One of my friends, a former teaching colleague posted his list of his 10 favorite athletes. I did so too. Here they are from me.
- Muhammad Ali: Sat next to him at a fight in Madison Square Garden. Nicest guy ever. Sad what happened to him. I remember when he met the great but ancient Joe Louis who was in a wheelchair, drooling, nodding and mentally out of it. Ali said, “I will never become like that.” God has a vicious sense of humor doesn’t he? Ali wound up far, far worse.
- Joe DiMaggio: Kind of a family tradition. Met him at Yankee Stadium in 1953. Despite what authors have written about his aloofness, he shook my hand and talked to me about my (MY!) playing baseball. I was six years old and I remember the meeting clearly. So I am a die hard Yankee fan because of that meeting.
- Jackie Robinson: He’s in heaven now (if there is a heaven). Took a lot of crap and performed athletically and intellectually at the highest level. Not many men could have done what he did and done it brilliantly. Met him once at Ebbets Field. I was also a Dodgers fan until they moved to California.
- Oscar Robertson: The best of all time. I know, I know everyone thinks it is Jordan but Oscar is and was the man. His nemesis, Jerry West, was another great one but no one was Oscar.
- Larry Bird and Magic Johnson: Entwined together in my mind. The greatest rivalry in basketball of all time. Two of the top 10 greats in the sport.
- Sugar Ray Leonard: Just a shade below Sugar Ray Robinson, the fighter who was truly the greatest of all time. Leonard fought the best of his generation in some spectacular matches.
- Jesse Owens: Fuck you Hitler! An American who showed the truth about himself and the freedom to compete in a free society (well, not quite as free for some Americans). Of course, it has taken almost a hundred years of struggle but we are (I hope) moving in the right direction. Jesse Owens showed us that we can win.
- Lou Gehrig: One of the five greatest baseball players of all time. Courage and class all the way.
- Babe Ruth: A serious abuser of food and booze and cigars. Those three things should now be banned from sports because look what they did for “the Babe.” An amazing hitter, an amazing pitcher, an amazing guy. His statistics topped many entire teams in his day and they are still a high standard to live up to.
- Willie Mays: One of the five best baseball players of all time. Brought joy to the game and was great to watch even when he was older.
(There you go. I do have my “don’t like” list too. Maybe someday I’ll post that. There is no football or other sports on my list since those aren’t in my vision.)