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  • Footnote Athletes

    Always been fascinated by what David Wallechinsky (in The People's Almanac) called "footnote people in history." Along those lines, have always loved hearing stories about such people in sports - many times the potential greatest evers, but for some reason, never got there - social reasons, injuries, lack of effort, alcohol and drugs, early death. Many of these athletes are not well known - usually only to the cognoscenti in their respective sports. Sports Illustrated had an article a few weeks ago on Brian Coles, a baseball player who deserves to be on such a list - I have never heard of him before.

    Here is my list for various sports - can justify all but cannot do so in this post because of size limits:

    Baseball – Steve Dalkowski, Brian Coles, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige
    Basketball – Herman “Copter” Knowings, Earl Manigault, Connie Hawkins (pre-NBA)
    Football – Duane Thomas, Joe Don Looney, Ken Hall, Bo Jackson
    Golf – Eddie Pearce, Tom Weiskopf, Moe Norman
    Tennis – Ellsworth Vines, Lew Hoad, Billy Martin
    Decathlon – Russ Hodge, Heino Lipp, Bill Watson
    Sprinters – Steve Williams, Eulace Peacock
    Auto Racing – Stefan Bellof
    Figure Skating – Janet Lynn

  • #2
    Re: Footnote Athletes

    Aren't these lists kind of endless? I can think of oodles of people who should have done better but didn't and probably few have heard of.

    And Janet Lynn. I don't remember if she won or not, though at this time I don't think it really matters anymore, since if she didn't I have no idea who did. I do believe she went on to Ice Capades, did well, got married and lived happily ever after.

    Except for Mark Spitz, who remembers any Olympians from that era?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Footnote Athletes

      Originally posted by Conor Dary
      Except for Mark Spitz, who remembers any Olympians from that era?
      Lasse Viren, Frank Shorter, Dave Wottle are very memorable.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Footnote Athletes

        Originally posted by Conor Dary
        Aren't these lists kind of endless? I can think of oodles of people who should have done better but didn't and probably few have heard of.

        And Janet Lynn. I don't remember if she won or not, though at this time I don't think it really matters anymore, since if she didn't I have no idea who did. I do believe she went on to Ice Capades, did well, got married and lived happily ever after.

        Except for Mark Spitz, who remembers any Olympians from that era?
        Janet Lynn (ne Nowicki) won a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics. But most figure skating aficionados still consider her the greatest free skater ever, relative to her time. Were it not for the stupid school figures everybody had to do then, she was unbeatable. She also changed the sport. Her losing made figure skating add the short program so that skaters had a second chance to do a free skate-type program. Unfortunately it was too late for her.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Footnote Athletes

          Originally posted by Conor Dary
          Aren't these lists kind of endless? I can think of oodles of people who should have done better but didn't and probably few have heard of.
          Have we ever complained about endless lists before on this message board? Isn't that what these things are about?

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          • #6
            Re: Footnote Athletes

            why Russ Hodge?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Footnote Athletes

              Originally posted by bambam
              Originally posted by Conor Dary
              Aren't these lists kind of endless? I can think of oodles of people who should have done better but didn't and probably few have heard of.

              And Janet Lynn. I don't remember if she won or not, though at this time I don't think it really matters anymore, since if she didn't I have no idea who did. I do believe she went on to Ice Capades, did well, got married and lived happily ever after.

              Except for Mark Spitz, who remembers any Olympians from that era?
              Janet Lynn (ne Nowicki) won a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics. But most figure skating aficionados still consider her the greatest free skater ever, relative to her time. Were it not for the stupid school figures everybody had to do then, she was unbeatable. She also changed the sport. Her losing made figure skating add the short program so that skaters had a second chance to do a free skate-type program. Unfortunately it was too late for her.
              Trixi Schuba that won gold was a master of compulsory figures, but her free skate was without doubt the most pitiful of any Olympic champion. She managed all double jumps that were low, barely above ice. Her spins were borderline OK. I think it was Trixi that forced the skating federation to reconsider the scoring (school was worth 2/3 of a total score).
              "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
              by Thomas Henry Huxley

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              • #8
                Re: Footnote Athletes

                And Lew Hoad?
                Hoad could have been better known but played through the Gonzales / Rosewall / Laver era... still Hoad was an all-time tennis great.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Footnote Athletes

                  Originally posted by Pego
                  Trixi Schuba that won gold was a master of compulsory figures, but her free skate was without doubt the most pitiful of any Olympic champion. She managed all double jumps that were low, barely above ice. Her spins were borderline OK. I think it was Trixi that forced the skating federation to reconsider the scoring (school was worth 2/3 of a total score).
                  It was a combination of Schuba's free skating being so poor relative to Lynn's and Lynn's free skating brilliance that led the ISU to change the format - adding a short program, and further devaluing school figures.

                  Also % were 60/40 for school/free skate thru 1964. That changed in 1968 to 50/50 scoring for school and free skating. In 1976 it changed to 30% for school figures, 20% for short program, and 50% for free skate.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Footnote Athletes

                    Originally posted by gh
                    why Russ Hodge?
                    Decathlon guys based an Zarnowski's book and Hodge based on his potential as 60+ shot put and good speed. I know, I know - he was much bigger when he put the shot 60+ and wasn't able to sprint at his top speed at that point. But his event scores were much higher than Toomey's in that era but he never seemed able to put it all together,

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Footnote Athletes

                      Originally posted by jhc68
                      And Lew Hoad?
                      Hoad could have been better known but played through the Gonzales / Rosewall / Laver era... still Hoad was an all-time tennis great.
                      Hoad almost won the Grand Slam in 1956, winning Australia, France, Wimbledon, and losing US final to Rosewall, his best friend. He turned pro after the next season, but back injuries hampered his career a great deal. No less than Pancho Gonzales said Hoad was the greatest player he had ever seen, at his best.

                      On Ellsworth Vines, he was great in the 1930s, after Don Budge, but turned pro early and then turned to pro golf (he played in the Masters a couple times). Jack Kramer, who ran the pro tours in the 50s-60s said Vines at his best was the greatest player he had ever seen.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Footnote Athletes

                        Originally posted by bambam
                        Originally posted by Pego
                        Trixi Schuba that won gold was a master of compulsory figures, but her free skate was without doubt the most pitiful of any Olympic champion. She managed all double jumps that were low, barely above ice. Her spins were borderline OK. I think it was Trixi that forced the skating federation to reconsider the scoring (school was worth 2/3 of a total score).
                        It was a combination of Schuba's free skating being so poor relative to Lynn's and Lynn's free skating brilliance that led the ISU to change the format - adding a short program, and further devaluing school figures.

                        Also % were 60/40 for school/free skate thru 1964. That changed in 1968 to 50/50 scoring for school and free skating. In 1976 it changed to 30% for school figures, 20% for short program, and 50% for free skate.
                        Obviously, my memory is beginning to fail me. Who am I kidding with "beginning"?
                        "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
                        by Thomas Henry Huxley

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Footnote Athletes

                          I think there is a difference between those who were deterred by "social reasons" and everyone else. The ones who were deterred by racial segregation, pro-am split, Olympic boycott, etc. did reach their potential (relatively speaking, that is. No one reached the full potential). They were simply not able to show their greatness in the most glorious venue. As for the others, we can only speculate on how good they could have become.

                          The case of Janet Lynn is interesting because we know how good she was. It was just the stupid rule (60% of total points in compulsory) that prevented her from the titles. So I think that also belongs to "social reasons."

                          In tennis, Althea Gibson could have achieved far more if not for the segregation. Mo Connolly's career was cut short because of a freak accident. Kramer, Pancho and Rosewall are all underrated because of the pro-am split.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Footnote Athletes

                            I would almost pay to see a NYC playground game when Earl Manigault was playing. And I rarely pay to see anything

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Footnote Athletes

                              Originally posted by no one
                              I would almost pay to see a NYC playground game when Earl Manigault was playing. And I rarely pay to see anything
                              Yeah, but the problem I've heard from guys who cover the NBA was that the Goat was a 6-5 center basically, so really would have had no chance in the NBA against Russell, Chamberlain, Thurmond, Reed, in that era, despite being a playground legend.

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