Sesquicentennial Commemorative Issue
The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine
Athletes Of The Last 150 Years
2009 Year-End Special Edition $3.00 U.S.
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Greater Lansing’s Top 150 Athletes Of The Last 150 Years From 270 nominations, a select committee helped to whittle the field. The final result? A listing of the 150 greatest athletes in Mid-Michigan history and a ranking of the best of the best, the Top 25.
Backdrops For Greatness
Local Venues Hosts To Years Of Blood, Sweat And Tears By BRENDAN DWYER
SPECIAL OLYMPIC SALUTE
A Lifetime Of Service
Kellie Dean’s Support For The Cause Never Wavers By MARTI MARTIN
Where Legends Never Die
Contribute To SPORT Magazine
By Duane Vernon
Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall Of Fame Lives On
Send us your News + Notes, story ideas and Last Shot photographs.
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
SPORT CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Chris Holmes Chris was as a staff photographer and chief photographer for the Lansing State Journal from 1988 until 2006 when he opened Holmes Photography Studio in Grand Ledge as well as the Bridge Street Wedding Chapel LLC. Before that Chris was a US Navy photojournalist and was twice awarded the title Military Photographer of the Year in 1986 and 87.
Andy Flanagan Andy has written about high school teams and athletes in MidMichigan for more than a quarter-century, starting with the Lansing State Journal in 1982. The Everett High and MSU grad helped cover Spartan football from 1987-89. An avid homebrewer, Andy works in corporate communications for Auto-Owners Insurance Company. He and his wife, Jamie, have two children.
Doug Warren Doug has been a sportswriter and broadcaster since 1996. He worked for WBBL and WLAV in Grand Rapids and for WILS in Lansing. Doug also served as a columnist/reporter for Scout.com, covering the Lions and MSU. He is a dedicated stay-at-home dad and lives in Lansing with his wife, Lori, and their three children. The newest, Noah David, was born on Super Bowl Sunday.
Steve Grinczel Steve Grinczel was an award-winning sports reporter for Booth Newspapers of Michigan and mlive.com. He has covered Michigan State University football and basketball since 1986. Grinczel began his soccer officiating career in 1975 and has more than 1,300 NCAA, high school and USSF games under his belt.
The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine
Volume #2 • Issue #3 2009 Year-End Special Edition
Publisher NBB Publishing Editor Jack Ebling Assistant EditorS Andy Flanagan Doug Warren Contributing Writers Ernie Boone Brendan Dwyer Jack Ebling Andy Flanagan Steve Grinczel Chuck Klonke Marti Martin Walt Sorg Duane Vernon Doug Warren Jamie Weir PhotographY Keith Allison Central Michigan University Chris Holmes Iowa State Athletic Department MHSAA Archives MSU Athletic Communications Terri Shaver Special Olympics Michigan - Area 8 MAGAZINE Design & LAYOUT Vision Creative Printing Millbrook Printing, Co. Mailer Aldinger’s, Inc.
SPORT, The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine is published monthly by NBB Publishing with offices at 1223 Turner St., Suite 300, Lansing, MI 48906. Postage is paid under USPS Permit #979. Subscriptions: One copy of SPORT, The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine, is mailed complimentary to qualified business addresses in the Greater Lansing metropolitan area. Residential, household, promotional, out-of-area and additional subscriptions are available for $18 per year, half of the shelf price of $3 per issue. Subscribe at: www.SportLansing.com Postmaster: Address changes should be sent to: SPORT Magazine, 1223 Turner St., Suite 300, Lansing, Michigan 48906. 4 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Editorial Office 1223 Turner St., Suite 300 Lansing, Michigan 48906 (517) 455-7810 www.SportLansing.com Copyright © 2009 NBB Publishing. All rights reserved.
GREATER LANSING SPORTS AUTHORITY
Backdrops For Greatness Local Venues Hosts To Years Of Blood, Sweat And Tears. By BrEndAn Dwyer
If walls could talk. Or dugouts. Or ice rinks for that matter. Oh, the stories they could tell. Classic moments from prep and collegiate sports are captured forever in special places where Greater Lansing’s best athletes have come out to play. Think of Kircher Municipal Field and the John Smoltz walk-off homer to win the 1985 Diamond Classic. Consider Jenison Field House and the battles in high school basketball state finals and the images of Spartan glory left behind by legends like Earvin, Jay and Sam. While generations of area athletes have colored our memories, earned admiration and won hearts, there is one harsh reality to face. The unique skills and abilities of these men and women have taken them elsewhere. Away from Lansing’s playgrounds and parks to higher stages and greater notoriety – in some cases, even to stardom.
6 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Those local venues, the canvases upon where athletic artists left their mark, stay behind, however. They always leave a little room for great events and stars of the future. “Greater Lansing has some classic venues, and stories of the games they’ve hosted will live for generations to come,” said Bob Every, a Lansing native and the women’s softball soach at Lansing Community College. “For example, Ranney Park is a classic ballpark and has seen thousands of great games. Most people don’t know it’s one of the oldest ballparks in the country.” Ranney Park, a gift to Greater Lansing from Dr. George E. Ranney, has hosted
professional and youth baseball and softball for nearly 100 years. It was the stage as area softball greats Kim Worden and Bonni Kinne turned heads and helped drive interest for women’s sports after the advent of Title IX in 1972. Kircher Municipal Field also comes to Every’s mind when he thinks of classic Lansing venues and memorable moments like Diamond Classics. “I was there when Smoltz hit it out to win,” Every said. “So many of Lansing’s baseball standouts played big games at ‘Muni’. It is really a special place and always will be.” Every also mentioned the long-demolished yet never-forgotten Lansing Civic Center. From classic high school basketball tournaments to epic Golden Gloves bouts, the Civic Center was synonymous with Lansing sports until its destruction in the summer of 1999.
Photography MHSAA ARCHIVES
Then, Johnson switched to Spartan bas- misspoke when he said he couldn’t put it The Civic Center is on more than Every’s list of classic Lansing venues. It also ranks ketball and spoke with passion about a roar into words. Apparently, there aren’t enough near the top for another resident expert, from the crowd in 1979 that nearly blew the words to describe what this building means John Johnson, communications director roof off when Magic Johnson came limping to him and to Greater Lansing. As much as Jenison, Ranney with the MHSAA. and Municipal have meant to “So many classic tournaments the community, they will be were held at the Civic Center,” positioned alongside new facilJohnson said. “That facility, ities to keep the local sports along with the old Jack Tar hotel pipeline healthy and full. downtown, was a huge part of “We’re going to leverage our Lansing sports.” community assets to get tourJohnson said that while the naments for the region,” said Michigan Boys State Basketball Mike Price of the Greater Lansing Tournament has been held at five Sports Authority. “March Magic areas venues (check the Did You Hoopfest is a perfect fit for Know section of lansingsports.org Jenison. Triple Crown Baseball, for a list of them all!), he has a an 80-team tournament we’ll be clear favorite. hosting in 2010, uses Municipal. “It’s just got to be Jenison And the NJCAA Champion LanField House,” Johnson said. “It’s just one of those buildings with Packed House Jenison Field House has been a Mid-Michigan mecca for sing Community College softball team calls Ranney Park home. a special aura you just can’t put athletic events of all descriptions since it opened in 1940. “Combine that with the highinto words.” quality ice venues in town and the When asked to try, Johnson spoke at length about the classic 1958 out of the locker room and onto the court to multi-field softball and soccer complexes we offer, and Greater Lansing has some quality game when Detroit Austin Catholic and lead MSU to a victory over Ohio State. With story after story about special sports venues. Some of them are full of great Dave DeBusschere took on Benton Harbor and Chet Walker in a game still known as moments in Jenison pouring out like candy old stories, and some are like a sheet of blank from a piñata, it was clear that Johnson paper, just waiting for a script.” ‘The Game of the Century.’”
SPORT SPECIAL OLYMPIC SALUTE
Kellie Dean’s Support For The Cause Never Wavers By MARTI MARTIN
As a Michigan State University scholar-athlete, Kellie Dean never saw the turn his career path would take. After volunteering at Beekman Center, a school for students age 2 to 26 with physical and cognitive needs, his life changed forever. Dean aspired to be a coach and a physical therapist. One summer working with handicapped children changed everything. He switched his major from physical therapy to special education. This was just the beginning of Dean’s journey into the Special Olympics Michigan Hall of Fame. While finishing his degree at MSU, he continued to volunteer at Beekman Center. After graduation, Dean became an adaptive physical education teacher for the Lansing School District. He taught for
12 years while helping to coach at East Lansing High School. During that time, Dean volunteered as director of Area 8 Special Olympics. He finished his teaching career as assistant principal for programs for the physically impaired and hearing impaired at Henry North School. Due to his busy schedule, Dean had to give up the directorship of Area 8 Special Olympics and his high school coaching, as he developed sports for the disabled in the Lansing area.
Dean’s involvement with Special Olympics began in 1974 and continues today. While teaching at Beekman, Dean expanded the sports program from just three sports to yearround activities. Almost every student became involved. Some took part in the Michigan Winter Special Olympics. With Dean’s dedication and determination, some even had the opportunity to go to International Games. “Since his early involvement, he has always been willing to give back to the less fortunate,” said Anne Goudie, director of Area 8 Special Olympics. “It has never been about him. It is always about others.” Dean doesn’t see himself as special. The competitors are the special ones. “Special Olympics is a great opportunity to evaluate the good you have in your
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A Lifetime Of Service
Dean The Dream Greater Lansing sports sponsor Kellie Dean shows a token of thanks. life,” Dean said. “Meeting the families is equally as important as the contact with the participants.” Dean was part of the National Sports Committee that developed the sport of poly hockey for Special Olympics International. There is a position for everyone, no matter the mental
or physical disability. Dean also managed the State Poly Hockey Tournament. After 14 years in education, Dean’s life again took a turn. In 1986, Lyle Stephens, a former State Police Motor Carrier Lieutenant, established a company called Special Transportation, Inc. Stephens recruited Dean to help build his business of transporting special needs children. There was a name change to Dean Transportation in 1991. In 1995, Dean bought the company when Stephens retired. More than 13 years later, Dean continues to provide transportation for state and area programs, including Special Olympics. “My number one commitment is to Special Olympics,” Dean said of just one of the many organizations with which he is involved. Dean has helped former teammate Dr. John Shinsky in opening an orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. Shinsky was an orphan himself and wanted the quality of life for children to be better. Of course, Dean couldn’t resist joining Shinsky in this personal cause. He has served on committees, boards and councils – many involving children – including the Ronald McDonald House Board. When asked how and why he got involved with the Ronald McDonald House, Dean
simply said, “It was the right thing to do.” “Giving back is a lifestyle for him,” Goudie said. Dean and his wife, Marilyn, have also received the Catholic Diocese of Lansing’s Father Mac Community Service Award. Though he feels good when receiving awards, the honor itself “is not necessary.” Dean’s parents were involved in their church and in school, setting a great example. They inspired him. His brothers also played a part in the person he is today. In his adult years, he looks to Stephens and Shinsky as the two people he admires most. Both men have used their resources for the betterment of others, which is what Dean strives to do daily. “Get involved with a program or charity where you are helping the disadvantaged or struggling,” was Dean’s advice for today’s youth. “You find that everyone counts.” Especially Dean. The Michigan Special Olympics Hall of Fame welcomed him on Nov. 7, 2009. “I’m dumbfounded by it all,” Dean said. “I’m extremely flattered, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment knowing I’ve helped so many people…I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being a part of Special Olympics.”
Who knows where the idea began? Several times over the past 10 weeks, I’ve wanted to know so I could strangle that person, even if it meant self-mutilation. But selecting Greater Lansing’s greatest athletes has been an active debate far longer than the 16 months SPORT has been in print. It just took Lansing’s sesquicentennial to give the idea some structure and a year-end double issue to provide a suitable forum. “Why not pick the Top 150?” the argument went at a quarterly planning session. “And we can honor the best of the best by ranking the Top 25!” A muzzle or a blow to the head a minute just before that comment would’ve made a great Christmas gift, come to think of it. But publisher Don Loding, creative director Camron Gnass and assistant editors Doug Warren and Andy Flanagan let me continue. Of all the times they chose not to interrupt… The next step was deciding if the concept could work. (Today, we’re biased. But you be the judge of that.) Then, we needed a way to pull it off. As many dumb decisions as I’ve made, I wasn’t about to tackle this alone – the equivalent of an open-field stop on Lorenzo White in 1987. Thus, a terrific committee was formed. With the help of Bob Every, chairman of the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame, we looked for people with historical backgrounds and high integrity. We wound up inviting 31 people – one for each flavor – to nominate candidates on 10 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
November 1, then to vote for their Top 25. All but seven showed up in person on short notice (and one sent a proxy), forming one of the greatest collections of expertise ever assembled in Mid-Michigan. Twenty were plenty. But 21 guests joined Every and the SPORT editorial staff in a no-frills, all-business conference area on Turner Street. In alphabetical order, Jim Adams, Nick Archer, Jim Bibbs, Jake Boss, Gary Boyce, Darold Briggs, Judi Brown-Clarke, Javier Cavazos, Jim Constandt (for Ron Mason), Paul Cook, Bruce Fossum, Mary Fossum, Keith Froelich, George Fox, Don Johnson, Paul Pozega, Teri Reyburn, Earle Robinson, Jim Sinadinos, Burton Smith and Kim Spalsbury gave up a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and honored us with their presence. They honored you, the readers, too, with their professionalism and perseverance. Though it had to seem incredibly random and a bit chaotic as the whiteboard overflowed, Job One was get every appropriate name for consideration. With the help of our panel, plus the Hall of Fame roster and submissions from readers (thank you!), we think we did that. The next problem was clarifying exactly who was eligible for the honor. We finally decided that candidates had to have grown up in Greater Lansing or at least been here for part of that experience. Thus, the Michigan State University question
was answered. The Vincents and Millers were in. Bubba Smith and Scott Skiles were out. That also eliminated some of the greatest athletes this area has known – people who came to Mid-Michigan, made their names here as adult competitors and represented the community so well. (Don’t worry, we’ll get there with a series of stories in 2010!) That left the geography and timeframes to define. As with many decisions, there were no right or wrong answers – just ours. We went with the Hall of Fame’s map in most cases. That meant Owosso and Fowlerville made it. Jackson and Mount Pleasant did not. If you’re wondering why Brad Van Pelt and Charlie Gehringer are in and Tony Dungy and Dan Pohl aren’t, there’s your answer. Some voters favored stars from our distant past. That was why we asked for their help. Others said we couldn’t be guilty of age discrimination. Touche! Gideon Smith, make way for Jordyn Wieber. Given those parameters, the real fun began. When we were finished, a total of 270 valid nominations were received. That didn’t count my favorite area athlete, Zach Ebling. From that universe, 24 ballots were cast for the 25 best – a possibility of 600 points for electoral perfection. It shouldn’t surprise anyone with a working cerebellum that Earvin Johnson was ranked No. 1. But it may shock several voters that Magic wasn’t a unanimous first pick. He was first on 22 ballots, second on one and third on another for a total of 597 points.
John Smoltz was a strong runner-up with 552, including one first-place vote. And the rest of the Top 10 – Van Pelt, Judi Brown, Kevin Jackson, Todd Martin, Jay Vincent, Dean Look, Gehringer and Sam Vincent – were bunched fairly closely, receiving between 412 and 301 points. For the rest of the Top 25, you’ll have to keep reading. But please don’t flip those pages just yet. The competition for 25th place was extremely close, with one worthy candidate just missing after a recount. If he’s reading this, and I know he will, I’m sorry we didn’t go with virtual dead heats. But the first bus in the parade had 25 seats. No standing room allowed here, sir. Actually, that was the easiest part. The panel voted. We added the totals. And we were pleased and surprised to have 10 different sports represented within the Top 25. The tricky part came after that. We had to split more hairs than you’ll find on a barber shop floor to boil the remaining 245 down to 125 – a tie for 26th place, if you will. Some truly outstanding athletes had to be eliminated. If you were one of those unfortunate 120, you should take great pride in having been nominated and considered. The names and capsule accomplishments you’ll see as you read and remember are a testimony to the depth of area achievements. Mid-Michigan has seen more than a Magic show. It has had a front-row seat for a cavalcade of stars. Based on the research and tireless work
of Doug Warren, my right-hand man for this project, Greater Lansing’s Top 150 includes 24 players in the NFL, 12 in the NBA or WNBA, eight in Major League Baseball, six in the NHL and 13 in other pro sports. There were nine Olympians, 12 World Champions, 21 NCAA Champions, 29 AllAmericans, 60 All-Big Ten or other-conference honorees, 41 State Champions and 69 All-State performers. That’s assuming we didn’t miss one. Among the area’s high schools, Lansing Eastern led the way with 23 names among the Top 150, one more than Lansing Sexton and East Lansing. Lansing Everett was fourth with 13 alums, followed by Waverly (7), Okemos (6), St. Johns (5) and DeWitt, Grand Ledge, Holt and Williamston (4 each). Also represented, alphabetically, were Bath, Charlotte, Dansville, Fowlerville, Haslett, Fulton, Lansing Catholic, Lansing Central, Lansing Gabriels, Lansing High, Lansing Hill, Lansing St. Mary’s, Mason, Ovid-Elsie, Owosso, Stockbridge, Vermontville and Webberville. And already, before the issue ever left the printer, well-meaning people asked, “When are you going to do the best coaches?” and “What about the area’s best teams?” That’s what the future is for. For now, let’s cherish the athletes. Here’s to a precious present and their grand and glorious past!
By JACK EBLING
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
BASKETBALL • EVERET T HIGH
He was “Junior” to his parents, “June Bug” to his neighbors, “E.J. the Deejay” to classmates and “E!” to his head coach. Today, the world knows him as “Magic” – appropriate on or off the basketball court. But Earvin Johnson answers to another name only a few of us can. You can always call him “Champion.” No one else has won a high school state championship, two Big Ten titles, an NCAA crown and an NBA title in the span of four seasons. He went on to win five World Championships, not counting a gold medal 12 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
in the 1992 Olympics. But Johnson did something more important than that. He changed the game he loved so much. And he changed the face of Greater Lansing. On any continent, try telling someone that you hail from Lansing or any of its suburbs. You’ll get blank stares more often than not. Hold up your right hand, point to the
middle of your palm and say “Lansing, Michigan!” Still nothing. “Oldsmobile?”…“Michigan State?” Maybe a few nods. Then, say “Magic Johnson!” and prepare to be hugged. “MAGIC!…MAGIC JOHNSON!” you’ll hear. And you may not have to buy lunch. That nickname – choice No. 3 – came from State Journal writer Fred Stabley Jr., who called his buddy, Tim Staudt, and was told, “That’s way too corny. It’ll never work.” It worked in part because Johnson did – every day of every year, even when he had
Photography msu athletic communications
to rise before dawn to shovel the court at Main Street School. His legend grew as fast as he did. Capacity crowds showed up everywhere he went in three amazing years with Coach George Fox and the Everett High Vikings. “There was a lot of joy growing up in Lansing,” Johnson said. “I loved growing up there. And whatever happened, we always had Michigan State basketball.” Johnson cared much more than most. With crosstown rival Jay Vincent and the Eastern Quakers, he packed Jenison Field House when Michigan State couldn’t. At least 50,000 people have said that they were there that evening – the only game that Everett lost to Eastern in a three-year struggle for supremacy. Earvin and Jay…Jay and Earvin – they were linked from their earliest days on area playgrounds. And they finally got to play together. After leading his team to a 1977 Class A crown in Crisler Arena, Johnson’s recruitment was on everyone’s mind – long after his mind was made up, only to be scrambled again by the firing of Gus Ganakas. “It was the spring of Magic’s junior year,” Ganakas remembered. “Charles Tucker was jogging in Jenison. He said he’d talked to Mr. Johnson about Magic coming to Michigan State, and there was absolutely no question about it.” “The No. 1 reason I was going to Michigan State was to play for Gus Ganakas,” Johnson said. “I used to come to every game – and had since I was 10 or 11. So the coaching change kind of threw me for a loop.” So did Jud Heathcote, a screamer and a stranger. Eventually, they formed an unbreakable bond and were just inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame together. But in 1976-77, Johnson had much more contact and trust in MSU assistant Vernon Payne, a holdover from Ganakas’ staff, and Bill Frieder, an omnipresent Michigan aide. “Frieder had me,” Johnson said in Magic Moments, the 100-year history of Spartan hoops. “He really did. But I left for the Albert Schweitzer Games and came home to this sea of green-and-white. The problem was still not knowing about Jud.” When Payne got the head coaching job at Wayne State, Johnson was ready to walk to Ann Arbor. But Payne pulled him out of class and gave a final sales pitch about Heathcote, a speech in the Everett library that changed the course of history. Without that push, there wouldn’t have an alley-oop to Gregory Kelser, a legendary limp-back against Ohio State or a 1979 NCAA Champions banner in Jenison.
There may not have been the same BresStill, there were skeptics like columnist lin Center, where Johnson’s statue – a vague Joe Falls, who wrote in: “He’s not superstar resemblance – stands today and where MSU’s material for the NBA. Maybe he can grow tradition has grown. into it. But he isn’t there yet, and some And who’s to say the Spartans would’ve NBA scouts wonder if he’ll ever get there. been led by Heathcote for 19 seasons or In effect, he only has one shot.” by hand-picked successor Tom Izzo for 15 The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get their more? It’s highly unlikely. paper that day. They made Johnson the In fact, one can argue that the three most No. 1 overall pick. And Falls never asked important events in school history have been the Philadelphia 76ers. They saw every the arrival of legendary president-to-be John shot imaginable when Johnson moved from Hannah as a transfer from U-M Law School in point guard to center, replaced the injured 1922, an offer to join the Big Ten despite strong Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and scored 42 points objections from Ann Arbor in 1948 and the decision by a 6-foot-8 point guard to say no to the top-ranked Wolverines. “Michigan had convinced him that we’d play him at center, since he’d be our tallest player,” Heathcote said. “I told him I might be a hick from Montana, but I understood basketball. He’d be a catalyst for our fast break and would handle the ball the way he always had.” Johnson told one member of the media, the State Journal’s Bob Gross, of his decision so an article could be timed just right for that afternoon’s paper. But that was it. Only a few other people – his parents, Fox, Tucker and the MSU staff – knew the choice. One of his best friends, Kenny Turner, was sure JohnChanging The Game Larry Bird (33) and Johnson son would be a Wolverine. En revolutionized the NBA after their NCAA Championship collision. route to the Class A Final, he told his brother to wait in a traffic jam on Main Street so he could dash into a sporting goods store in a Game 6 title clincher in Philly. and buy a complete maize-and-blue outfit. His first pro contract? Try $500,000 for While reading meters for the Lansing Board five years – money some players would of Water & Light, Turner listened to Johnson’s blow in one month today. But Johnson has announcement on a transistor radio and scared become one of the richest men in sports by one woman half to death when he heard the parlaying on-court success, a winning smile choice and screamed “WHAAAT!!!” and business savvy into an empire. “The poor lady came running down the His greatest victory has come against the stairs,” Turner said. “But I took all those AIDS virus that shortened his NBA life, but clothes I bought and threw them in the not the one that mattered. And he still trash. I never wore them once. And I’ve follows the area sports scene, especially at hated Michigan ever since. That stuff tournament time. cost me a lot of money!…Maybe Magic “If someone wants to rip Earvin, they need should reimburse me.” to see me,” Izzo said. “He has done everyJohnson nearly left school after his fresh- thing I’ve ever asked and more. His support man season. But there was little suspense in for this program has been amazing. You don’t ’79 when he said he would leave for the NBA see it. But it’s there, believe me.” after getting the best of Larry Bird and 33-0 Like Magic. Indiana State in Salt Lake City – the game that changed college basketball forever. By JACK EBLING 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
John Smoltz BASKETBALL
GOLF • WAVERLY HIGH
Photography keith allison
He wasn’t the best basketball player from Mid-Michigan. He was probably the second-best baseball player. And it’s too early for anyone but Tiger Woods to rate his golf game. 14 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
But it’s hard to imagine an athlete from Greater Lansing being more adept at three sports and making more friends along the way than John Smoltz, a 21-year big-leaguer. Big games? They don’t get any bigger than Game 7 of the World Series, his stage in 1991. Major awards? They don’t get any more prestigious than the Cy Young Award, which he earned in 1996. He’s the second-winningest postseason pitcher in history at 15-4, with a 2.67 earned-run average. He’s one of 16 members of the 3,000-strikeout club (3,084). And he’s the only one ever to record 200 wins and 150 saves (213 and 154). John Smoltz has fame – and probably a ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame – locked up. As for fortune, he has made over $135 million in his 21-year career. His post-baseball career is mapped out, too. He’ll coach high school basketball at the school he began a few years ago in Alpharetta, Ga., then attempt to join golf’s Champions Tour. Smoltz has enjoyed many rich experiences since signing his first pro baseball contract in 1985, following his graduation from Waverly High. Growing up in Lansing would seem to be a distant memory. But ask him about the 1985 Diamond Classic, when his walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh gave the Warriors the crown over Sexton, and he explains why he still considers that game his most memorable moment in sports. He had pitched complete, seven-inning games on Friday and Monday to get to the championship. Then, he came on in relief in Wednesday’s title game in the fourth inning. “The idea was, ‘Let me get out of this jam,’” Smoltz said. “If I didn’t, we were going to lose.” He got out of it and pitched three more innings. Then, he hit the biggest clutch homer in Diamond Classic history. “The biggest thing that people have to realize, the opportunity to compete to win is my greatest desire,” Smoltz said. “When I hit the home run, it was the culmination of three years of frustration in winning the Diamond Classic, a magical moment that I’ll never forget.” Smoltz grew up in Lansing but wasn’t born here. He was born in Warren, north of Detroit, on May 15, 1967. His family of five moved to Lansing when John was about 10. “Basketball was my first love,” Smoltz said. “Baseball is what I got to do a little longer.” Smoltz began his high school career at Lansing Catholic. It proved to be one of the most frustrating periods of his life. The
guy who lived to compete suddenly wasn’t allowed to do so in basketball or baseball. “I pitched as a freshman on the varsity,” he said. “When I was not allowed to hit as a sophomore, and there was no basketball playing time, I thought, ‘This is not going to work for me.’” Smoltz almost finished his high school career in Florida. His father was trying to move the family there, in part due to a business opportunity and also to help Smoltz’s baseball career. Instead he transferred to Waverly, which Smoltz says was “the greatest move in my life.” His arrival initially didn’t mean much to Phil Odlum, Waverly’s long-time basketball coach who had just added baseball. When Waverly’s athletic director said he wanted to introduce him to Smoltz, Odlum replied: “Who’s John Smoltz?” Odlum soon discovered the answer. Smoltz had to sit out the first semester his junior year because of the transfer. No matter. He still made the all-state basketball team that year. “The irony is, my junior year I made all-state in basketball and baseball and hit .500. Kind of interesting how that played out,” Smoltz said, not able to hide his sarcasm. For Odlum, Smoltz was a once-in-a-lifetime player in both sports. “I was very fortunate to coach Marcus Taylor,” Odlum said of the All-America guard who led the Warriors to the 2000 Class A state title. “But John was right up there with the best point guards I ever coached.” On the diamond for Odlum’s Warriors, Smoltz played shortstop when he didn’t pitch. But his unyielding work ethic impressed people the most. “He was never concerned about dating or being cool,” Odlum said. “After a basketball game, he would get a friend, and they’d be throwing baseballs in the gym until midnight. He was one of those kids who believed in it and knew where he wanted to go.” Smoltz had already accepted a full-ride scholarship to Michigan State University. But Major League Baseball scouts were relentless, charting his every pitch during the spring of 1985. The Detroit Tigers, the team Smoltz adored, drafted him in the 22nd round, the 574th player overall. “They drafted me so late, it looked like it was never going to work out,” he said. “It was kind of bittersweet.” What eventually tipped the scales toward the Tigers, ironically, was advice from Tom
Smith, then MSU’s baseball coach. Smoltz calls Smith an “unsung hero.” “In the midst of all I was going through, he helped me decide what was best for my future by telling me what I should do, instead of telling me what was best for him,” Smoltz said. “He said, ‘As much as I’d like you to come to Michigan State, you’re getting a great opportunity.’” Smoltz signed with the Tigers hours before he was to begin classes at MSU. Had he gone to his first class, he wouldn’t have been eligible to be drafted again until after his junior season. He also credits his dad for negotiating a $60,500 signing bonus. Smoltz’s career with the Tigers ended unexpectedly on Aug. 12, 1987, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. The Tigers were in the hunt for the American League East Division crown and acquired 36-yearold Doyle Alexander. “It was about as bad as it got for me personally,” he said, still sounding like someone just punched him in the gut. “I never saw it coming. I was their top prospect, depending on what you read.” Beginning in 1991, the Braves won 14 straight division titles. Despite that run, Smoltz feels more frustration than satisfaction. “One championship,” he said of 1995 with more than a hint of disbelief in his voice. “It’s still hard for me to imagine that we could only win one championship.” Baseball historian Bill James, who has designed a point system to determine if players are qualified to enter the Hall, considers Smoltz a “virtual cinch” to be inducted. “I don’t think about it at all,” Smoltz said. “You can get pretty selfish in this game and accomplish records that don’t mean a whole lot if you’re just in it for yourself. It has never been a reason why I’ve played the game.” Smoltz has played for the love of the game, just as he will in retirement. “I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it,” he said. “I’m going to coach basketball, play golf and enjoy the fruits of my labor.” Smoltz didn’t embrace golf until he was older. Odlum and former Waverly High athletic director Rick Schmidt took him to Waverly Hills Golf Course for his first round. He didn’t take the sport seriously until nine years ago but has a career-best 63. “The guy can flat-out play,” Woods told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning last fall. “It wouldn’t surprise me when his career is all said and done that he makes it on the senior tour.” He has made it everywhere else. By JACK EBLING AND ANDY FLANAGAN
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Brad Van Pelt FOOTBALL
BASEBALL • OWOSSO
He was Greater Lansing’s perfect 10, a three-sport star who made us wonder, “Maybe cloning isn’t so bad?” But in describing superhero Brad Van Pelt, perhaps it’s better to start with what he wasn’t – a much shorter list. He wasn’t the inspiration for radio’s Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. Armstrong’s story was much more believable. And he wasn’t as successful in business as he was in athletic competition. If you look at the resume, how could he be? The pride of Owosso was as versatile and valuable as any athlete in Michigan State history. If he wasn’t always a 10, as his football, basketball and baseball uniforms suggested, he was The Natural x 3. When he died of an apparent heart attack at age 57 last Feb. 17, it was more than a shock. It was a bolt of lightning from someone who could light up a room. Van Pelt had more gifts than Santa’s helpers and a smile as bright as any you’ll see on Christmas morning. The only people unhappy to see him were opposing players and coaches. He was a quarterback for a brief time as a Spartan. And teammate Joe DeLamielleure still believes that MSU would’ve won more games from 1970-72 if Van Pelt had stayed on offense. Duffy Daugherty thought otherwise, after considerable lobbying by his defensive staff. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Van Pelt justified that faith by becoming a two-time All-American and a Maxwell Award winner as the nation’s top player, the first time a defender had done that. “Brad Van Pelt was the modern-day Jim Thorpe, and that’s no exaggeration,” DeLamielleure said. “Anything he tried, he did well. He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. And if he’d played with better teams, he’d be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too.” It’s appropriate that the Spartans’ winningest football coach and his favorite player left East Lansing at the same time. Daugherty loved Van Pelt like a son. He even started a golf outing in Owosso so the world’s largest safety could caddie for him. “Brad Van Pelt was Duffy’s favorite player,” 16 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
said George Perles, an MSU assistant football coach through Van Pelt’s junior year. “He really was like a movie star, so talented and good looking. Brad had a big heart and was a real giver. He carried a lot of people when he was on top.” Daugherty wasn’t the only one who was blessed by an association with Greater Lansing’s man for all seasons. The stories grow more spectacular each year. In many ways, they’re approaching reality. Longtime Flint Journal sportswriter Dean Howe remembered a phone call that said Van Pelt had grabbed 32 rebounds one night. Howe refused to print that stat. Instead, he attended the Trojans’ next game and saw him snare 42 in a win over Davison. As a power forward for Gus Ganakas, Van Pelt was a rugged defender – surprise, surprise – and shot 61.7 percent from the field as a junior. His sumo match with Indiana beast George McGinnis was the fiercest oneon-one matchup in the history of Jenison Field House. “Brad more than held his own,” Ganakas said. “He helped define the position of power forward. And he ranks as one of the most versatile athletes in Spartan history, earning seven letters.” He could’ve had two more if he hadn’t signed with the New York Giants after his senior season and had played basketball and baseball one more time. “I only have two regrets in my life, and one of them is that I wish I would’ve waited to sign my first pro contract,” Van Pelt said. “I would’ve loved to lay those last two seasons and earn nine letters.” Which brings us to a tale from Spartan lore. There’s a famous line from the classic Jimmy Stewart-John Wayne film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Here goes: It was Jan. 31, 1971, and the Spartans were visiting Ohio State, which happened to be perfect in Big Ten play. Before the game, someone broke into the visitors locker room and stole/ borrowed a complete set of green uniforms.
Postponing or canceling the game was nixed immediately, meaning MSU’s only option was to wear the Buckeyes’ scarlet road unis. In what looked like an intrasquad game in St. John Arena, the Spartans sprung an 82-70 upset, OSU’s only conference defeat all season. After the game, the story has it, Van Pelt supposedly spotted a student wearing one of the missing jerseys. The resulting blindside sack was never added to his career total. But the uniforms were recovered faster than an OSU fumble. Ganakas never confirmed those details. And Van Pelt was sheepish the dozenor-so times he was pressed about it. But the fact is undeniable that only one man has beaten the Buckeyes in three sports and four different uniforms – three green and one red. Van Pelt always laughed when he heard that story. But it was no laughing matter to foes when he compiled a 2.10 career ERA in two seasons with Danny Litwhiler’s Spartans, including the Big Ten titlists in 1971. The fireballing right-hander was good enough to get drafted five times for Major League Baseball. After the Tigers, Angels, Cardinals and Pirates had been told “No thanks,” the Indians tried again after his rookie year in the NFL. Oh, did he ever play on Sundays! Van Pelt was selected for five Pro Bowls as a member of the Giants’ famed linebacking corps, “The Crunch Bunch.” He teamed with Brian Kelley and Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor and was named New York’s Player of the Decade for the 1970s. He was larger than life for so many who knew him, including yours truly. We were freshmen at MSU together. I wore his oversized baseball jersey for a role in the musical comedy Damn Yankees. And we talked roughly once a year, often for columns in the Lansing State Journal. So it was no surprise that he called one summer and said, “Jack, I need your help. I’m opening a restaurant in Duffy’s name in California, and I want all the clippings and memorabilia I can get.” Archived articles weren’t supposed to leave the building. One time, we made an
Photography msu athletic communications
exception, got clear reproductions of those pages and stories and never told a soul – till after his death. His voice always sounded raspy. But his laugh could be heard a foursome away. And with a new home in Harrison, he never seemed happier than he was the last time he was interviewed, when he took a major role in the Shinsky Orphanage fund-raiser. Van Pelt couldn’t believe that his memorabilia was valued higher than Donovan McNabb’s and Flozell Adams’ – exactly as it should be.
But he never got the coaching job he craved. And his alma mater could’ve done a better job of helping him adjust to life after football. “I really wish I could’ve coached there,” Van Pelt said. “I have a lot of love for that place. But it’s really all about people – the Joe DeLamielleures and John Shinskys. They’re what I’ll remember more than any games or honors.” The restaurant in Santa Barbara? It was the only one the Daugherty family ever allowed to use Duffy’s name. When a business partner swindled Van Pelt and stripped
most of his assets, it was sad in more ways than one. The only athlete comparable to Van Pelt in his ability to make anything look easy was Gordie Howe. They also shared an awshucks demeanor that downplayed their excellence. But whether he played in the Meadowlands or the L.A. Coliseum, Van Pelt’s heart was never far from M-52. Today, B.V.P. is still a Mid-Michigan MVP.
By Jack EBLING
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
TRACK • EAST LANSING HIGH
It’s the greatest compliment anyone can pay an Olympic silver medalist. When silver isn’t just draped around her neck, when it also begins to show in her hair, she’ll be known for what she has accomplished away from sports. As a gold-medal human being. She was Judith Lynn Brown in a Milwaukee maternity room 48 years ago, Judi Brown King on the medals platform in Los Angeles 25 years ago and Judi Brown Clarke the last time we saw her in Michigan State’s Comm Arts Building, back on campus where she belongs. 18 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Photography msu athletic communications
For this presentation of her exploits, she’ll be Judi Brown – no more, no less – for several reasons. No disrespect to her husband, attorney and Lansing School Board president Hugh Clarke, but that’s who she was when she starred at East Lansing High and MSU. In many ways, that’s the person she still is.
“I didn’t grow up in a family involved with athletics,” Brown said, perhaps explaining her wide range of interests. “With the possible exception of the ’76 Olympics with everything surrounding Nadia Comaneci, I had no idea what the Olympics were.” No one in East Lansing had any idea who Brown was when her father, an electrical engineer for Oldsmobile, was transferred to Lansing before she entered 12th grade. But it soon became clear to anyone with eyeballs that Brown was a gifted athlete – a bit raw, but so explosive and so coachable.
Whatever sport she had pursued would have been better for having her. “You could see right away she was special,” said longtime MSU men’s track coach Jim Bibbs. “She was tall. She could run. She was smart. And she was just a great person. She still is. She’s our Judi!” More on that mutual admiration society later. Brown’s first loves athletically were volleyball and basketball. And there’s no telling how far she would have gone if she had pursued those sports after high school. Instead, a move from Kokomo, Ind., to Michigan threw college recruiters off track. It didn’t help when East Lansing officials thought Brown was a junior, not a senior, initially. While thinking of MSU as a place to study more than to star, Brown was disappointed that there wasn’t a varsity volleyball team. In fact, it wasn’t until two years later that the Big Ten officially recognized women’s athletics and sponsored conference championships. But the Spartans did have a track team. Oh, did they ever when Brown joined Nell Jackson’s squad after smashing Honor Roll Meet of Champions prep marks. Brown was a member of a world-recordsetting sprint medley relay at the MasonDixon Games, then teamed with Candy Burkett, Rhodes Scholar Molly Brennan and Jacqui Sedwick to smash the Big Ten indoor 880-yard relay mark in 1982. That spring, Brown won the 440-yard hurdles and led MSU to its first league title, a sign of things to come for an athlete who would win two Pan American Games championships. First, she had unfinished business in Jenison Field House and at Ralph Young Field, among other venues. And in typical Brown fashion, she was thinking about others. She had befriended Tasha Bolton, an athletic trainer who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Their conversations were a source of strength for both women. “Tasha would often pull me aside and let me know the potential I had,” Brown said in a Big Ten Black History Month profile. “Soon, she became so ill that she couldn’t travel with us. I began dedicating my races to her. I kept saying, ‘Tasha, I’m going to win this for you.’” Talk about a fitting tribute! Brown won five of her 12 league titles at the 1983 conference championships. And just after Bolton’s death, Brown captured the NCAA hurdles crown and Pan Am gold in Caracas, Venezuela. “I wanted to erase the image that track talent only comes from the Southern schools
and from out in California,” she said. “I wanted to prove that wasn’t case.” The Big Ten’s first Female Athlete of the Year did exactly that. As you might expect, she insisted on sharing the credit. “We had the most incredible team my junior year,” Brown said. “And I couldn’t have done what I did in any of those years by myself. Dr. Jackson was always there. Then, there was Coach Bibbs. I love that man.” Bibbs saw Brown as another daughter and talked about her to anyone who would listen – and to some who wouldn’t. After the ’84 Summer Games, he didn’t have to be so convincing. “My experience in the 1984 Olympics was amazing,” Brown said. “I truly felt as though I was an ambassador for the United States. I wanted to perform at a level that represented our nation’s reputation as a powerhouse.” As always, she represented with style and class. But on the silver anniversary of her silver medal, let’s let her take us inside the L.A. Coliseum and inside her mind. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling of walking onto the track that day, other than to equate it to being the winning quarterback in the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “The Coliseum held 90,000 spectators who showed their overwhelming appreciation for me. The cheering was deafening, and the electricity made the hair on your arm stand on end.” Brown was assigned to lane eight for the finals, the worst spot imaginable with her signature slow start. Soon, she heard familiar commands – ”On Your Mark”… ”Get Set” …”BANG.” “At hurdle No. 1 and hurdle No. 2, I didn’t see anyone coming,” Brown said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I am in good shape.’ Then came hurdle No. 3, where three runners passed me. At hurdle No. 4, two more–wait, make that four more–runners passed…Suddenly, I was in LAST place!” At that moment, Brown could’ve given up and said, “It was great just to get here.” But anyone who has ever known her would have been shocked by that reaction. “That was when I experienced my epiphany,” Brown said. “I was running and thinking of excuses to justify my loss, when it hit me…‘I have trained too hard, made countless sacrifices and studied every aspect of the event to give up my goal!’” Brown ordered her body to fight back. And rally she did, surging all the way to second. It was the only time she had ever wished the grueling 400-meter event were longer. Despite that disappointment, Brown could take pride in an amazing comeback.
And continuing to compete internationally, the five-time national champion won Pan Am gold again in ’87 in Indianapolis. That was the year when Brown was saluted on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In its “Athletes Who Care” tribute, she was honored as one of the Athletes of the Year for her volunteer work with abused children.
Just Our Judi A winning smile and a warm heart mask Judi Brown’s competitive fury.
“We’ve had cases in which people have tortured their children. They did it because they had been tortured as children,” Brown said of a mindless cycle of violence. “We have a boy here who can inflict injury without remorse. Without our intervention, I can see him becoming another Charles Manson.” Brown wasn’t about to let that happen. She was all about people. Always has been. Always will be. And when that nurturing instinct has gotten her in trouble, she has done what she did in lane eight. The only difference is the length of the race. After coaching, working in social services and dedicating herself to family literacy, Brown is breaking down barriers, not just clearing them, as Director of Multicultural Affairs in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. She’s the greatest female athlete in Greater Lansing history. And that’s just part of her story.
By JACK EBLING
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Kevin Jackson WRESTLING • EASTERN HIGH
He is arguably the second-best athlete ever to come through the Lansing School District. Yet, only true sports fans know the name Kevin Jackson.
Always On Top Kevin Jackson ruled the mat at every level as few others ever have.
Kevin who?…Kevin or Kelvin?…Or Calvin? It’s Kevin. And it was never heaven for his wrestling opponents. Most of them spent a lot time inspecting ceilings and squinting at spotlights. A three-time world freestyle champion, counting his gold medal in the 1992 Olympics, Jackson is ranked among the five greatest amateur wrestlers in USA history. But unlike his friends Jay and Sam Vincent, John Smoltz or hockey’s Miller family, Jackson excelled in a sport that few people notice. “You always want to be recognized for the hard work and the sacrifice,” said Jackson, a two-time Class A state champ for Lansing Eastern. “It’s a little bit of a downer, a disappointment. But we didn’t do it for the cash. We do it for the gold and the goal. Wrestlers don’t wrestle for the money. They wrestle for the man.” Of course, if you had offered him $1 million to lock up with some Soviet or Bulgarian champ, Jackson would have accepted 20 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
that challenge – and probably would left seven figures richer. Jackson didn’t set out with the goal of being the best in the world. He just couldn’t prevent it. “As a kid my goal was to become a professional athlete,” Jackson said. “It was never to be an Olympic champion. It was just to be a champion at every level. Once I reached that international level, it was a natural progression.” Somewhere along the way, the younger, larger brother of Wayne “Action” Jackson became a pinning machine. He was a Junior National Greco-Roman champ after being King Quaker for two winters in Don Johnson Fieldhouse. If that name rings a bell, it should. Jackson credits his early success to the “family feeling” at Eastern under the leadership of Johnson, then the building’s principal after building so many young men as a head coach. Jackson credits Johnson, assistant principal Bill Allen, wrestling coach Jim Walker and the entire Eastern faculty for creating an ideal social setting. “We were multicultural and multiracial, with none of those issues that created problems at other places,” Jackson said. “It was a family-type environment which led to us becoming good citizens. Back then, Eastern produced some really quality people.” That list included his brother Wayne’s good friend, Sam Vincent, and Sam’s older brother, Jay. Jackson learned his work ethic from the example of Wayne and other local athletes, including one kid from his days in Pop Warner Football. “I’d be waiting on the sidewalk for my ride after practice,” he said. “There would be this one last guy outside, always playing, always working on his game. We found out real soon who it was.” The practice-never-ends kid was Earvin Johnson, someone Jackson credits for changing “the vision of sports in the community.” “If a guy from Lansing can win an NCAA title, then the next year win the NBA World title, maybe we’re a little special around here,” he said. In his sport, one where scar-dom is as important as stardom, Jackson was more than “a little special.” He was basically hell in a singlet.
Jackson was a four-time All-American – three seasons at LSU, then again at Iowa State in 1987. When the Tigers dropped their wrestling program to comply with Title IX, the Cyclones said “Thank you very much!” and earned their last NCAA team title. From there, his career got better, believe it or not. Jackson competed for Team USA in five world championships or Olympic competitions. And he is one of just five wrestlers from this nation to win three world-level titles. Besides his win in Barcelona at a chiseled 180.5 pounds, Jackson ruled the planet in 1991 and ’95 – enough right there to ensure his place as a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The 5-foot-10 Jackson also won gold medals twice at the Pan American Games. And he won three U.S. National competitions, while finishing second five times. The USA Wrestling and USOC Wrestler of the Year in 1991, Jackson was named the Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year in 1992. He also received the John Smith Award as USA Wrestling’s Freestyle Wrestler of the Year in 1995. Jackson’s final major amateur title came in prestigious Takhi Cup in Tehran, Iran, in 1998, at the relatively old age of 34. “In my era, you never left the sport until somebody beat you for the spot on the team,” Jackson said. “I had to beat the man who was the man so I could become the man. That motto created the success we had.” Jackson then moved into the world of mixed martial arts and had some initial success, winning his first three matches by submission with strikes and chokes. A win over Tony Frykland in the UFC 14 Middleweight Tournament Final gave Jackson a shot at the title less than nine months after his debut in 1997. But at UFC Japan’s Ultimate Japan event, he fell victim to a quick armbar and lost the UFC middleweight championship bout to Frank Shamrock in December 1997. After splitting his next two fights, Jackson retired from his second combat sport with a career mark of 4-2.
Photography IOWA STATE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
That barely delayed his shift into coaching, with a stated goal of running a majorcollege program like Michigan State’s. Beginning in 1998, Jackson spent seven years as the National Freestyle Coach for USA Wrestling, teaching the next generation of Olympians the skills that took him to the top. But with his eyes on the prize of a top college job, Jackson left Colorado Springs to lead the Sunkist Kids club program in Scottsdale, Ariz., one of the top wrestling clubs in the world. In a “Where Are They Now?” story for SPORT last January, Jackson said he would love to return to Mid-Michigan when it’s time to pick a successor to Tom Minkel. Though he never wrestled for the Spartans, he has always loved Lansing. “I’d love to come back home and take that program to a level that Michigan wrestling supporters would enjoy,” Jackson said. Long before that could ever happen, he was hired to resuscitate Iowa State this year and was given a four-year contact. The captain of the Cyclones’ last NCAA titlists was charged with becoming the coach of the next ones. “I’ve been a head coach at the highest level in this country,” Jackson said. “If anybody is head coach, I am.” He replaced Cael Sanderson, who left his alma mater more a more lucrative positive at Penn State. But Jackson again said he wasn’t worried about money. Winning has a way of attracting it. “We’re going to have a lot of fun,” he said at his introductory press conference. “We’re going to do a lot of winning. And there’s nothing like winning a national championship at Iowa State.” Jackson ought to know. He has won more than enough times in enough places to understand what it takes. He understood that at Lansing Eastern, at two universities and as an athlete and a coach at the highest level, including a team triumph in Freestyle World Cup 2001. Jackson also spends a lot of time with wife, Robin, coaching their six children. Cole, 17, is a star high school running back with dreams of playing in the NFL. Bailey, 12, is still choosing between volleyball, basketball and soccer and is described by her proud dad as “a real stud.” Trinity, 7, is already turning heads as an aspiring gymnast. Their dad changed wrestling in the U.S. as part of a generation of wrestlers who, in his words, “wanted to become legends.” We know that at least one succeeded. By Jack ebling and walt sorg
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
SPORT TOP 150 ATHLETES • 6-15
Todd Martin TENNIS • EAST LANSING HIGH
Ted Williams. Dan Marino. Charles Barkley. Todd Martin. Who wouldn’t want to be mentioned in that foursome? Probably Williams, Marino, Barkley and Martin in one respect, but more on that later. Success, fame and fortune can be measured in various ways, and Martin’s standards Martin couldn’t be much higher. While playing tennis for East Lansing High, he won the state No. 1 singles championship. The Trojans’ runner-up finish to Birmingham Brother Rice foreshadowed the future, but more on that later. Martin’s two-year collegiate career at Northwestern was stellar. As a sophomore in 1990, he won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor singles championship and the Big Ten singles title while helping the Wildcats take the conference team crown. Martin, the Big Ten Player of the Year, also qualified for the NCAA Tournament in singles and doubles and earned first-team All-America honors. The word used to describe Martin’s professional career from ‘90 to his retirement at the age of 34 in 2004 can only be “impeccable.” He was universally lauded for his fundamental soundness and professionalism as a player and his sportsmanship and humanity as a person. The ATP named Martin its 1993 Most Improved Player and presented him with its Sportsmanship Award, an honor he also claimed the following year. In ’94, he reached his first Grand Slam final, only to lose the Australian Open title to No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras in straight sets. Later that year, he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The following year, Martin teamed with Sampras for a doubles victory that helped the United States beat Russia to win the Davis Cup. In ’96, Martin again reached the Wimbledon semis, where he and former University of Michigan rival MaliVai Washington staged one of the most dramatic matches in history. Although Martin took a 2-1 lead and went ahead 5-1 in the fifth set, Washington won 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 10-8. By ’99, Martin was breathing rarified air as the No. 4 player in the world. Late that summer, he reached his second Grand Slam 22 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
final but lost the U.S. Open championship to Andre Agassi, who prevailed in five hardfought sets 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2. He added “2000 Olympian” to his resume while competing in Sydney. “From a standpoint of Xs and Os, he had as perfect a game as you would want,” Agassi said on Worldtennis.com in October 2004. “His return game was world class. As much as he’s accomplished, his results could have been seen more if it weren’t for injuries.” Martin won eight pro singles and five doubles titles while amassing $8,254,455 in prize money before knee and other ailments caught up to him. As you will notice, there never was a third Grand Slam final for Martin. Just as the legendary Williams never won a World Series – losing his only shot in 1946, the recordsmashing Marino never won a Super Bowl – falling in his only appearance in ’85, and Barkley never got a world championship – his only trip to the NBA Finals ended in sixth games in ’93, Martin never reached the pinnacle of his profession. However, the runner-up world isn’t such a bad place. The company is pretty darn good. After 15 professional seasons, Martin bowed out with a record of 411-234, including a 102-48 mark in Grand Slams. He went 33-15 in the U.S. Open. At the time of his retirement, only Agassi, with 19, had more Open appearances than Martin’s 15. “There are lots of things that I would have liked to have achieved that I didn’t,” he said in 2004. “But I understand that we’re here for a purpose. Some of our purposes might be winning Grand Slams. Some of us might be here to show that it’s not everything and to handle what success we do have with as much
dignity as possible, and the failures as well.” In addition to the Davis Cup, Martin was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and the U.S. Tennis Association/Midwest Section Hall of Fame in ‘08. In October, Martin defeated Agassi 6-3, 7-5 to win the singles title at the Cancer Treat-
ment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise in the Outback Champions Series. Meantime, his charity, The Todd Martin Development Fund provides more than 300 “at- risk Lansing-area youth with lowcost programs designed to build self-esteem, discipline and leadership, while developing their tennis skills to the fullest.” By STEVE GRINCZEL
Jay Vincent BASKETBALL • EASTERN HIGH
When it comes to basketball big men, Jay Vincent is the standard against which all Greater Lansing frontcourt players are measured. At Eastern High, he earned Class A allstate honors and left as the Quakers’ all-time leader in points (1,562) and rebounds (768). His brother, Sam, erased that scoring mark. But the rebounding record still stands. At Michigan State, he and high school rival Earvin Johnson joined forces to win two Big Ten titles and the 1979 NCAA crown. Vincent still holds the MSU record with 25 points in his freshman debut. After Johnson turned pro, Vincent was the conference scoring champ his last two seasons and was drafted at the start of Round 2 by the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. “Other than Magic, Jay is the best big man I’ve seen come out of Lansing,” said legendary coach Paul Cook, who had the Vincent brothers at Eastern and could have won state championships with both of them. Jay had the strength to go to the boards and hold his position on defense. On offense he was deceptively quick. He had the kind of body associated with plodders. But he moved his feet like a dancer and had exceptionally soft hands to catch and shoot. “A lot of guys can establish position, go straight up a get rebound,” ex-MSU coach Jud Heathcote said. “Jay will be standing over here, go up and get a rebound over there. He’s over there, and – boom, he’s got a rebound over here.” Vincent could score around the basket with the best of them. To some, he was “Big Daddy.” To others, he was “The Velvet Bull.” To Cook, he was impossible to stop inside. Yet, Vincent was just as effective at stepping out or spotting up to hit a mid-range jumper. He was an excellent passer and tough to double-team. Most of all, he was a fierce competitor. “It was deceptive,” Cook said. “Off the court he was a quiet, unassuming kid. But when he played basketball, he was a tough cookie.” Vincent led Eastern to a 50-15 three-year
record. But thwarted by Johnson and his Everett teammates, he was never able to take the Quakers on a deep tournament run. “Sometimes I wish one of us hadn’t grown up here,” Johnson said. “Then, he would’ve gotten the credit he deserved.” An overflow crowd in Jenison Field House saw Vincent battle Johnson and Everett’s eventual state champions. Vincent scored 18 points, did a job on the boards and led Eastern to victory. A four-year starter at MSU, Vincent finished as the Spartans’ No. 2 career scorer with 1,914 points, just 100 behind Gregory Kelser. Currently, he ranks fifth. “I never did anything flashy,” Vincent said. “I might have dunked five times in my whole career. On a team with a flashy passer and a flashy dunker, I’d score my 20, and no one would notice. My baskets counted. But I was a lineman, and they were the running backs.” If Vincent never got full credit for his work, part of the reason was a fractured foot that limited his time during the ’79 NCAA Tournament. “I thought that would be the one time I could showcase my talent,” Vincent said. “I wanted to let everyone know we were more than Magic and Greg. It was very depressing. And it took me a long time to get over it.” With the departure of Johnson and Kelser, Vincent became the primary scorer. He averaged 22.1 points per game to win the Big Ten scoring crown as a junior and 24.1 to repeat as a senior. His number 31 now hangs from the Breslin Center rafters. In nine NBA seasons Vincent averaged 15.1 points and 5.5 rebounds, then played four more years in Italy. All the while, he used his athletic
prowess to pave the way to success off the court. “Athletics enabled me to get an education,” Vincent said. “I was able to talk to business people and watch and learn good business techniques. It has been what - 18 years since I stopped (playing pro ball)? You have to prepare for life after basketball. You have to be able to build something for yourself.”
Vincent did just that, building a successful nationwide business. His locally based company provides inspections on foreclosed properties in 48 states and employs more than 11,000 sub-contractors. With a ball in his hand, the paint was Vincent’s property. And he did business every game.
By ERNIE BOONE
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Dean Look FOOTBALL
BASEBALL • EVERET T HIGH
Dean Look and Brad Van Pelt were in the same class as all-around athletes, gifted beyond belief. Look was a state champion in track and football, a collegiate All-American and a professional in both Major League Baseball and the American Football League. But he is best known for a 37-years-andcounting career as an official in the National Football League. The Dean Look legend began on Lansing’s south side at the then brand-new Everett High.
He anchored a basketball team that lost to Lansing St. Mary’s three straight years in March Madness by a total of five points (a St. Mary’s team that won the state title in one of those years). He played fullback and safety on a football 24 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
team that went undefeated his junior year to win the mythical (pre-playoff system) state championship. His track team won two state championships and was runner-up his junior year, with Look running the 4x220, high hurdles and 100-yard dash, as well as competing in the pole vault. His summer sport was baseball, competing for American Legion and City League teams. It was Look’s love of baseball that was the deciding factor in accepting a Michigan State football scholarship. Duffy Daugherty agreed to let him to play on the baseball team in the spring. He played well enough to attract several baseball contracts after his junior season but decided to return to play football as a senior. Look was converted from halfback to quarterback that senior season by offensive coordinator Bill Yeoman. He was the only player in the country to be named to UPI’s Backfield of the Week three times. He was also the team’s leading punter and MVP his senior season and was named to two All America teams. Look was drafted by the AFL’s Denver Broncos. But he opted to sign with the Chicago White Sox after owner Bill Veeck made the same promise he had heard from Daugherty four years earlier: he could play both football and baseball. He only played three games in the majors, starting just one against the Baltimore Orioles. “Brooks Robinson stole two hits from me,” Look said. “On one of them, he made a dive to the right, then threw to first base on his knees.” Look’s pro football career was equally short, playing in one game for the AFL’s New York Titans. His NFL officiating career has its roots in the nagging of longtime preps official Jack Durocher.
“Jack and Harold Bell kept asking me to officiate,” Look said. “I finally agreed to do it just to get them off my back.” High school games led to an offer from the MIAA, then the MAC and finally the Big Ten before he was hired by the NFL in 1972. He stayed on the field for 29 seasons, then moved into the press box as an officiating supervisor. It was Look who signaled touchdown after “The Catch” by San Francisco’s Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC championship. And he officiated in three Super Bowls, the first with his college teammate George Perles on the sidelines as defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look also has the dubious distinction of being the first NFL official to have a call reversed on replay. “The guy was diving for the end zone right at the pylon,” he said. “I was backed off the goal line four or five feet. He stuck the ball out right over the goal line inside the pylon and I signaled a touchdown. They buzzed, and the guy upstairs said his knee hit the ground at the 3-yard line when he stretched out and we had to mark the ball at the one.” Look never had another call reversed. At age 72 Dean Look continues to work NFL games every weekend. Every Tuesday he downloads the video of every game played the previous weekend to review the performance of officials. A lifelong mid-Michigan resident, he and Miki – his wife of 50 years – have three daughters and seven grandchildren. Their oldest, Dree, went to Northern Colorado on a volleyball scholarship. (Dree was named for Duffy Daugherty’s daughter.) Daughters Darcy and Dina inherited Dad’s talent as well, excelling in softball, basketball and volleyball. These days Look is a regular on the golf course whenever time and the weather allows. His friends will tell you he could have been a pro golfer, too. They haven’t invented the sport that Look can’t master. By WALT SORG
Charlie Gehringer BASEBALL • FOWLERVILLE HIGH
The word “great” is often overused in athletics. But it may not be a strong enough adjective to describe the baseball career Charlie Gehringer had with the Detroit Tigers. By any measure, Gehringer’s 19-year career with the Tigers was among the best for any middle infielder in major-league history. A left-handed hitter, Gehringer had a lifetime batting average of .320. His 2,839 hits rank 43rd all-time, and his 574 doubles rank 20th. As a fielder, Gehringer led all American League second basemen in fielding percentage and assists seven times. His 7,068 assists is the second-highest total at his position. And he ranks in the top 10 all-time in putouts and double plays. But if it were up to Lenard and Therese Gehringer, Charlie would have never left the crop fields of Fowlerville. Gehringer’s parents, both German immigrants, were proud farmers who settled in Mid-Michigan near the end of the 19th century. It was there that Charlie was born in 1903. Gehringer grew up doing chores, but it was sports, not farming, that attracted his attention. According to the book, Charlie Gehringer: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Tigers Second Baseman, by John C. Skipper, Gehringer and his brother Al converted a pasture near the family’s barn into a makeshift baseball field. At Fowlerville High, Gehringer played basketball and baseball. Many thought he had a promising future in basketball when he led the Gladiators to the state finals, where they lost in overtime to Holly. In fact, when he went to the University of Michigan, Gehringer lettered in basketball, not baseball. It was similar to ex-Dallas Cowboys receiver Pete Gent only playing basketball at Michigan State. Gehringer spent his summers playing baseball at county fairs, eventually joining an independent team out of Angola, Ind. Word started to spread about his skills. And a hunting friend of Tigers outfielder Bobby Veach, who lived in Fowlerville, asked if Veach could arrange a tryout for Gehringer.
In 1923 Gehringer went to Detroit and what was then known as Navin Field for his tryout. After hitting several line drives, then fielding grounders with ease at third base, he had done his job. Tigers player-manager Ty Cobb was so impressed that he climbed the stands in his spikes to find owner Frank Navin so he could see the prospect. When “The Fowlerville Flash” signed a contract with a $300 bonus, his parents finally accepted the fact that farming wasn’t in his future. Their son soon proved that his decision was the right one. Cobb eased Gehringer into a regular role as the team’s second baseman in 1926. In a 14-year span from 1927-1940, Gehringer’s batting average dipped below .300 just once – and that was a .298 average in 1932. Every year, Gehringer improved. In 1929 he led the American League in six batting categories: plate appearances, runs (131), hits (215), doubles (45), triples (19) and stolen bases (27). In 1934 he again led the league in runs (134) and hits (124). And in 1936 he hit 60 doubles, becoming the last player with that many in a season. But his finest season was in 1937. Gehringer led the American League with a career-high .371 average and won the American League MVP award, the best of his eight Top 10 MVP finishes. Gehringer was admired for being a gentleman, not just a stats machine. After his MVP award, the Spalding Guide wrote that “no player is more modest and more deserving of such a compliment.” Gehringer’s consistency earned him the nickname “The Mechanical Man,” from New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez. Mickey Cochrane, Gehringer’s manager with the World Champion Tigers in 1935, said, “He says hello on Opening Day and goodbye on
Closing Day, and in between he hits .350.” And legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige called Gehringer the best white hitter he ever faced. Baseball historian and author Bill James equated Gehringer’s career with that of another Hall of Fame second baseman, Rod Carew. James also noted that Gehringer’s
strike zone judgment was outstanding by the end of his career (112 walks and 21 strikeouts in 1938, 101-17 in 1940). Gehringer retired after the 1942 season and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949. His number 2 was retired by the Tigers in 1983. And he died at age 89 in 1993. But his memory lives on in a statue beyond the outfield stands at Comerica Park. By ANDY FLANAGAN
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Sam Vincent BASKETBALL • EASTERN HIGH
His Eastern High basketball teammates called him their top gun – the guy who sits back and doesn’t say much, then leads the way, scores the most points and efficiently administers the kill come game time. That was James Vincent, who became “Sam” by age 10 because of an alleged resemblance to a cartoon character. As Jay’s little brother, he was expected to become a good basketball player. And he lived up to those expectations, dunking for the first time in seventh grade and developing into one of the best guards in Michigan State history. The youngest of the five Vincent boys broke Earvin Johnson’s single-game city scoring record, led the Quakers to the 1981 Class A state championship and was named Michigan’s first “Mr. Basketball.” In college Vincent was an All-American, a Big Ten scoring champ and a two-time AllBig Ten selection. He left campus as the No. 3 career scorer and ranks sixth today. After college he earned an NBA championship ring as a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 1985, then played with the Chicago Bulls. He became the only player to win on the playgrounds with Magic and in the pros with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. He also coached in Europe and South Africa, helped Nigeria register the first victory by an African nation in a women’s Olympic basketball game and led the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats for a full season. Vincent was a prime example of what hard work can mean. Sure, he had lots of natural ability. But being thrust into the spotlight so early, he was forced to hone that talent in stages. In high school Vincent was a power forward in a shooting guard’s body. And he played like it. A leaper with exceptional upper-body strength, he posted up, ran the floor and dominated with power moves to the basket and open-court scoring. He wasn’t an outstanding pure shooter 26 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
in those days. But he could score with a wide variety of moves and put up 61 points against Waverly, erasing Johnson’s city record of 54. A fierce competitor, he led Eastern to the semifinals of the state tournament his sophomore year, where it lost to Pontiac Central. Then, “Sir Slam” helped Paul Cook’s Quakers claim the title the following season. “It wasn’t hard for him to be a leader,” said Jim Keyton Jr., a senior center on that team. “We all knew our roles and were committed to doing whatever it took. Nobody cared about who did what or who got the credit.” Vincent’s inconsistency as a ball-handler and outside shooter meant an adjustment under Jud Heathcote at MSU. By the time he finished, he had developed into a complete backcourt player and finished with 1,851 points. “I was close to going to Michigan – very close,” Vincent said. “Bill Frieder was a super recruiter. But I’m basically a homebody. And Jay thought I should go to MSU.” Vincent averaged 23 points his senior season and shot 54.4 percent from the field, often on passes from point guard Scott Skiles. “When I came to Michigan State, a lot was made of us not getting along,” Skiles said. “That was false. We always got along. And he was the best player in the Big Ten.” Vincent had 39 points in a win at Purdue, including 25 in the second half and eight more in overtime. And in his only NCAA Tournament game, he scored 32 in a twopoint loss to UAB. “He’s the best player in the Big Ten and one of the best guards I’ve seen in this league,” Indiana coach Bob Knight said after Vincent scored 31 in an upset in Bloomington. “The thing I really like about him is he
understands the flow of the game.” Despite having been All-Big Ten and the team’s MVP the previous year, he was named the Spartans’ Most Improved Player, a testament to his persistence and commitment. In seven NBA seasons with five teams, Vincent scored 3,106 points and had 1,543 assists before tearing an Achilles tendon.
But his shining moment may have come in the Bulls’ lone win over the Detroit Pistons in the 1988 NBA Playoffs. Instead of feeding Jordan all night, Vincent scored 27 points in the first half. Whether it was winning a televised game of H-O-R-S-E with a 40-foot jumper or beating Jay in a trash-talking game of Putt-Putt, they Vincent boys always could put the ball in the hole.
By ERNIE BOONE
Ryan Miller HOCKEY • EAST LANSING HIGH
East Lansing native Ryan Miller probably would have made this Top 25 list solely on his college accomplishments, extending a family’s legacy that’s synonymous with Michigan State hockey. Miller ranks among the best of the best for transcending said legacy to establish his own name as perhaps the finest goaltender in the NHL. Soon, he will have a chance to challenge for the title of best in the world as the probable starter for Team USA in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. It has been rare for a player to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top player in college hockey, then go on to NHL stardom. Only Miller and Paul Kariya have an NHL resume to match their collegiate successes. Perhaps the best measure of Miller’s impact on the game of college hockey is the widely held belief that he has ruined any other goaltender’s chances of winning the award. Miller’s gaudy numbers have become the measuring stick: a 1.32 goals-against average and .950 save percentage are near impossible to duplicate. But perhaps it’s not fair to assert that Miller has “ruined” anyone’s chances. After all, he is one of only two goalies to ever win college hockey’s highest individual honor. Miller was a star from the minute he enrolled at MSU, where his impressive list of accomplishments really began. It took a pretty special goalie to bump a senior and All-American from a starting role, as Miller did with Joe Blackburn – especially when the incumbent owned a 1.75 career GAA. Miller debuted with a 1.53 GAA and a .932 save percentage, then went 31-5-4 as a sophomore with 10 shutouts. He led the nation in five statistical categories and set the NCAA all-time record for shutouts with his 17th in February 2001. The Hobey Baker capped a season in which Miller earned first-team All-America honors and was named CCHA Player of the Year and CCHA Tournament MVP. He helped the Spartans win the 2001 league regular28 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
season and postseason titles, rule their fourth Great Lakes Invitational in a row and reach their 10th Frozen Four. Miller made it through one more year in East Lansing, recording a 1.77 GAA and a .936 save percentage for a 27-win team in 2001-02, then skipped his final season to begin a pro career. A fifth-round pick by Buffalo in 1999 (138th overall), Miller made his pro debut for the Sabres’ AHL franchise in Rochester. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 with a 23-18-5 record and a 2.34 GAA and appearance at the NHL’s Young Stars Game. From 2002-05, Miller impressed during call-ups to the parent club and posted a 2.33 save percentage and 2.33 GAA in 167 games with Rochester. In his final year there, he likely would have been a full-time Buffalo Sabre, if not for the NHL work stoppage. But Miller made that year count, winning the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award as the AHL’s top goaltender and setting the Amerks’ singleseason shutout mark with eight. He led the league in victories (41) and saves (1,814), and was its first 40-game winner since Gerry Cheevers in 1964-65. Since the NHL resumed operation for the 2005-06 season, Miller has established himself among the league’s best at his position and achieved hero status in a rabid, loyal Buffalo fanbase. He backstopped the Sabres to the President’s Trophy and Eastern Conference Finals in 2007, then was the team’s bright spot when Buffalo missed the playoffs in each of the next two seasons. Now a veteran of nearly 300 NHL games, Miller is more than a bright spot for his current squad. With a contract that will keep him in Buffalo through the 2013-14 season,
he is also the foundation on which the Sabres have begun to rebuild. That youth movement has paid immediate dividends in the conference standings. Through early December, Miller leads all NHL goalies in GAA (1.85), save percentage (.936) and wins (16). While the NHL takes a short hiatus in February and turns its eyes to Vancouver, Miller’s legacy will have a chance to grow
yet again. In a career filled with “bests” and “firsts”, he’ll strive to be the best in the world, capturing the USA’s first gold in the sport since 1980. If he does and represents the Millers again, it wouldn’t be a Miracle. It would merely be another chapter in an amazing story of individual and family hockey brilliance.
By JAMIE WEIR
Muhsin Muhammad FOOTBALL • WAVERLY HIGH
Sometimes a little fatherly advice can make a big difference. Take the case of Carolina Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad II. Muhammad was an all-state running back at Waverly High and received a scholarship from Michigan State in 1991. But before he reached MSU, Muhammad’s father, also named Muhsin, suggested to his son that he switch from running back to wide receiver. It was probably the best advice Muhammad ever received. “At the time the NFL was changing from small receivers to big receivers, and he told me that is where he saw me prospering,” Muhammad says on his website, www. moose87.com. “At the time I thought it sounded strange. But I took his advice, and the rest is history.” Indeed, Muhammad, 36, ranks among the greatest receivers in NFL history. Midway through the 2009 season, he was 17th in career receptions (837), 21st in receiving yards (11,167) and 24th in touchdowns (61). Not bad stats for someone whose first loves were basketball and soccer. Muhammad also describes enjoying the time he spent catching fish in the pond at Delta Township’s Sharp Park and in the Grand River at Grand Woods Park. He was born Melvin Campbell, but his name was changed at age 4 when his father converted to Islam. Muhammad is a Christian, however. He and his wife, Christa, have six children, including two who were adopted from Ethiopia in 2007. They live in Charlotte, N.C. Muhammad had a solid career at MSU, capped by an excellent senior season in 1995, when he had 50 catches for 867 yards, the ninth-highest total in school history. His most memorable catch was a tipped ball off Michigan’s Charles Woodson in one of Muhammad’s two wins over the Wolverines. He had four 100-yard games his senior year and saved the best for last – nine receptions for 171 yards in a 45-26 loss to LSU in the Independence Bowl. Muhammad was a second-round pick by the Panthers the following spring. Following two mediocre seasons, he became a full-time starter in 1998, catching 68 passes for 941 yards.
His breakout season came in 1999, when he earned his first Pro Bowl selection with 96 receptions for 1,253 yards and eight TDs. Muhammad followed that up with a 102catch season in 2000. He was instrumental in the Panthers reaching Super Bowl XXXVIII in the 2003 season. Carolina lost to New England 32-29, but Muhammad set a Super Bowl record by catching an 85-yard touchdown pass. Muhammad’s best season was in 2004, when he led the NFL with 1,405 yards and 16 TD receptions. However, the Panthers released him after the season, in part because he was due a $10 million roster bonus. Muhammad wasted little time in signing a six-year contract with the Chicago Bears. Muhammad, whose nickname is “Moose,” had three solid if unspectacular seasons with the Bears. He led the team in receiving in 2005 (64 catches) and 2006 (60), with the Bears advancing to the Super Bowl following the 2006 season. Muhammad’s only postseason touchdown that year came in the Bears’ 29-17 Super Bowl XLI loss to Indianapolis. After catching just 40 passes in 2007 for 540 yards, he was released by the Bears. But Muhammad re-signed with the Panthers nine days later and had a solid season in his 2008 return, catching 65 passes for 923 yards. Muhammad is almost certain to be inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame. Yet, it’s his philanthropic work that has endeared him to many, especially people associated with Waverly High. In 2007, Muhammad donated over $60,000 in money and equipment to re-fit the Waverly Warriors fitness center. In February of that year, he was honored at halftime of a Waverly basketball game. There, the fitness center was named the Muhsin Muhammad II Fitness Center in his honor.
Muhammad donated an additional $10,000 to Waverly this year, working with Reebok, the school’s athletic department and retired teacher-coach Kevin Byrnes to implement this project. Byrnes, who coached Muhammad during his senior season at Waverly, said it would have taken two to three years for Waverly to amass that much money via fundraising.
“It would have taken tons of people and man hours,” Byrnes said. “With the economy the way it is, it would have made it even more difficult.” Muhammad does most of his work through his favorite charity, “The M2 Foundation for Kids.” Regardless of how much longer he plays, Muhammad has made a longtime impact, especially in the Lansing area.
By ANDY FLANAGAN
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Art Brandstatter Jr. FOOTBALL
BASKETBALL • EAST LANSING HIGH
Football has changed a lot since Art Brandstatter Jr. starred for East Lansing High and Michigan State University. Brandstatter played for the Spartans from 1959-61. In his senior season, they lost only twice. Today, that would have put them in the running for a BCS bowl invitation. “Back then, if you didn’t win the Big Ten, you didn’t go to a bowl game,” Brandstatter recalled. “We were 7-2 my senior year, and we got to stay home. That’s a shame. But that’s the way it was.” That was the same season when Brandstatter was one of the team’s leading receivers – with five catches. “The only time we’d throw was when we’d get into trouble and had to,” he said. “What they’d call me today is a ‘possession receiver.’ I didn’t have the speed to get downfield and beat those safeties. I could run the hook and the out and the in, and I had good hands. All my stuff was across the middle of the field, all the short stuff.” Brandstatter was much more valuable as a devastating blocker. “We used the pull and trap that they don’t do anymore,” he said. “We’d run a trap up the middle. They’d pull and trap the inside people. My job as the tight end was to come across and block that middle linebacker. He’d be licking his chops just waiting to put a hit on that ball carrier and never see you coming. You could knock him into the next county.” Brandstatter never left the field. There was limited substitution in the ’50s and early ’60s, so players went both ways. And he was also MSU’s kicker. “Our ’61 team was honored earlier this year for being the best defensive team in the history of Michigan State,” Brandstatter said. “The only two games I remember were the two games we lost that year. We got beat by Purdue, 7-6, when they blocked one of my extra points. And we lost to Minnesota. They were the eventual Big Ten champion and went to the Rose Bowl with Carl Eller, 30 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Bobby Bell, Sandy Stephens and a lot of other really good players.” Today, players are recruited to kick. When the offense begins to move, the kicker boots practice balls into a net. Brandstatter never had that luxury. “That wasn’t such a big deal,” he said. “What’s the big deal about kicking? I know it is now, but that’s because there’s so much riding on it. I didn’t think a lot about it. It was just something I’d always done.” When Brandstatter graduated from East Lansing, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he’d go to Michigan State. His father, an All-American for the Spartans in the 1930s, was on the faculty. “Growing up in this town and following Michigan State, I never had a great desire to go anywhere else,” Brandstatter said. “I visited Notre Dame. That was the only other place I would’ve wanted to go. Coming to Michigan State was fantastic.” Duffy Daugherty had some excellent teams, led by players like Herb Adderley, Gary Ballman and Ernie Clark, who all went on to excel in the NFL. “Duffy is a legend,” Brandstatter said. “He was a great, great guy. He was a great administrator and had fantastic assistants. They made you a better player.” One of the highlights of Brandstatter’s storied career didn’t occur on the football field but on the basketball court at Jenison Field House. His East Lansing team, coached by Gus Ganakas, defeated Lofton Greene’s vaunted River Rouge Panthers 62-51 for the Class B State Championship. Ganakas gave most of the credit to Brandstatter. “What made that even more special is that Blanche Martin graduated from
River Rouge, and he and I have been good friends,” Brandstatter said. “We’ve had a lot of fun going over that over the years. I get the last laugh. That doesn’t happen often. My brother (Jim) went to Michigan, and whenever we get to yapping about that, he gets smart, pulls out
his Big Ten championship ring and says, ‘Where’s yours?’” After graduation, Brandstatter went into the insurance business and is still working fulltime for the Michigan Bell Association. He and his wife, Pat, have six children and 18 grandchildren. “I met her in the third grade, and we were high school sweethearts,” Brandstatter said. “Best thing I ever did was marry her.” By CHUCK KLONKE
David Porter WRESTLING
FOOTBALL • SEXTON HIGH
Dave Porter didn’t get discouraged when he found himself on his back, wrestling Lansing Sexton state champion Emerson Boles and several other top wrestlers. It just made him work that much harder. “When I was in the seventh grade, all I saw was the ceiling in the gym,” Porter recalled. “By the time I was in the eighth grade, I got a good look at both walls. When I was in the ninth grade, I was usually the one on top.” So began the career of one of the finest wrestlers to come from the Lansing area. “My junior high wrestling coach worked it out so I could work with the varsity team at Sexton,” Porter said. “That, as much as anything, was the reason for my success. I learned wrestling from the inside out.” That early start brought Porter three Class A state titles. As a sophomore he finished first at 180 pounds, then ruled the heavyweights as a junior and senior. Porter sharpened his skills by attending Michigan State’s wrestling camps in the summer and working out the Spartans during the season. He was also an excellent two-way tackle on some fine Sexton teams, including one that won the mythical state championship. That earned him a football scholarship to the University of Michigan. How did someone so close to MSU’s wrestling program wind up in Ann Arbor? The explanation is simple. Porter planned to be an architect, and Michigan offered an excellent architectural school. Porter’s No. 1 sport was wrestling, with football a close second, but he accepted a football scholarship from the Wolverines. “At that time schools offered 40 football scholarships and only two or three wrestling scholarships,” Porter said. “So I told (Michigan wrestling coach) Cliff Keen that I’d take the football scholarship and save him a wrestling scholarship. “I’d hoped he’d use the scholarship to recruit somebody I could work out with. He did recruit a wrestling from Grand Ledge that
I beat in the state finals, but he blew out his knee and never did wrestle for Michigan.” Porter had trouble finding competition throughout his college career. “I didn’t really have anybody to work out with in practice,” he said. “They’d bring in some football players or some track athletes – discus throwers or shot putters. I worked out with Dan Dierdorf and Jack Harvey, who later became the track coach at Michigan. They were big and strong, but they didn’t know wrestling techniques.” It was rare that one of Porter’s matches would go the distance. His record at Michigan was 51-3 with 32 pins. He won 13 of 14 matches in three NCAA Championships, claiming heavyweight titles in 1966 and ’68 and finishing third in ’67. That was the year Arizona State’s Curley Culp won the NCAA title. But Porter got revenge in the East-West wrestling meet held after the NCAA championships. He pinned Culp in the final match to give the East a 19-17 victory. Porter would tune up for Big Ten wrestling by competing in the Midlands Tournament, his toughest challenge with several former NCAA champions and many Olympic wrestlers. “My freshman year at the Midlands, I wrestled Larry Christoff, who’d won a bronze medal in the ’64 Olympics,” Porter said. “He beat me by a second of riding time.” Porter seldom left the field during his final two seasons of Sexton football. “I remember our game at Kalamazoo when I was a senior,” he said. “They used an unbalanced line, so I was going against two tackles. We stopped at Win Schuler’s on the way home, and I was too tired to get off the bus and go in to get something to eat.” Porter played defensive tackle at Michigan
and earned a trip to the North-South Shrine game in Miami. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1968 but tore a tendon in his foot and never played in a regular-season game. Porter had been invited to compete for a spot on the 1968 U.S. Olympic wrestling team. But he turned that down to pursue a pro football career. Was that a tough decision?
“Yes and no,” Porter said. “I was pretty beat up after wrestling season and needed a rest.” After graduation, Porter became a teacher and coach at Grand Ledge High. He was the architect of teams in football, wrestling, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls golf and softball. Porter was inducted into the Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1985.
By CHUCK KLONKE
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Joe Joseph BOWLING
SOFTBALL • PBA
Joe Joseph got his sense of humor through his genes. How else could one explain his parents naming the future American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame bowler Joseph Joseph Joseph? Lack of imagination perhaps, but no other reason. As he grew older, Joseph grew tired of his name and finally changed his middle name to George. When asked why, the droll Joseph replied, “To break the monotony.” Joseph could easily laugh at himself. That was best illustrated by a story he often told. A youngster once asked Joseph for his autograph. Flashing his familiar smile, Joseph signed his name. Then, he jokingly said, “That will be 35 cents.” The boy was taken aback for a few moments, then returned his autograph book to Joseph and said, “Erase it.” One of Joseph’s trademarks was the greeting he had for everyone he met. “Are you all right?” he would ask one and all. When he was on the bowling lanes, Joseph was certainly all right. He was possibly the smoothest bowler in the history of the game. His delivery was so fluid and clean that his ball made virtually no noise when it made contact with the lane. That wasn’t unusual in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Most of the top bowlers in those days would leave the fans in awe with their graceful approaches. Dave Davis, Tom Hennessey and Dick Ritger, to name a few, displayed the same immaculate form at the foul line that Joseph made famous. Joseph was quite an all-around athlete after moving to Lansing. He was an outstanding semi-pro football player and an excellent fast-pitch softball pitcher. He made bowling his career, however, and never regretted it. He won three ABC titles and finished in the top 10 in eight other events. When Joseph started bowling competitively, there was no PBA. The top bowlers in 32 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
the country joined teams that were sponsored by breweries. There were the famous Stroh’s and Pfeiffer’s teams in Detroit, Budweiser in St. Louis and Pabst, Blatz and Schlitz in Milwaukee. Joseph bowled for Pfeiffer when it won the ABC Classic team and all-events titles in 1959. He was also a member of the shortlived National Bowling League that began in 1961 with 10 teams. The league held a draft – Yankees stars Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were selected by the New York Gladiators, but decided not to quit their day jobs – and Joseph was picked by the Kansas City Stars. Although several other top bowlers, including Buzz Fazio, Steve Nagy, Ed Lubanski, Carmen Salvino, Johnny King, Billy Golembiewski, Therm Gibson and Bob Strampe joined Joseph in signing on with the NBL, many others like Billy Welu, Don Carter and Dick Weber chose to join the fledgling PBA. Carter reportedly turned down an offer of $50,000 – a huge amount in those days – to stay with the PBA. The league, unable to secure a national television contract, folded within a year. Joseph’s Kansas City team didn’t even last that long. It disbanded two days before Christmas in 1961. Joseph moved over to the PBA and won his first career title at the St. Louis Coca-Cola PBA Open in 1962. Four weeks later, Joseph won the first PBA Tournament of Champions in Indianapolis. Only one other bowler, Michael Haugen in 2007, won his first PBA title and the Tournament of Champions in the same season. In the 1962 Tournament of Champions, Joseph held off Golembiewski to win the season’s top money prize of $15,000. The following year, Joseph and Golembiewski teamed up to win the ABC Classic doubles championship.
In 1978, Joseph and Tommy Hudson won the Great and Greatest tournament, an event that paired a current touring pro with one of the legends of the game. Joseph was on the PBA tour from 1959 until 1962 and collected more than $100,000 in winnings. He was inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame in 1969, and became a member of the
PBA Hall of Fame in the veterans/senior category in 1985. Joseph went into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 with former Michigan State boxer Chuck Davey, ex-Detroit Lions All-Pro Alex Karras and George Wilson, who coached the Lions to their last NFL Championship in 1957. Joseph died in 1988 at the age of 70.
By CHUCK KLONKE
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SPORT TOP 150 ATHLETES • 16-25
Ben Poquette Kelly Miller BASKETBALL • EAST LANSING HIGH
HOCKEY • EASTERN HIGH
He is the only East Lansing High graduate to play in the National Basketball Association. But unlike other NBA stars from the area – Magic, the Vincents, Al Horford, etc. – the name Ben Poquette doesn’t come up in discussions of Mid-Michigan athletic greats.
The Miller name is synonymous with hockey. And one of the hardest-working members of the family was Kelly, who skated at Michigan State from 1981-85 and excelled not only in college, but in international and pro ranks as well.
That’s just fine with “Gentle Ben,” a low-key athlete who surprised a lot of people with constant improvement that took him from East Lansing to Central Michigan University, then to a four-team, 11-year NBA career. Poquette was lightly recruited coming out of high school. “He improved constantly, in high school, in college and even after he got to the pros,” said former East Lansing and MSU coach Gus Ganakas, who didn’t pay much attention to Poquette until late in the process. “We sure never thought he had NBA potential.” Poquette’s numbers in college were solid: 16.5 points and 11 rebounds per game and 96 blocked shots as a senior – good enough to make him the Pistons’ 2nd-round draft choice. Three seasons later, he signed as a free agent with the Utah Jazz, was traded after four years to Cleveland and wrapped up his career with a half-season on the pre-Jordan Chicago Bulls. Poquette and teammates Dan Roundfield and Leonard Drake led CMU to the 1975 NCAA Tournament. He was the go-to guy as a senior as CMU advanced to the quarterfinals of the Mideast Region, losing by five to North Carolina-Charlotte and Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell. Ann Arbor native Poquette grew up a Michigan fan, despite spending most of his youth in East Lansing. His oldest daughter, Nicole, played volleyball at U-M. But with his son Lucas enrolled at MSU and active in club lacrosse, family diplomacy has turned him neutral in Wolverine-Spartan discussions. Today, Poquette is pharmacy director for family-run Forest Hills Foods in Grand Rapids, and also is assistant basketball coach at Grand Haven High. His life is a far cry from the glitter of the NBA. His time now is occupied by family, camping, fishing, skiing and generally taking life as it comes along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
During his MSU career, he participated on three USA teams in the World Junior Championships (1981-82-83) and capped his career with All-America honors as a senior. A two-time team MVP, Miller was also a three-time Academic All-CCHA selection, graduating with a 3.5 grade-point average and paying as much attention to detail in his schoolwork as to improving his hockey skills. On the ice, he helped Michigan State to four NCAA Tournament bids and the 1984 Frozen Four. Miller’s college career coincided with MSU’s move from the WCHA to the CCHA, as its statement to their new conference brethren: four straight postseason tournament trophies and the 1985 regular-season title to go with three runner-up finishes. Miller left as the seventh all-time scorer in Spartan history (82 goals, 82 assists). But he was truly a gifted defensive player with an outstanding ability to contribute offensively. This would serve him well as he moved on to the NHL directly from college. Drafted by the New York Rangers in 1982, Miller played parts of three seasons there before being traded to the Washington Capitals midway through 1986-87. Only once a 20-goal scorer during his pro career, he was a defensive specialist with lightning-quick speed. Miller developed an ability to be a top checker and penalty killer, unusual for an undersized skater in the National Hockey League. He excelled at his role and in 1992 was a finalist for the NHL’s Selke Trophy, given annually to the league’s best defensive forward. He spent 13 years with the Capitals and 14 full seasons overall before retiring in 1999. Miller never played a minor-league game until he signed on with the Grand Rapids Griffins, a team he had volunteered to coach. In all, Miller appeared in 1,048 NHL games, scored 181 goals and added 282 assists for 463 points.
By WALT SORG
By JAMIE WEIR
34 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Julie Farrell Ovenhouse DIVING • HOLT
Her mission in life was simply to be a mom, wife and business executive. Along the way she became the greatest women’s diver in Big Ten history. But more important to Holt’s Julie Farrell Ovenhouse is her success in building “a normal life,” living and working within an hour of her birthplace. She dominated the sport throughout high school and college, winning a state championship, four Big Ten crowns and four NCAA titles. Her diving career almost ended after her 1991 graduation from MSU with a degree in criminal justice. She settled down with husband Todd Ovenhouse in Howell and worked as an investigator for Liberty Mutual Insurance. But competitive diving lingered in her mind. With her employer’s backing, Ovenhouse earned a spot in the three-meter springboard event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Barcelona. That dream that nearly ended with an unexpected medal. Though Chinese diving legend Gao Min was the overwhelming favorite for
gold, the other medals were up for grabs. “The scores from second to fifth were really tight,” Ovenhouse said of the standings after nine of the 10 rounds. “I had an inward twoand-a-half left, one of my best dives. I went up there and thought, ‘I’m going for it!’” Her hair brushed the board, forcing her to duck her head. That brief distraction led to what may have been her weakest dive of the competition. She slipped from third to fifth, the best performance of her career. Since then, Ovenhouse has achieved what most want but few achieve: living “the perfect” life – married 19 years to her college sweetheart, the mother of two girls and with a job she loves. She has long forgotten the details of the athletic competitions – the dives, the scores, the awards. What she remembers instead are the people who helped her along the way.
“I am thrilled and honored to be named as one of the top 150 athletes in Lansingarea history,” she said. “I’m proud of my hometown and could not have accomplished what I did without the support of my family and community.” By WALT SORG
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
BASKETBALL • GRAND LEDGE HIGH FLORIDA NBA
FOOTBALL • BATH HIGH MSU CFL
Mention Grand Ledge High athletics and thoughts immediately turn to football and baseball. The Comets have had more than their share of success on the gridiron and diamond, filling their trophy case with championship hardware.
Dan Bass may be the greatest defensive player in Michigan State football history – and many fans have never heard about him.
Basketball? That’s a different story. When it has had excellent teams, Grand Ledge has been overshadowed by schools that have won titles or made deep tournament runs. When you start talking about Mid-Michigan’s best players, names like Earvin Johnson and Jay and Sam Vincent pop up immediately. Yet, no conversation about the area’s top talent is complete without the inclusion of the Comets’ Al Horford. As a 6-foot-10 240pound center, Horford helped the University of Florida to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006-07, earning SEC Tournament MVP and All-Final Four honors both years. Today, Horford is a key contributor for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks after finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Local sports fans vividly recall his high school exploits. Horford brought basketball to the forefront in Grand Ledge, leading the Comets to a 52-14 record in his three seasons. He finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,239 points and held seven career records, including scoring average (18.1), rebounds (11.7) and blocked shots (3.3). He was an impressive physical specimen in high school. But his athleticism was even more impressive. Powerful and rangy, he could run the floor with the best of them. And his defense and shotblocking were enough to discourage all but the most fearless. As a senior he averaged 21.1 points, 13 rebounds, and 4.9 blocks. He had 18 double-doubles in 23 games and helped push the Comets’ Class A ranking as high as seventh. Local fans loved the fact that he normally elevated his game when the stakes were the highest. That’s what great players do. Few will forget his 29-point performance when the Comets met highly ranked Flint Beecher and future Spartan Marquise Gray; and even more remember the 34 point, 17 rebound, 7 blocked shot effort against eventual state champion Everett with Goran Suton.
Bass never played in the Rose Bowl because the Spartans were on probation for three of the four years he played for them, including their Big Ten championship season of 1978. He never made an AllAmerica team, despite leading the team in tackles four times and scoring on a school-record 99-yard interception return against Wisconsin. Plus, he never played in the NFL. Sure, he had a great career in the Canadian Football League. But how many football fans follow the CFL in the U.S? But Bass was meant to play football. He proved it at Bath High, in the Big Ten and in the pros. At each stop he excelled as few others have. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds. Bass was a heat-seeking missile of a linebacker. “Danny Bass was, simply put, a hitting machine,” former Bath assistant coach Mel Comeau told Sport magazine in 2008. “He was a ferocious tackler and the most physical high school player I’ve ever seen.” Bass proved himself in his first collegiate game. Going against a great Ohio State team in Columbus, Bass made 32 tackles, a school single-game record that still stands. He made 44 starts during his career at MSU, racking up 541 tackles, a mark that may never be approached. He also had a schoolrecord 12 fumble recoveries. Because of his size, Bass decided to play professionally in Canada, a very good move unless you were a ballcarrier. Playing primarily for the Edmonton Eskimos (1984-1991) during his 12-year CFL career, Bass continued to star. He was voted one of the CFL’s top 50 players by Canadian sports network TSN (number 44), and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Bass was a six-time CFL all-star and in 1989 was named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He finished with 23 interceptions, 21 fumble recoveries and 52 sacks and was added to the Eskimos’ Wall of Honour in 1992.
By ERNIE BOONE
By ANDY FLANAGAN
36 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Randy Kinder FOOTBALL
TRACK • EAST LANSING HIGH NOTRE DAME NFL
Randy Kinder oozed star power from his Hollywood-worthy smile to his tackle-evading toes. If the current rating system had existed, he certainly would have rated five stars coming out of East Lansing High in 1993. Coaching giants Bill Walsh of Stanford, Tom Coughlin of Boston College and Lou Holtz of Notre Dame followed Kinder all the way to Mid-Michigan. As a Trojans senior, he rushed for 2,464 yards – No. 2 in state history at the time – and 34 touchdowns. He was a consensus prep All-American and a state track champ in the 200 and 400 meters. When he spurned Michigan State and Michigan for Holtz’s Fighting Irish, it was grudgingly accepted. South Bend was where the spotlight shined the brightest, at least back then. Kinder made an immediate impact, and his 537 yards on 89 carries were second
(now fourth) on the Irish freshman list. He was an indoor track All-American that winter and led Notre Dame’s rushers as a sophomore in ’94 (702 yards on 119 carries) and junior (809 on 143). Due to injuries and poor off-the-field decisions, Kinder admitted he didn’t live “up to his potential.” His star faded as a senior as all-time ND rusher Autry Denson’s shot up. Kinder’s NFL career consisted of 12 games as a free-agent defensive back with Green Bay and Philadelphia. His place in Irish history is secure. He’s the school’s No. 8 rusher with 2,295 career yards and a glittering 5.7-yard average. Yet, Kinder savors the 1991 season and a relatively modest 1,700-or-so yards – he can’t quite remember – as a Trojans junior. “That’s my No. 1 memory sports-wise, period,” Kinder said. “We were able to bring a state championship home, which had never been done at East Lansing. I was just lucky enough to run behind a good offensive line and definitely attribute any fame I got to
being around that team. “Even eclipsing the championship was the fact we had a great group of guys. I never had more fun than I did playing football with those teams and for coach Jeff Smith. It was just a special, special time.”
By STEVE GRINCZEL
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2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Sam Williams Lynn Janson FOOTBALL • DANSVILLE HIGH MSU NFL
GOLF • EAST LANSING HIGH MSU PGA
Sam Williams was one of the best defensive linemen on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL in 1962. The Detroit Lions had their best defensive team ever that year, allowing just 177 points in 14 games.
If Gus Ganakas had been more persuasive, Lynn Janson would have ended up as “a third-base coach at the junior high school level.”
Williams (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) was a member of the first incarnation of the “Fearsome Foursome.” With tackles Roger Brown and Alex Karras and opposite end Darris McCord, he gave the Lions the best pass rush in pro football in 1962. The proof came in the Lions’ epic Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers. Williams and the rest of the defense harassed Packers quarterback Bart Starr all afternoon. The Lions sacked Starr 11 times for 110 yards in losses, handing the Packers their only loss that season, 26-14. Williams even picked up a fumble near the goal line and scored a touchdown following one of the sacks. Despite his prowess as a defensive end, Williams admitted to author George Plimpton that he would get nervous before every game. Plimpton spent time with the Lions in training camp in 1964 researching his book, Paper Lion. During a conversation, Plimpton asked Williams if he was still affected by nerves. “Sure,” he said to Plimpton for a 1964 Sports Illustrated article. “In the feet and hands – heavy feet, heavy hands, so as I can barely move around.” Obviously, Williams was able to overcome nerves during his career. He played six seasons for the Lions from 1960-65 and three other years in the NFL, retiring after the 1967 season. No stats on tackles were kept during his 119 NFL games. Prior to his pro days, Williams was a standout at Dansville High and at Michigan State. After dropping out of MSU and serving four years in the Navy, Williams was a two-way star for the Spartans from 1956-58. Williams’ senior year was good enough to earn recognition despite a rare losing record. He caught a team-high 15 passes that season and averaged nearly 50 minutes a game. He earned AllAmerican honors as a defensive end – always fearsome.
It was the mid-1960s. Ganakas was the East Lansing High basketball coach, and Janson had played freshman baseball. The following spring, Janson decided to give up the diamond for golf, a sport he had just discovered. “One of the people who told me that was just ridiculous was Gus Ganakas,” Janson remembered. “He said, ‘You really can’t do that. Golf is just an activity, and baseball is a sport… You can play golf the rest of your life, but you’re only going to have this baseball experience once. You have to play baseball.’” Ganakas, who went on to coach basketball at Michigan State, was right. Janson has been spending the rest of his life playing golf. Janson received one scholarship offer – from MSU coach Bruce Fossum. Talk about outstanding evaluations! Janson soon became the school’s first golf All-American. He also led the Spartans to their first Big Ten title and three NCAA Tournaments, where they finished as high as seventh. “I played a lot of my early golf at Forest Akers, caddied there and just hung out,” Janson said. “Basically, nobody knew I could play golf except for Bruce.” Janson went on to become one of Michigan’s greatest club professional competitors and is now head pro at the exclusive Black Diamond Ranch complex in Lecanto, Fla. Janson is a four-time winner of the Michigan PGA, a two-time Michigan Open champion and former Michigan Amateur champ. As a club pro, he played in seven U.S. Opens and seven PGA Championships. “That wouldn’t be any big deal for Danny Pohl from Mount Pleasant, a world-class player,” Janson said. “But for a full-time working club professional who never played on the tour to qualify for those 14 majors was kind of a big deal. “Of those seven U.S. Opens, I made three cuts. I also made one cut in the PGA championship.” And he deprived a junior varsity team of a third-base coach.
By ANDY FLANAGAN
By STEVE GRINCZEL
38 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Danton Cole Bruce Fields HOCKEY • WAVERLY HIGH MSU NHL
BASEBALL BASKETBALL • EVERET T HIGH MLB
Numbers don’t illustrate intangibles like work ethic, determination and love of the game – traits often mentioned when people recall Danton Cole’s Michigan State and professional hockey career.
Bruce Fields could hit the baseball. He proved it during his 14 seasons in the minor leagues. Unfortunately, he never had much chance to show that during his three major-league stints.
Cole was selected in the 1985 NHL entry draft by the Winnipeg Jets. But he honored his commitment to MSU and began a four-year career with one of the era’s most dominant programs. A graduate of Waverly High, Cole experienced euphoria early in his career as a freshman on the Spartans’ 1986 NCAA Championship team. Three years later, Cole would graduate with the school’s season (47) and career records for games played (180), a spot among MSU’s top all-time scorers with 163 points and other accolades. Cole helped the Spartans to three Frozen Fours and four NCAA Tournaments, regular-season CCHA titles in 1986 and 1989 and CCHA playoff titles in 1987, and 1989. He was a CCHA All-Academic selection and an Honorable Mention All-CCHA pick. Cole was also the team MVP, its Most Improved Player (1987), the Amo Bessone Award recipient for athletic and academic excellence and community participation (1988) and winner of the Outstanding Senior and Blue Line Club Presidents Award (1989). Cole’s pro career brought him to five NHL franchises – Winnipeg, Tampa, New Jersey, NY Islanders and Chicago – in addition to AHL and IHL stops. A midseason trade from the Tampa to New Jersey in 1995 put Cole in position to win the Stanley Cup with the Devils that season, his next-to-last in the NHL. He finished his career by playing four seasons for the Grand Rapids Griffins from 1997-2000. That stop also brought him to his next profession: coaching. He served as player-coach for the Griffins in his final playing season before moving behind the bench full-time for the 2000-01 campaign. He moved on to become the head coach of the UHL’s Muskegon Fury the following season, leading the team to 48 victories and a championship. Cole returned to his roots in college hockey – first as an assistant at Bowling Green and currently in his third season as the head coach at Alabama-Huntsville.
Fields, 49, had a prolific minorleague career. He had a .295 batting average and won three batting titles: the Class AA Southern League in 1985 (.323), the AAA American Association in 1986 (.368) and the AAA Pacific Coast League in 1989 (.351). In all, Fields had almost 5,000 at-bats in the minors (4,948) and played in almost 1,400 games (1,381) from 1978-1991. Unfortunately, those numbers weren’t reflected in his majorleague stats. Fields had just 113 at-bats over three seasons in the outfield with the Detroit Tigers (1986) and the Seattle Mariners (1988-89), batting .274. His only problem? He wasn’t a power hitter but played a powerhitter’s position. Fields hit just 41 home runs as a minor-leaguer, not enough to interest major-league teams. He did have 235 stolen bases in the minors, but his speed wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of power. Fields had a stellar athletic career at Everett High before being drafted in the seventh round by the Tigers out of high school in 1978. Fields played two seasons of varsity baseball at Everett, hitting .500 (35-for-70) his senior year. Many may remember Fields as a member of Everett’s 1977 state championship basketball team. He started about half the games that season, averaging 5.1 points. Fields was a starting guard for the Vikings the following season, advancing to the state semifinals without Magic Johnson and three other graduated starters. Fields has remained in baseball since his retirement as a player, first as a batting coach, then as a manager. He was the Midwest League Manager of the Year twice while with the Tigers’ Class A West Michigan team. Fields then managed the Tigers’ AAA team in Toledo for two seasons before serving as Detroit’s hitting coach from 2003-05. He’s currently the Cleveland Indians’ minor-league hitting instructor. But many in baseball believe some day he will be a hit as a major-league manager.
By JAMIE WEIR
By ANDY FLANAGAN
SPORT TOP 150 ATHLETES • 26-150
LAUREN AITCH Lansing Waverly (2004) Michigan State
Lansing Gabriels (1970) LCC/MSU
St Johns (1967) Michigan State MLB
BASKETBALL Led Waverly to the 2004 Class A state championship, averaging 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds; earned MSU’s Sixth Player of the Year Award (2008, 2009)
Basketball All-State guard led Paul Cook’s Gabriels squad to the 1970 MHSAA Quarterfinals; NJCAA AllAmerican (1971-72); LCC Athlete of the Decade; played soccer at MSU
East Lansing (1923) Michigan State Track and Field First Spartan to win Olympic gold (Amsterdam 1928). Ran the third leg in the USA 4x400m relay, which won with a then-world record of 3.14.2; 1927 NCAA Champion in 100 and 220; 1927 IC4A individual champion in 440
Lansing Eastern (1954) Michigan State Football-Fast Pitch Softball 1958 Academic All Big 10 (football); Amateur Softball Hall of Fame (1989); 13 city titles; 10 city batting Titles; 9 Michigan ASA State Championships
DICK ALLEN Lansing Sexton (1962) Football-Track 1st team All-State (1962); member of Sexton’s 1962 State Champion football team; 3-time City Sprint Champ (100, 220) 1960-62; anchored Sexton’s undefeated 440 and 880 relay teams
ANTOINE BAGWELL East Lansing (2002) Joliet Junior College/ California University (PA) Football-Track Two-time Class A All-State at East Lansing (2000-01); Two-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Player of the Year (2004-05), rushed for 3,353 yards and 45 TDs in two seasons
JESSICA BEECH Okemos (2000) Michigan State Softball Michigan’s Miss Softball in 2000; two-time NFCA AllAmerica honoree; holds the MSU record for career no-hitters (4), wins (72), shutouts (24) and strikeouts (659)
40 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Vermontville (1949) Baseball Holds seven national high school pitching records, including career (18.1) and season (19) strikeouts per-game; threw eight nohitters at Vermontville (24-1 record); played in New York Yankees farm system (1949-50, 1953-55), 41-28 record, 3.26 ERA in 572 innings (109 games)
T.C. BLAIR East Lansing (1969) Tulsa NFL Football-Basketball All-Missouri Valley Conference tight end (1973). Drafted in 11th round by Detroit Lions in 1974 and played one season in NFL.
NIKKI BOUYER Lansing Sexton (1995) Clemson Track and Field Five-time All-American and ten-time AllACC at Clemson (1996-99); holds all Tigers’ indoor and outdoor hurdle records (55, 60, 100, 400m).
Baseball-Football-Basketball Class B All-State (baseball, basketball); two-time All-Big Ten (1970-71); 3rd team All-American (1971); captain of MSU’s 1971 Big Ten baseball champions; placekicker for Spartans (1968-69); drafted by Washington Senators (1971) and played four years in their farm system.
LINDSAY BOWEN Dansville (2002) Michigan State WNBA Basketball Four-time Class C AllState; MSU’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (294) and free-throw pct. (87.8); second all-time scoring (1,739 points); started every game of her career (131 games); led MSU to 2005 Final Four
TOMMIE BOYD Lansing Eastern (1990) Toledo NFL/NFL Europe/AFL Football Class A All-State (1989); Four-year letterman at Toledo (1991-94); All-American Honorable Mention (1994); averaged 14-yards per catch in college; 14 career catches (1 TD) with Detroit Lions (1998-99)
LIAM BOYLAN-PETT Bath (2004) Columbia Track-Cross Country Michigan Mr. Track and Field (2004); seven MHSAA titles in cross-country and track; anchored Columbia’s 4x800m team at 2007 Penn Relays, breaking school record by nearly three seconds (7:22.64)
Aitch - Casteel DOUG BRYA St Johns (1960) Boxing Golden Gloves district champ (1963, 67-69); GG state champ (1967-69); GG National Finalist (1967-68); Olympic Trials(1968, 72); only boxer to win 4 Michigan AAU titles (1968-71)
DAVE BURGERING Lansing Sexton (1972) Michigan State Diving Big-Ten Diving Champ (1977); Three-time AllAmerican (1976-78); USA NationalTeam(1977-1984); 1980 U.S. Olympic Team
Stockbridge (1972) Mercyhurst College
Lansing Eastern (1983) Central Michigan
Basketball MHSAA all-time rebounder (1,624) and single-game shot blocker (25); Mercyhurst’s all-time rebounder (1,370) and 2nd leading scorer (1,750); averaged 19 ppg and 14.8 rpg in college
Football Standout quarterback for the Quakers and Chippewas; directed run-pass offense and led CMU in passing (1986-87); and ranks 10th alltime in passing attempts in school history
MARY KAREN CAMPBELL-HENDERSON Lansing Catholic (1972) Ice Dancing U.S. Ice Dancing Champ 1973; two-time U.S. Championships bronze medal winner (1971-72); Member U.S. World Figure Skating Team (1971-73)
REX CARROW MEL BUSCHMAN Corunna/Owosso (1939) Michigan State Track-Cross Country Decathlete, hurdler and long jump specialist; earned 3 letters in track at MSU (1941-43); earned over 1,500 medals in Masters’ Competitions (1956-2007)
Grand Ledge (1944) MLB Baseball-Football All-State football (1942-43); pitched perfect game for Comets in 1944; 1944 baseball AllAmerican; played in major leagues for Phillies and Indians (1947-53)
KIRK CARRUTHERS DAVE CAMPBELL Lansing Sexton (1960) Michigan MLB Baseball Class A All-State (1960); member of Michigan’s NCAA baseball champs (1962); utility infielder; played eight years in majors (Tigers, Padres, Cardinals, Astros 1967-74)
East Lansing (1987) Florida State Football USA Today Honorable Mention H.S. AllAmerican (1987); 2-time NCAA All-American (1989, ’91); 5th on Florida State all-time tackles list (435)
DYNE BURRELL Lansing Everett (1984) Michigan State/Miami (FL) Swimming 5-time MHSAA Champ; All-American (1982-84); MHSAA Athlete of Year (1984); Big Ten Champ (1986); World University Games Silver Medalist (1991); Masters National Champ (1995); Olympic Trials Qualifier (1988, 1992)
MIKE CASTEEL St. Johns (1915) Kalamazoo College NFL Football-Baseball-Track Won twelve letters at K-College; led Hornets to three MIAA football and baseball championships and four track titles; three-time All-MIAA quarterback; played in the NFL with Rock Island (1922)
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2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Chamberlain - Hartwick CLARK CHAMBERLAIN Lansing Central (1928) Michigan State Cross Country-Track IC4A National Champ (1930); track All-American (1931); NCAA 2-mile champ (1931); set 2-mile record at 1931 Drake Relays (9:23.1) and national records in mile (4:16.8) and 2-mile (9:18.6)
Dansville (1934) Michigan State NFL
Lansing Sexton (1973) LCC/Northwood
Football Captain on Spartans’ 1938 squad; played 26 games with the Detroit Lions (1939-40, 44-45); 32 NFL catches and 5 TD’s
Basketball-Football-Track Among area’s best 3-sport athletes; all-state basketball player (1971-72); led nation in JUCO scoring at LCC (1974); honorable mention AllAmerican (1974)
GARY DOMAGALSKI Fulton (1995) Central Michigan
East Lansing (1973) Michigan State PGA
Wrestling 3-time state champ (1994-96); 1999 NCAA Champion; 1998 NCAA runner-up; two-time All-American; three-time MAC champion; led CMU to 1999 MAC championship
Golf 4-year letter winner at MSU (1973-77); 2nd team All-Big Ten (1976); won Chester L. Brewer Award Scholar-Athlete Award; played in 1981 U.S. Open
TOM DUDLEY DOUG DeMARTIN Mason (2004) Michigan State MLS Soccer 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year; NSCAA second-team All-America (2008); led Spartans to Big Ten team and tournament title and NCAA tournament (2008)
Lansing Sexton (1960) Michigan Swimming 1960 Class A State Champ (400 free); threetime All-American (1958-60); Member of 1961 Michigan national champs; two-time NCAA All-American (1963-64)
BOB EVERY St Johns (1966) LCC/Northwood/Michigan State Boxing Four-time Michigan Golden Gloves champ (1966-69); three-time Michigan AAU champ (1967-69); 1967 USA boxing team member; 2009 Michigan Golden Gloves Hall of Fame
MAVERICK DARLING Ovid-Elsie (2008) Wisconsin Track-Cross Country 2008 H.S. All-American; 12th runner in Michigan history to break 9 minutes in 3,200 (8:57.8); 2-time Div. 3 champ in 1,600 (2007-08); 3-time champ in 3,200 (2006-08); 3-time Div. 3 cross country champ (2005-07)
42 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Okemos (1980) Michigan State Golf-Basketball Class B golf individual champ (1978-79); Class B all-state basketball guard (1980); fouryear golf letter-winner at MSU (1982-85); set record for most tournaments
LARRY FOSTER Lansing Sexton (1955) Michigan State MLB Baseball-Basketball 1955 Class A baseball state champs (9-0 pitcher); U.S. All-Star team (1955); lettered in baseball at MSU (1957-58); played professionally (1958-65 in Detroit and Cleveland systems)
CLIFF FOSTER Lansing Sexton (1965)
Lansing Sexton (1951) Bowling 8-time City Champ; captain of 1969 ABC national champions and USA Bowling champions; 1981 ABC Doubles Champ
ED FARHAT Lansing St. Mary’s (1943) Wrestling Revolutionized professional wresting as “The Sheik”; won 26 championships in a worldwide career that spanned five decades (1950-1998)
BRIAN FERGUSON Lansing Sexton (1961) St. Louis/Northern Michigan Basketball-Tennis 2-time basketball all-state (1960-61); member of Sexton’s back-to-back Class A champs (1959-60); led NMU in assists, 2nd in scoring (1965-66); among area’s top tennis players
Baseball-Basketball-Football 2-time all-state basketball (1964-65); LCC baseball (1966-67); Minnesota Twins 1st round (14th overall) pick in 1967 amateur draft; .274 career hitter in Twins system (1967-70)
LARRY FOWLER Lansing Eastern (1949) Michigan State Football-Wrestling State champion wrestler; football All-American (1953); starred at tackle for MSU’s first Big Ten champions and Rose Bowl winners; two-way player in the two-platoon era
Lansing Everett (1968)
Charlotte (1991) Central Michigan NFL
Auto Racing 24 Hours of Daytona winner (1994); 24 Hours of Daytona GTS winner (2002); 12 hours of Sebring GTS winner (1992); 5 Trans-Am Series titles; 8 IMSA Grand-Am titles
ART GOWENS Lansing Sexton (1955) Tennessee State/Michigan State Basketball Two-time Class A all-state (1954-55); helped Tennessee State to 1956 NAIA championship; member of MSU’s 1959 Big Ten championship squad
MATT GREENE Grand Ledge (2001) North Dakota NHL/AHL Hockey 2-time All-Academic WCHA; captained Fighting Sioux to 2005 NCAA title game; has earned 32 points and 340 penalty minutes in 5 NHL seasons
Football 3-time letter-winner (1992-94) at CMU; 1st team All-MAC (1994); played 10 years at center in NFL (49ers, Bengals, Lions, 1996-2005)
KIM HARTWICK Lansing Sexton (1985) Michigan State Gymnastics 2-time AAU champ (1983-84); Junior Olympic champ (1985); 3-time Big Ten champ (1986-87); Big Ten Medal of Honor (1988); Big Ten Gymnast of Year (1989); Athlete of Decade (1980s)
LUKE HAMLIN Lansing High (1922) MLB
Baseball 20-year pro pitcher (1924-44), including 10 years in majors (Tigers, Dodgers, Pirates, A’s)
Lansing Sexton (1987) Michigan State NFL
TYRONE HARRIS Lansing Sexton (1999) Boxing National Golden Gloves Featherweight champion (2000); 3-time Michigan Golden Gloves champ (1998, 2000, 2003); 135-15 record as amateur; 25-5 pro record (16 KOs) through 2009
Football-Track 2-time Big Ten honorable mention at left cornerback (1990-91); started for Big Ten champs (1990); played in NFL (Steelers, Browns, Panthers, 1992-93, ‘95)
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Henderson - Marcus ROBERT HENDERSON Lansing Eastern Michigan Basketball 1982 Mr. Basketball; helped Eastern to 1980 Class A title; helped Wolverines to two Big Ten titles (1985-86) and NIT title (1984)
KRISTIN HAYNIE Mason (2001) Michigan State WNBA BasketballSoccer Two-sport all-stater (2001); MSU leader in assists (574), steals (346); 4th Big Ten player with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 300 steals; led MSU to 2005 NCAA title game; 9th pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft
JIM HORNBERGER East Lansing (1963) Football-Basketball-Baseball 5-time Class A all-state in three sports, football (1962), basketball (1962-63) and baseball (1962-63)
CAROL HUTCHINS Lansing Everett (1975) Michigan State Softball-Basketball 3-time All-City in basketball; earned 8 letters at MSU in softball and basketball (1976-79);
shortstop on MSU AIAW national champs (1976); 3rd place in AIAW tourney (1977);
Lansing Waverly (2003) Toledo European League
Okemos (1996) Oakland
Basketball First-team All-MAC (2007); MAC Freshman of the Year (2004); led Rockets to â€™07 MAC title; Top 10 at Toledo in scoring and top 5 in free-throw percentage, 3-pointers and steals
THOMAS JACKSON East Lansing (1998) Butler European League Basketball 2-time All-Horizon League and All-Defensive teams (2001-02); Butlerâ€™s all-time leader in assists (540) and steals (207); 1st Butler player in history to reach 1,000 points and 500 assists
BOB JEWITT Mason (1954) Michigan State NFL/CFL Football 3-time letter-winner at MSU (1955-57); caught 15 passes (1 TD) as a rookie with the Chicago Bears (1958); played 2 years with Toronto Argonauts (1961-62)
EVELYN JOHNSON Lansing Everett (1978) South Carolina Basketball One of top players in South Carolina history (1979-83), ranks in top 10 in career points (1,620), scoring average (14.3), and field goals (674) and free throws (272)
GREG JOHNSON ALAYNE INGRAM Lansing Waverly (1998) Michigan WNBA BASKETBALL 2nd Team All-Big Ten (2002); ranks in top 10 in Michigan history for 3-pointers (182), points (1,461) assists (377), free-throw percentage (.828) and career games (119)
Lansing Sexton (1968) Michigan State Wrestling 2-time Class A champion (1966-67); 3-time AllAmerican, NCAA and Big Ten Champ (1970-72); 15 NCAA Tournament victories
BRAD JONES East Lansing (2004) Colorado NFL Football-Track Div. 1 all-state (2004); started 3 years at Colorado (2006-08); 2-time defensive player of the year (2007-08); All-Big 12 honorable mention (2008); starting OLB as rookie for Green Bay
44 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
basketball-Football All-State guard led the Chieftains to the Class B State Final; has started every game of his college career; led the nation in assists (2008-09); set Horizon League career assists mark
BONNI KINNE Grand Ledge (1979) Western Michigan Softball-Basketball Legendary pitcher; 1st team All-MAC (1984); AIAW All-Tourney team (1980); 69 wins, 48 shutouts, 8 no hitters, 593 Ks and 0.32 career ERA are WMU records
HARRY KIPKE Lansing High (1921) Michigan Football 9-time letterman for Wolverines (football, baseball, basketball); football All-American (1922); led Michigan to 8-0 record and 1923 national title
DREW MILLER East Lansing (2003) Michigan State NHL Hockey CCHA Defensive Forward of the Year (2006); totaled 86 points in 3 CCHA seasons; helped MSU win 2006 CCHA Tournament; Stanley Cup winner; now a Red Wing
IRV KOHLBERG Lansing Eastern (1934) Baseball-Basketball Helped Eastern to 1934 Class A basketball championship; All-Star 1st baseman in Eastern Shore League (1939); .283 average, 69 home runs in 5-year pro career (1938-42)
Lansing Eastern (1941) Michigan State
East Lansing (2004) Central Michigan
Lansing Sexton (1965) Michigan
Wrestling NCAA All-American (1948); placed 4th at the 1946 NCAA tournament; 3-time letter winner at MSU (1943, 46-47)
Track 3 MAC outdoor 800m titles (2006-08); MAC indoor 800m champ (2008); Indoor All-American (2008); CMU-best 800m indoor (1:47.33); MHSAA D1 record (1:52.01) in ’04
Tennis National 18-and-under indoor doubles champ (1964); Big Ten doubles champ (1968); 12 pro singles titles (1969-74); USPTA doubles champ (1977, ’80)
LAUREN LAMB Okemos (1995) Cornell Wrestling 6-time U.S. National Wrestling Champ (1991, ‘95, 97-99, 2002); finished 5th place in World Championships 3 times; one 8th–place finish; Pan-American Games Champ (1997)
BRUCE LOOK Lansing Everett (1960) Michigan State MLB Baseball Catcher; lettered in baseball at MSU in 1964; hit .252 with a .983 fielding percentage in sevenyear pro career (1964-71), 59 game stint with the Minnesota Twins in 1968
KEN MAIDLOW Lansing Sexton (1954) Michigan State Wrestling Helped Sexton edge Eastern for 1953 state team title; runner-up to Eastern in ’52, ’54; AllAmerican, NCAA Champ at MSU (1958); AAU Greco-Roman Champ (1956)
STEVE MAIDLOW East Lansing (1978) Michigan State NFL
KIP MILLER Lansing Eastern (1987) Michigan State NHL Hockey Hobey Baker Award and CCHA Player of the Year (1990); 2-time All-American (1989-90); scored 239 points in NHL (1990-2004)
Football Three-year starter for MSU at inside linebacker; All-Big Ten honorable mention (1981); played in 50 NFL games for Cincinnati and Buffalo (1983-87)
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Mataya - Sutton JIMMY MATAYA
Lansing Sexton (1967)
Charlotte (1973) Western Michigan NFL
Lansing Eastern (1945) MLB
Billiards Michigan Champ (1967-68, ’70); National EightBall Champ (1977); World Nine-Ball Champ (1971), All-Around World Champ (1972); World Pro-Am Champ (1988)
KEVIN MILLER Lansing Eastern (1984) Michigan State NHL Hockey MSU Outstanding Rookie (1985); All-CCHA (1987); U.S. Olympic Team (1988); scored 335 points in NHL (1988-2000, ‘04)
NICK SIMMONS Williamston (2001) Michigan State Wrestling Undefeated as a prep (211-0); 4-time State Champ (1998-01); 4-time NCAA All-American (2003-07); 3-time Big Ten Champ (2005-07); Pan-Am Games Gold (2004)
BRUCE MILLER Bath (1969) Softball ASA 1st Team All-American (1978); Pan-Am Games Silver (1979, ’83); ASA National Champ (1979); World Championship Gold (1980); Michigan Softball Hall of Fame (1995)
TOM MINKEL Williamston (1967) Central Michigan Wrestling Class C Champ (1967); 3-time All-American; 2-time IIAC Champ (1969-70); 3-time AAU Greco-Roman Champ (1972, ’79, ’81); U.S. National Team (1978-84); U.S. Olympic Team (1980)
46 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Football Earned 4 letters at Western (1973-76); 1st team All-MAC (1976); drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles (1977); played seven games for the Chicago Bears (1980)
ALEC MULL Lansing Eastern (1990) Michigan State Swimming 3-time State Champ (1989-90); MSU Freshman of the Year (1991); holds MSU record in 500 freestyle; multiple-event Big Ten finalist (1991-94)
IIAN MULL Lansing Eastern (1992) Auburn/Michigan State Swimming 4-time State Champ (1991, 92); All-SEC (1995); All-Big Ten (1996); 3-time All-American (1993, 1995-96); 2-time World University Games Gold (1993, ’95); Pan-Am Games Bronze (1995)
LIZ NAGEL DeWitt (2009) Michigan State Golf 2-time D2 State Champ (2006-07); led DeWitt to D2 team title (2007); 2-time Miss Golf (2007-08); youngest to qualify for Michigan Women’s Amateur match play (2006)
DAN OLSEN East Lansing (1985) Indiana PGA Golf Class A State Individual and Team Champion (1983); 3-time Indiana Amateur Champ (1986, 88-89); All Big Ten (1988); turned pro in 1990; over $300,000 in career winnings.
Baseball-Football-Basketball Superior 3-sport performer; All-State in football and basketball (1945); played pro baseball (1947-52) in Indians and Yankees organizations
MERV PREGULMAN Lansing Central (1940) Michigan NFL Football Versatile lineman/kicker; 2-time All-American at Michigan (1942-43); College Football HOF (1982); played 4 years in NFL (Packers, Lions, New York Bulldogs, 1946-49)
PAUL QUANTRILL Okemos (1986) Wisconsin MLB Baseball 2001 AL All-Star; pitched 14 years of Major League Baseball for 7 teams (1992-2005); 3.83 career ERA in 1,255 innings
KRISTEN RASMUSSEN Okemos (1996) Michigan State WNBA/European League Basketball 1st team All-State (1995); 2-time All-Big Ten (1998-99); ranks among MSU top 10 in points, rebounds, free throws, blocks and starts; 9 years in WNBA (4.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg in 276 games)
SCOTT REED Everett (1983) Indiana Track High and Long Jump specialist; 2-time Class A Champ (1983-84); 3-time Big Ten Champ (1985); owns high jump records at Huron Relays (7’0”) and Midwest Meet of Champions (7’3/4”)
Lansing Eastern (1950) Michigan State
Wrestling All-State (1950); 2 Big Ten titles (1953-54); AllAmerican and NCAA Champion (1953); Two-Time captain for the Spartans
Golf 2-time state champ at Eastern (1939, ‘41); 5-time City League Champ; Michigan Am medalist (1965); 2-time National Am qualifier; Reniger Award presented n his honor
Lansing Eastern (1941)
Sexton (1983) Central Michigan
St. Johns (2004) Eastern Michigan
Lansing Eastern (1963) Air Force
Wrestling 2-time MAC individual and team champ (1986-87); MAC Most Outstanding Wrestler (1986); led Chips to first MAC team titles in school history; two-time NCAA qualifier
Football Led Redwings to D3 title game (2004); owns multiple passing records at EMU; threw for 5,867 yards and 33 TD’s in injury-shortened career and 1,000 yards in seven days
Football Quarterback; Air Force MVP (1966); led the team in scoring (1965); went on to become thirteenth Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy (1994)
Webberville (1982) Ferris State
Harry Hill (1975) Michigan State
Baseball-Basketball 1982 Class D All State (baseball and basketball); 3-time All-GLIAC (1985-87); Pan-Am Games (1985); U.S. World Team (1986); drafted by Texas Rangers in 1987
Softball AIAW National Champion (1976); Big Ten and U.S.A. Softball World Champ (1978); Pan-Am Gold (1979); 3-time ASA National Champ (1977-79); MSU Outstanding Athlete Award (1978)
Football Record-smashing RB-DB; AP Div. 5-6 Player of the Year (2009); led Ovid-Elsie to 2008 Div. 5 state finals; rushed for 5,532 yards and 80 TDs in final two seasons; 99 career TDs
GORAN SUTON Lansing Everett (2004) Michigan State European League Basketball Class A State Champ (2004); helped MSU win 2009 Big Ten title and reach NCAA title game; Midwest Region MVP; one of eight players in MSU history with 1,000 points and 800 rebounds;
KELLY ROBINSON Holt (2002) Air Force Cross Country-Track Air Force Newcomer of the Year (2005); 2-time Cross-Country MVP; 3-time All-MWC (2004-06); 6-time MWC All-Academic Team; Air Force indoor mile record (4:49.29)
VIC SAIER Lansing St. Mary’s (1908) Baseball One of the area’s first national names; outstanding 1st baseman; 1915 NL All Star; hit .263 with 395 RBI in 8-year MLB career (Cubs 1911-17, Pirates 1919)
ANDY SIMMONS Williamston (2002) Michigan State Wrestling Feature in SI’s Faces in the Crowd; undefeated in prep competition (219-0); 4-time State Champ (1999-02); 3-time NCAA All-American (2005-07); Big Ten Champ (2006)
JIM SINADINOS Lansing Eastern (1952) Michigan State Wrestling Led the Quakers to two Class A state titles (1951-52); Big Ten Champion (1956); 3-time AllAmerican (1954-56); NCAA Champ (1956); 11 NCAA Tournament victories.
HEATHER STRANG East Lansing (1982) Michigan State Swimming 6-time State Champ; Olympic trials bronze (1980); U.S. National Team gold (1981, ‘82); World Games finalist (1982); Pan-Am finalist (1983); Olympic trials finalist (1984)
ERIC STUBER Williamston (1981) Michigan State Cross-Country-Track Class C Cross Country Champ (1980); 3,200m Champ (1981); long-distance standout over three decades; Detroit Free Press Marathon winner; current Front Line Racing Team member
Lansing High (1913) Michigan State Canton Bulldogs
Football Lineman; MSU’s 1st African-American star; teams won 17 of 20 games during career (1913-15), including 1stt two wins over U-M; played pro ball with Jim Thorpe and Canton Bulldogs (1915)
Baseball-Basketball-Football Pitched 9 seasons of professional baseball (1951, 1954-61); 92-86 career record; pitched a total of 24 innings for Detroit Tigers in 1957 and 1959
JENNIFER SMITH DeWitt (2000) Michigan WNBA Basketball Forward-center; 1st-team All-Big Ten (2004); 2nd all-time for the Wolverines in points (1,697), FG% (.513); 3rd all-time in FT% (.812)
Lansing St. Mary’s (1950) MLB
JERRY SUTTON Lansing Sexton (1960) Michigan State Baseball-Football-Basketball Won two state basketball titles at Sexton (1959-60); best sport was baseball; career .374 hitter at MSU; 3rd Team All-American (1963); two-time All-Big Ten (1963-64)
2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Strang - Zindell CARL THOMAS Lansing Everett (1987) Eastern Michigan NBA/CBA/Euro League Basketball All-State Honorable Mention (1987); with brother Charles, led EMU to MAC titles (1988, ‘91) and a Sweet 16 appearance (1991); played pro ball 12 seasons (1991-2003)
Fulton-Middleton (1975) Central Michigan
Basketball 1982 Miss Basketball; helped Okemos to Class B championship (1981); All Big-Ten honorable Mention (1987); over 900 points and 600 rebounds at MSU
Track High Jumper; 2-time State Champ (1973, ‘75); Class D state record (6’9 ¼”); NCAA All-American (1976); 3-time MAC Champ; CMU indoor (7’3 ¾”) and outdoor (7’5”) records
CHARLES THOMAS Lansing Everett (1987) Eastern Michigan NBA/CBA/Euro/Aussie Basketball-Football Quarterbacked Everett to 1st ever CAC title (1986); with brother Carl, led EMU to two MAC titles (1988, ‘91) and a Sweet 16 appearance (1991); played pro ball 14 seasons (1991-2003)
NICK WEY DeWitt (1997) Motocross Won every youth riding title imaginable; Supercross/Motocross Rookie of the Year (1998); sixteen Top-10 finishes in year-end rankings since 1998
JOSH THORNHILL Lansing Eastern (1998) Michigan State NFL Football 1st team All-State linebacker (1998); 2-time 1st Team All-Big Ten (2000-01); 395 career tackles for Spartans; MSU captain; played one season with the Detroit Lions (2002)
Lansing Waverly (2000) Michigan State WBA/CBA/Euro League BASKETBALL 2000 Mr. Basketball; Class A titlist (2000); Lansing scoring king; 1st Team AllBig Ten and second player to lead the league in scoring (17.7) and assists (5.0) in same season (2002)
JEFF TROPF Holt (1974) Michigan State/CMU Football Led the Rams to the Class B Final in one-loss season; 1st Team All-MAC (1978); averaged 17.3 points and 11.3 boards leading Chips to MAC title; 2008 CMU Hall of Fame Inductee
48 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
Lansing Catholic (1986) Vanderbilt NFL Football Linebacker; All-SEC (1989); Academic All-SEC (1989); SEC All-Freshman Team (1986); BlueGray Classic (1989); NFL 4th round pick (New Orleans Saints-1990), played four seasons
TED WONCH Lansing Eastern (1938) Michigan State
NATHAN TURNER Haslett (2006) Football-Basketball-Track QB, DB, point guard and leader; QB’d Vikings to 2005 D3 Finals; Vikings had 48-4 basketball record with Turner running the point; State Journal Athlete of the Year (2006)
SID WAGNER MARCUS TAYLOR
Okemos (1983) Michigan State
Lansing Central (1932) Michigan State NFL Football Guard; MSU’s 4th football All-American (1935); led Spartans to first back-to-back wins over Michigan (1934-35); 3 years with Detroit Lions (1936-38)
ROGET WARE Lansing Sexton (1987) Ohio State Track 2-time State Champ in 110m hurdles (1986-87); holds Huron Relays 60m hurdles record (7.94); 110m hurdle champ, All-Big Ten (1988); 4th best 110 hurdle time in OSU history (13.81)
JORDYN WIEBER DeWitt (2014) Gymnastics U.S. Junior National Champion (2008); Tyson American Cup Champion (2009); U.S.A National Team member (2004-Present); ranked as a top USA hope for 2012 London Olympics.
Track-Football Pole Vaulter, Class A Champ (1938); 2-time IC4A Champ (1941, ‘46); CCC indoor champ (1942); held MSU pole vault record (13’ 7 ¼”); 4-time MSU letterman (1941-43, ‘46)
NORM YOUNG Lansing Eastern (1957) Michigan State Wrestling-Handball 2-time State Champ at Eastern (1956-57); All American and NCAA champ (1961); 2-time Big Ten champ (1959, ‘61); National Four-Wall Handball Champ (1985, 1991)
MITCH ZAJAC Holt (2008) Western Michigan Football-Wrestling-Track Linebacker; MAC All-Freshman Team (2008); Detroit Athletic Club High School Athlete of the Year (2008); All-State Dream Team (2007); 2-way starter on four CAAC title teams (2004-07)
JACK ZINDELL East Lansing (1966) Michigan State Wrestling A 3-time collegiate All-American (1967, 69-70); 2-time Big Ten champion (1969-70); 12 career triumphs in the NCAA Tournament.
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SPORT LAST SHOT
So Close Jay Vincent of eastern and earvin johnson of everett soar for the first jump ball in don johnson fieldhouse history 12/09/1976
SPORT FINISH LINE
Where Legends Never Die Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall Of Fame Lives On By Duane vernon Hall of Fame Inductee and Board Member
When asked to perform the impossible task of linking the area’s athletic achievements to Lansing’s sesquicentennial, my first thought turned to all the great athletes – and quickly, to all the coaches who helped them reach greatness. No. 1 on that list from a personal standpoint was the great Walter Graff, my father-in-law from my first marriage and the coach of Lansing’s first Class A state basketball champions, the Eastern Quakers of 1934. I was 2 years old at the time. His daughter, Virginia, and I were married for 21 years before she died from breast cancer. And Walter owned the Lansing Credit Bureau, which I later bought and still represent today as CBCS. I learned a lot from him. I learned how many great athletes this area has produced through three decades of induction ceremonies for the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall welcomed its first class of 10 individuals and three teams on the USA’s bicentennial, July 4, 1976, and remains a source of community pride today. Hats off to that inaugural class – Fonnie Reynolds Gates, Don Johnson, Joe Joseph, Harry Kipke, Irv Kolberg, Dick Letts, Dean Look, Kay Purves, Ernie Shassberger, Jim Sinadinos, the 1918 Lansing High football team, the 1952 Eastern High wrestling team and the 1959 Sexton High wrestling team. And kudos to all the honorees who followed, the best of the best in the capital city and the surrounding region. As SPORT presents the top 150 athletes from the area’s past 150 years, there’s an obvious overlap with the Hall’s membership. That’s exactly how it should be. Greater Lansing’s greatest athletes should be honored in a magazine like this and in a shrine like the Hall forever. 52 2009 YEAR-END SPECIAL EDITION
I’ll always be proud that the late Walter Graff was a 1980 inductee. And I’ll eternally be humbled to have joined him with that treasured honor two decades later. Today, the Hall has greater concerns than which outstanding candidates should be added to its rolls. It faces a fight for its financial survival. That’s where some of you – perhaps some company, perhaps just some caring indi-
Legends Of Lansing Duane Vernon poses with SPORT’s No. 1 athlete of all time, Earvin Johnson.
vidual – can be heroic without ever scoring a touchdown or sinking a basket. If you have an idea for preserving the Hall, call chairman Bob Every at 517-4831237 or contact him at email@example.com. All the heroes who have come before you and all the young people who will learn of those exploits will thank you for generations to come. No, the Hall can’t cure cancer or prevent heart disease. But it represents the heart of a great community, one that cares deeply about sports and those who play them. We need to keep the Hall open and
vibrant. We can do that with a little bit of help. Sports are an essential part of the tapestry of Mid-Michigan. We can’t let that start to unravel at a time when we need to embrace our collective past and community successes more than ever. Greater Lansing has always been all about great people, first and foremost. You see them around you every day. For many of you, that starts with a glance in the mirror. To lose that link with our past would be awful. And I don’t say that because of my meager contributions to the Hall as a board member and as co-emcee with Bob Every of the annual induction banquet. I say that because I have seen how sports can unify a community, especially one like Mid-Michigan. I have seen how Earvin Johnson and Jay Vincent brought incredible excitement to our lives, first at Everett and Eastern, respectively, then at Michigan State. I have seen estimated crowds of 150,000 people line Michigan Avenue for a 1979 National Championship parade and up to three times that many when the Spartans ruled the land again 21 years later. And I’ve seen the reaction on people’s faces when they’ve asked me what’s so special about Lansing. I’ve always told them it’s a great place to live and work. That all comes back to people. We’re all part of a winning team, one with a very large roster. Everyone contributes. We need to remember that fact when we honor 150 special athletes. The Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame is a great way to do that – now and for the next 150 years. By honoring those individuals, we’re also saluting teammates, coaches, fans and communities. My wife, Judy, and I were just talking about that and saying how lucky we are to live in a place with so much to offer and so many tremendous people who’ve given so much. Remember, everything happens today is because of something that happened yesterday. Let’s all remember that together.
JUGGLING YOUR CAREER, FAMILY AND A PASSION FOR SPORTS? NO SWEAT. The Greater Lansing Sports Authority shares your passion for sports. Do you or someone in your family participate in a tournament sport that could be a good fit for the Greater Lansing area? Need a hand developing your sports event? The GLSA is here to help. For event information and whatâ€™s going on in the local sports scene visit www.lansingsports.org. That is, right after you save your company, your kid or maybe the planet Earth...
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Published on Nov 1, 2009
Greater Lansing Sport Magazine 2009 Year-End Special Edition. Featuring Greater Lansing's Top 150 Athletes of the Last 150 Years.