average in 1906, and both Leagues in wins in 1907, with 27.

In 1906, not only did he help win the Series, collecting the 1st save in Series history in Game 5, and lead the AL in ERA, but he set a major league record of 45 consecutive scoreless innings. That total has been surpassed only 3 times, by Walter Johnson in 1913, Don Drysdale in 1968, and Orel Hershiser in 1988. He died in 1969, shortly after Drysdale's 58 record of 2/3rds.

9. Derek Mills. A graduate of DeMatha Catholic High School in nearby Hyattsville, Maryland, he became a star sprinter at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Also in Atlanta, he was a member of the U.S. team that won the Gold Medal in the 4x400-meter relay.

He later graduated from Tulane University, receiving an MBA and a Juris Doctor from the New Orleans school, where he is now on the track team's coaching staff.

Morgan Wootten coached basketball at DeMatha from 1956 to 2002, and is the winningest high school coach in hoops history. Among his players -- not necessarily from D.C. or nearby -- were Mills, Adrian Dantley, Kenny Carr (apparently, no relation to Austin), Dereck Whittenburg (assisted the final basket in North Carolina State's upset win in the 1983 NCAA Final, and is now N.C. State's assistant athletic director), Sidney Lowe (also on that '83 N.C. State team), Danny Ferry and Keith Bogans. Since Wootten's retirement (UPDATE: He died in 2020), DeMatha has produced NBA players Victor Oladipo, Quinn Cook, brothers Jerian and Jerami Grant, and Markelle Fultz.

Not surprisingly, Wootten also coached some future head coaches: Current Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, former Northeastern and Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, former Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer, current Louisville assistant Mike Pegues, Sportscasters James Brown and David Aldridge also played for Wootten.

Other noted DeMatha athletes: Baseball's Steve Farr and Brett Cecil; Football-playing brothers Brian and Byron Westbrook, soccer goalie Bill Hamid, and 1996 Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Derek Mills.

8. Austin Carr of Mackin Catholic High School -- since merged into the better-known Archbishop Carroll. At Notre Dame in the 1969-70 season, he followed Pete Maravich of Louisiana State to become only the 2nd college basketball player to score 1,000 points in a season. He also set NCAA Tournament records for most points in a game (61), most field goals made in a game (25) and most field goals attempted in a game (44).

For his collegiate career, he set a record for highest scoring average in NCAA Tournament play (50 over 7 games). All of these records still stand, 46 and 47 years later. And there was no 3-point rule to aid him (or Maravich, either). He was named Player of the Year in 1971 by the Naismith Foundation, the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), and the Helms Foundation. He has been elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

His pro career was nearly anticlimactic, but he did lift the Cleveland Cavaliers out of expansion misery to within 2 games of the NBA Eastern Conference title in 1976. He was named an All-Star in 1974. The Cavs retired his Number 34. He is now a broadcaster for them, and in such role he finally received an NBA Championship ring in 2016.

Like Walt Frazier of the Knicks, he is known for his broadcasting catchphrases. For a Cavs dunk, "He throws the hammer down!" For a Cavs blocked shot, "Get that weak stuff outta here!" When a Cav is guarded by a much smaller player, "We got a mouse in the house." For an opposing airball, "There's a breeze in the building!" And, pandering to the Ohio State fans in the Cleveland area, when a Cav hits a long jumper, "He dots the i!"

Honorable Mention to Johnny Dawkins of Mackin Catholic, who led Mike Krzyzewski's 1st Final Four team at Duke in 1986 (as was the aforementioned Danny Ferry), played 9 years in the NBA, and is now the head coach at the University of Central Florida after holding that post at Stanford.

7. Maury Wills of Cardozo High School. He played on the 1948 Cardozo football team that went undefeated, untied and unscored upon. In 1950, he set a city record by striking out 17 batters in one game.

The school was named for Francis Lewis Cardozo, a clergyman, an early black public officeholder, and a longtime principal in the segregated D.C. public school system -- not for Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo. Besides, Wills, notable alumni include FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Admiral John McCain Jr., and singer Marvin Gaye.

But the fame of Maurice Morning Wills would come not as a football player or a pitcher, but as the man who, along with Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the Chicago White Sox, and Jackie Robinson before them, reminded baseball of just how much of a weapon the stolen base could be.

The shortstop set a new major league record with 104 stolen bases in 1962, winning the National League Most Valuable Player award. He helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series in 1959 (beating Aparicio and Fox and the rest of the "Go-Go White Sox"), 1963 and 1965, and another Pennant in 1966. He was a 7-time All-Star and a 2-time Gold Glove. He batted .281 lifetime, with 586 stolen bases.

His tenure as a manager, his cocaine use (which apparently began while he was managing in the Mexican League), his contentious relationship with his son, former major leaguer Elliott "Bump" Wills (the 2nd baseman holds the Texas Rangers' single-season record with 52 stolen bases in 1978), and his 2 controversial books left people who had idolized him in the early 1960s puzzled and saddened. He has since gotten clean, remarried, and returned to the Dodger organization as a club ambassador.

Because he was a broadcaster for the Fargo-Moorhead Hawks, there is a museum in his honor in Fargo, North Dakota. This is also the hometown of Roger Maris, who also has a museum there -- Maury's is at the ballpark, Roger's is at a mall. They have something else in common: The former separate records (though there was never an "asterisk"). Roger's 61 home runs in 1961 and Maury's 104 stolen bases set single-season records that have since been broken, but didn't break the old records (Babe Ruth's 60 homers in 1927 and Ty Cobb's 96 steals in 1915) within the 1st 104 games.

And neither has ever been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is another Veterans Committee election later this year. Maury is being talked about as having a good chance, Roger is not. Roger died in 1985, denied it in his lifetime. Maury is about to turn 85, so they may have to hurry. Because he is not yet in, I can't rank him ahead of anybody who is in his sport's Hall of Fame.

6. Dave Bing of Joel Elias Spingarn High School. On the playgrounds of D.C., he was so good, he made a friend of his give up sports for music. That friend was Marvin Gaye. Bing starred at Syracuse University, then became a 7-time NBA All-Star. He was Rookie of the Year with the Detroit Pistons in 1967. Syracuse retired his Number 22, the Pistons his Number 21. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

He never came close to winning a title, though. He had considerably more luck after his playing career, making a fortune in the steel industry, having stayed in Detroit and supplying metal to the automotive industry. He was elected Mayor of Detroit in 2009, but the job of running America's most stricken city proved too much even for him, and he did not run for re-election in 2013.

5. Adrian Dantley. As I mentioned earlier, he didn't go to high school in the District, instead going to DeMatha, where he starred for Wootten. Like Austin Carr, he went to Notre Dame, and led them to the win that ended UCLA's record 88-game winning streak in 1974. In 1976, he led the U.S. team to the Gold Medal at the Olympics in Montreal.

A 6-time NBA All-Star, he was Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Braves in 1977. With the Utah Jazz, he led the NBA in scoring in 1981 and 1984, and they eventually retired his Number 4. He won the 1989 NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons. (They have not, as yet, retired Number 45 for him, as 4 was then worn by Joe Dumars, for whom they have retired it.) He led the league in free throws 6 times, and shares the record for most made in a game, with 28. (The other time it happened was in Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962.)

He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and spent time as an assistant to George Karl on the Denver Nuggets, filling in as acting head coach during Karl's cancer treatment. His son Cameron Dantley was the starting quarterback for Syracuse University in 2008.

4. Jonathan Ogden of St. Albans School. The offensive tackle helped UCLA win the Pac-10 in 1993, and the 1994 Rose Bowl. In 1995, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation's leading interior lineman. UCLA retired his Number 79.

He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, and made the Pro Bowl in 11 of his 12 NFL seasons. He won Super Bowl XXXV with them, and was elected to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and the Ravens Ring of Honor.

The District has never produced a Heisman Trophy winner.

St. Albans, a Catholic school named for the 1st British-born Christian martyr, might be D.C.'s most-honored high school. In addition to Ogden, its athletes include football's Odell Beckham Jr. (New Orleans native), baseball's Matt Bowman.

It's also produced Vice President Al Gore; his fellow Senators Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Warner of Virginia, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Michael Bennet of Colorado; former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean; journalists Donald Graham, Brit Hume and David Ignatius; Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins; hotel magnate J.W. Marriott Jr.; and actors Clancy Brown, Jameson Parker and Jefrey Wright.

3. Len Ford of Samuel Chapman Armstrong Technical High School -- now Friendship Armstrong Academy. A 3-sport star at Armstrong, when to all-black Morgan State University in Baltimore, served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and then transferred to the University of Michigan, which he helped win the 1947 National Championship.

He then starred for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference, and joined the Cleveland Browns, winning the NFL Championship in 1950, 1954 and 1955, and also reaching the NFL Championship Game in 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1957. A 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, big for the time, he was, along with Leo Nomellini of the San Francisco 49ers, 1 of the 2 best defensive ends of the 1950s, making 4 Pro Bowls. While certain records were not always kept, the 20 fumbles he recovered during his career are believed to be an NFL record for the time.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team. He became the Assistant Recreation Director for the City of Detroit, but drank himself to death in 1972, only 46 years old.

2. Elgin Baylor of Joel Elias Spingarn High School. The forward led Seattle University to the 1958 NCAA Final, losing to the University of Kentucky, but being named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers, moving with them to Los Angeles in 1960.

An 11-time All-Star, he was Rookie of the Year in 1959, and led them to the Western Conference Championship in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969 and 1970. The 71 points he scored on November 15, 1960 was a record, soon broken by Wilt Chamberlain. The 61 points he scored in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals remains an NBA Finals record.

He was hailed as one of the earliest players to make the game "vertical" -- that is, to have airborne acrobatics near the basket. He was named to the NBA's 35th Anniversary Team and its 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players. His Number 22 was retired by both his college and his pro team, and he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

But there's a cloud over him. Those 8 NBA Finals he went to? The Lakers lost all 8, despite also having Jerry West, and later Gail Goodrich, and, still later, Chamberlain. Then, early in the 1971-72 season, he retired. The very next day, the Lakers began a 33-game winning streak, which remains a record for any North American major league sports franchise. And they finally won the NBA title that year.

He was on the initial coaching staff of the expansion New Orleans Jazz in 1974-75, and later served as head coach, but never made the Playoffs. In 1986, he was named vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, and remained in that office until 2008, until he was 74 -- partly because Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the only NBA owner would put up with his poor record, and partly because Baylor was the only man who would put up with Sterling never giving a GM enough money to build a good team. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2006, but finally quit when even he couldn't take Sterling's abuse, racial and otherwise, anymore. He's never worked in basketball again.

Spingarn High School, which produced Baylor and the aforementioned Dave Bing, was named after an educator and literary critic who established the Spingarn Medal, an annual award for achievement, effectively black America's Nobel Prize. The school was closed in 2013. In addition to Baylor and Adrian Dantley, graduates include basketball star Sherman Douglas.

1. Willie Wood of Armstrong Tech. Like Ogden, he went from D.C. to L.A. to play college ball. At the University of Southern California in 1957, he was the 1st black quarterback in the league now known as the Pac-12. But a shoulder injury led him to be shifted to safety -- not that the NFL was likely to draft a black quarterback at that time, anyway -- but he became one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history.

He wasn't drafted anyway, so he wrote a letter to Green Bay Packers head coach and general manager Vince Lombardi, asking for a tryout. Lombardi must have liked what he read, because he granted it.
Smart move: Wood made 8 Pro Bowls, and helped the Packers win 5 Championships, including the 1st 2 Super Bowls. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, and the Packers Hall of Fame.

In addition to Wood and Len Ford, Armstrong graduates include music legends Duke Ellington and Billy Eckstine.

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