From some of the emails I’ve received, you readers seem to disagree with some of my choices. Well, that’s what makes the world go round- free choice. Let’s see if I stir up any disagreements with these selections.
#46- I must admit that there is not a whole lot to choose from with this number. I boils down to Andy Pettitte versus Lee Smith. Of those two I will certainly go with Smith who is the all-time save leader.
#47- In spite of David Brock’s feelings about him, I can’t go with Tom Glavine. I still haven’t totally forgiven him for leaving the Braves a few years ago to go to the hated Mets so, my choice is the great defensive back from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mel Blount.
#48- Even less to choose from here. My default, the winner is Jimmie Johnson.
#49- If just for his 1978 season when he went 25-3 with a 1.70 ERA for the Yankees, Ron Guidry would be the choice. There have not been many pitching efforts that were as dominating as that season was in the history of the game. Doggone it! Why’d he have to be a Yankee?
#50- For runners up I’ll name Ralph Sampson and the steely-eyed linebacker for the Bears, Mike Singletary. And ladies, I’ll even throw one in for you- Rebecca Lobo. But the clear-cut winner at this number is “The Admiral”, David Robinson. Robinson was great in both college and the pros and one of the “good guys” in sports. Miss seeing him play now that he is retired.
#51- Ichiro Suzuki might get some of your votes and Trevor Hoffman is making a strong claim for the title, but nobody can surpass another great Chicago Bear linebacker, Dick Butkus. Butkus terrorized running backs and quarterbacks in college at Illinois and continued his fierce style of play in the pros. One of the most feared players ever, Butkus was a brute. I think if you look up the definition for the word “linebacker” in the dictionary, you’ll see his picture.
#52- Can’t do it. I just can’t say the name of this linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens. I think he could be one of the poster children for what is ruining sports today. In his mind, and mostly his mouth, it is all about him. And for those of you who know the full story, he shouldn’t even be walking the streets. He should be in prison for murder.
#53- Just like Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song 16 Tons says, “If the left one don’t get cha, then the right one will” the same could be said for the 60’s Dodgers pitching tandem of Sandy Koufax and the winner at this number, Don Drysdale. Drysdale was a fierce competitor and at one time held the record for pitching the most consecutive scoreless innings.
#54- Goose Gossage, of mustache and relief-pitching fame, was good but my selection goes to Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys.
#55- The man that bested Don Drysdale’s record gets the nod here. Orel Hershiser was not gifted with over-powering “stuff”- he just knew how to pitch. Dikembe Motumbo and Junior Seau also get recognition.
#56- Next to Michael Jordan and #23, this may be the easiest choice. Lawrence Taylor has no equal when it comes to being called the best linebacker ever. Even at North Carolina, you could see his greatness taking shape. Taylor has overcome some personal demons in his life but he was the demon on the football field.
#57- Dwight Stephenson is why Dan Marino still looks good on TV. As one of Marino’s offensive lineman, Stephenson made sure Danny boy was protected. Johann Santana also gets some votes.
#58- Two-time defensive Player of the Year, Jack Lambert was the heart of the vaunted Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70’s.
#59- While we’re talking about the Steel Curtain we might as well include Jack Ham, one of the other fine linebackers of the Steelers.
#60- An unusual number for a quarterback, to say the least, but that was the number of Otto Graham. Graham quarterbacked the great Cleveland Browns teams of the late 40’s and 50’s. It’s difficult to compare the QB’s of that era against the ones of today, but I think Graham would be just as good as many of them if he were playing today.
#61- I have no idea who to pick here. Maybe some of you have got some suggestions. Just because he’s the only player I can think of, I’ll go with Curley Culp.
#62- Jim Langer, offensive lineman for the Dolphins of the 70’s.
#63- For his overall contribution to the game as player, coach, and league official I’ll name Gene Upshaw but Willie Lanier and the first draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lee Roy Selmon also get mention.
#64- Provider of the most famous block in pro football history, Jerry Kramer is my nomination. Kramer dug into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field at right guard and allowed Bart Starr to sneak across the goal line for the winning touchdown in “The Ice Bowl.”
#65- Elvin Bethea of the Houston Oilers.
#66- Mario Lemieux picked up where Gretzky left off in hockey history. The Penguins winger could have had better statistics but a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease mid-career, kept him out of hockey for a few years. He returned playing as well as he had before. He wears his number as an upside-down tribute to Gretzky who wore #99.
#67- Reggie McKenzie, Buffalo Bills lineman who once blocked for OJ.
#68- Jaromir Jagr or L.C. Greenwood- you pick em.
#69- There is absolutely no one to even remotely consider at this number.
#70- Sam Huff while he was with the New York Giants. He wore #60 when he was with the Redskins. The best linebacker of his era not named Chuck Bednarik.
More to come.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.