There have been many athletes labeled as “once in a generation” or “game changing” throughout sports history. Names like Jordan, The Babe, and Gretzky have been synonymous with greatness. Wayne Gretzky was even nicknamed, “The Great One”.
I always wonder what it would have been like to see some of the greatest athletes of all time play in person. I’ve seen Jordan and Gretzky play, I’ve walked a bunch of holes following Tiger Woods at the British and US Opens, and I was even in the stands for Barry Bonds’ 650th homer. But there were so many other athletes that I wish I saw play in person.
Ten athletes came to mind when I started to think about this. The list is in no particular order, but I hope you start to think about the same thing and share your list as well. Here are the first five.
1. Ted Williams
Arguably the greatest hitter that ever lived, Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox was one of the most amazing players in baseball history. This is a man who lost three of his prime years, ages 24-26, to serving in the Air Force during World War II, and then two more, ages 33 and 34, to injury. Williams basically lost five years of his career and still managed to hit 521 home runs and have a career .482 on base percentage, which ranks him number one of all time. Williams’ incredible eyesight and patience at the plate allowed him to be a deadly fighter pilot as well as know what a ball and a strike was. The “Splendid Splinter” never struck out more than 64 times in a season, and had 100 or more walks 11 times. Williams is also the last player to finish the season with a batting average of .400 or higher. Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941 still remains as the last time someone “hit .400”. However, Williams did not win the MVP award that year, as Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees, set a record of his own. DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak started on May 15th, 1941 and didn’t end until July 17th that year. “Teddy Ballgame” has always had one of the most sought after signatures in all of the sports world. If you are looking for a Williams signature, make sure to use a reputable dealer to find authentic Williams memorabilia
2. Brian Bozworth
Right around the time when I started to get into football, there was this guy that they called “The Boz”. I never really knew who or what he was. I had just heard about this guy who played football for the University of Oklahoma was the biggest, fastest, and strongest guy ever to play linebacker. Then I saw his picture in Sports Illustrated.
This guy was cool. He had the look of a killing machine and he played the part on Saturdays. But, Bozworth eventually tested positive for steroids during his second season at Oklahoma and was banned from playing football by the NCAA. Bozworth was selected in the NFL’s supplemental draft in 1987 by the Seattle Seahawks and had a solid rookie season, but is most famously remembered by this run by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football.
“Boz” was a physical specimen, unfortunately none of it was natural and the peak of his career was during his college days. Bozworth was forced to retire from the NFL after only two seasons do to a shoulder injury.
3. Bo Jackson
“Bo Knows”. One of the greatest marketing slogans of all time. Not only was that one of the greatest marketing slogans of all time, but Bo Jackson was one of the greatest athletes of all time. Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson is the only athlete to be names an All-Star in two sports, baseball and football. In 1985, Jackson won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s most outstanding player for Auburn University. After being lied to by the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about the NCAA saying it was OK to be on the team’s private jet, Bo was ruled ineligible for the remainder of his senior baseball season. Jackson vowed to never play for Tampa Bay if he was selected by them in the NFL draft. The Bucs called his bluff, and took him number one overall in the 1986 draft. Jackson then held true to his word and never signed with the club. Luckily, the Kansas City Royals did draft Jackson in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB draft. Bo had a solid season in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in September of 1986. In 1987, the Oakland Raiders selected him in the 7th round of the NFL draft. Although his baseball career was taking off, the Raiders made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Bo’s contract would allow him to join the Raiders after the baseball season ended. Jackson went on to win the 1989 All-Star Game MVP, the pinnacle of his baseball career. Although he had to retire from football in 1991 due to a hip injury, he gave us on of the most memorable performances in Monday Night Football history. Blazing speed and power were both on display one Monday night in Seattle…
221 yards rushing, including two of the most infamous TD runs of all time. 91 yards, untouched, though the tunnel. And then running over “The Boz”. If it wasn’t for that hip injury, who knows what Bo could have been?
“50 in 50” is a term hockey fans all across North America are familiar with. It refers to a player scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games of the season. Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders became only the second player in NHL history to do so in 1981.
Bossy’s 0.762 goals per game rank number one in NHL history. After 573 goals in only 10 NHL seasons, Bossy was forced to retire at the ripe old age of 30 due to knee and back problems. That’s right, 30. Bossy’s 9 straight seasons of 50 or more goals ranks number one all-time (Wayne Gretzky later tied him). In his final season, he scored 38 goals in only 63 games. Being a die-hard Islanders fan, I really wish I was able to see him play. I never got to watch the Islanders dynasty, and never got to see Bossy play live since I Was born in 1980. These days players, especially those of Bossy’s caliber, are able to perform at high levels later into their career. Even if he just played until he was 35, I would have seen one of the greatest players of all time at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
5. Mike Tyson
The baddest man on the planet. That was how people used to describe the most feared boxer ever to stand in the ring. Mike Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years, 4 months, and 22 days old. Tyson won his first 19 professional bouts by knockout, 12 of them in the first round. He was the first heavyweight boxer to hold all three (WBA, WBC and IBF) titles, and the only heavyweight to successively unify them. Tyson started his career 37-0, and most of them ended in dramatic fashion. Check out some of these vicious knockouts. (The music is not in English, but there are plenty of NSFW lyrics that you will be able to understand.)
After Tyson’s surprising loss to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, Tyson’s life basically spun out of control and he was never the same fighter. The whole world used to stop and watch Tyson whenever he was fighting. No fighter since Tyson has captivated the world like him.
Check back later this week for athletes 6-10.