The 50 Greatest Sports Figures From Illinois

December 27, 1999

There's a difference between loyalty to the home team--athletes
imported to play for our local colleges and pro franchises--and
the deep emotional bond we share with hometown heroes, the local
legends we knew back when. They are the boys and girls from next
door, or the next town. We watched them grow up, watched them
play when it was still play. Unfortunately, these luminaries are
almost inevitably dispersed because of sport's mercenary nature,
lured away by scholarships or contracts. Well, we're bringing
'em all back home for the millennium--not necessarily to where
they were born, but to where they first showed flashes of the
greatness to come. Thus, Broadway Joe is in Pennsylvania, not
Alabama or New York; and the Mailman is in Louisiana, not Utah.
The result: the top 50 from your state and, on the following
pages, a list of those from all 50 states. In short, the
ultimate home teams.

#1
Jackie Joyner-Kersee
EAST ST. LOUIS
World's best female athlete; won six Olympic medals--three
gold--and set heptathlon world record in 1988.

#2
George Halas
CHICAGO
Papa Bear: 63 years with the Bears; 318 wins as coach is second
alltime; patriarch of the NFL.

#3
Dick Butkus
CHICAGO
A top 10 Heisman finisher and two-time All-America at Illinois;
the gold standard for NFL middle linebackers.

#4
Red Grange
WHEATON
Football's Roaring '20s answer to Ruth and Dempsey; built legend
at Illinois; had eight spectacular seasons in NFL.

#5
Bonnie Blair
CHAMPAIGN
Top U.S. female winter athlete; won five speed skating golds and
dominated her sport for nearly a decade.

#6
George Mikan
JOLIET
Three-time All-America at DePaul; won seven titles in nine pro
seasons; helped make basketball a big man's game.

#7
Jimmy Connors
EAST ST. LOUIS
Record 109 men's pro singles titles, including eight Grand Slams;
one of most fiery players to cross the baseline.

#8
Isiah Thomas
CHICAGO
High school All-America; NCAA champ at Indiana; NBA's best small
guard since Cousy led Pistons to back-to-back titles.

#9
Otto Graham
WAUKEGAN
Basketball and football All-America at Northwestern; passed
Browns to seven pro titles in 1940s and '50s.

#10
Ray Nitschke
CHICAGO
Bruising fullback at Illinois; soul of Packers' dynasty in he
1960s; perhaps the hardest-hitting linebacker ever.

#11
Dianne Holum
NORTHBROOK
Won four speed skating medals at 1968 and '72 Olympics,
including 1,500-meter gold in '72.

#12
Mark Aguirre
CHICAGO
Led DePaul to Final Four in 1979; won Naismith Award in '80;
three-time NBA All-Star had 18,458 career points.

#13
Kellen Winslow
EAST ST. LOUIS
Tight end with lineman size and wideout speed; Missouri
All-America; had 541 receptions for Chargers from 1979 to '87.

#14
Robin Roberts
SPRINGFIELD
Best righthander in Phillies history, won 20 games in six
straight seasons and was a seven-time All-Star.

#15
Kirby Puckett
CHICAGO
Ten-time All-Star with Twins; led AL in hits three straight
years; MVP of the 1991 ALCS.

#16
Johnny Weismuller
CHICAGO
Was king of the pool before King of the Jungle: five swimming
golds at 1924 and '28 Olympics; starred in 12 Tarzan movies.

#17
Knute Rockne
CHICAGO
End on three undefeated Notre Dame teams; patron saint of
coaches started Fighting Irish's grand tradition.

#18
Red Ruffing
NOKOMIS
Won 273 games; had four 20-win seasons and won seven World Series
games with Yankees.

#19
Ray Meyer
CHICAGO
Had 37 winning seasons in 42 years at DePaul; NCAA's
11th-winningest basketball coach.

#20
Dan Issel
BATAVIA
Kentucky's alltime leading scorer; dangerous big man on the
perimeter; seven-time ABA and NBA All-Star.

#21
John Kinsella
OAK BROOK
Swam to two world records and won Sullivan Award in 1970; won
1,500-meter silver at '68 Olympics and relay gold in '72.

#22
Johnny Lattner
CHICAGO
Heisman-winning back at Notre Dame in 1953; only player to win
Maxwell Award twice; made Pro Bowl in only NFL season.

#23
Lou Boudreau
THORNTON
Seven-time All-Star shortstop; American League MVP in 1948 and
batting champion in '44.

#24
Bart Conner
MORTON GROVE
At the 1984 Olympics he won team and parallel-bar gold medals.

#25
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
CHICAGO
Illinois judge was baseball's first and most powerful
commissioner; cleaned up after Black Sox scandal and ruled game
for 24 years.

#26
Bob Richards
CHAMPAIGN
Won Sullivan Award in 1951; only man to win two Olympic pole
vault golds ('52 and '56).

#27
Jerry Sloan
McLEANSBORO
Two-time NBA All-Star with Bulls; sixth-best career winning
percentage as NBA coach.

#28
George Connor
CHICAGO
Outland Trophy winner at Notre Dame in 1946 was three-time
All-America; All-Pro with Bears at three positions.

#29
Jack Sikma
WICHERT
Three-time NAIA All-America at Illinois Wesleyan (1975 to '77);
seven-time NBA All-Star.

#30
Red Schoendienst
GERMANTOWN
Ten-time All-Star at second base; managed Cardinals to 1967
World Series victory.

#31
Terry Cummings
CHICAGO
All-America at DePaul; NBA Rookie of the Year in 1983, twice an
NBA All-Star in 17-year career.

#32
Ken Anderson
BATAVIA
Holds NFL record for season completion percentage (70.6), set
mark for consecutive completions (20); 1981 MVP.

#33
Ted Kluszewski
ARGO
Sleeveless slugger (279 career homers) led NL first basemen in
fielding five times; league record holder for consecutive games
scoring a run (17).

#34
Bill Fischer
CHICAGO
Outland Trophy winner and member of Notre Dame's national
champions in 1946 and '47; All-Pro guard for Cardinals.

#35
Maurice Cheeks
CHICAGO
Stifling defender; deft playmaker won 1983 NBA title with 76ers;
retired as career steals leader.

#36
Harold Osborn
BUTLER
Won decathlon and high jump gold at 1924 Olympics; only person to
win decathlon and an individual event at same Games.

#37
Joe McGinnity
ROCK ISLAND
Led NL in appearances and wins five times from 1899 to 1908;
won 35 games in '04.

#38
Mike Krzyzewski
CHICAGO
Won two NCAA titles as coach at Duke; only John Wooden and Dean
Smith took more teams to the Final Four.

#39
Tim Hardaway
CHICAGO
Led Carver High to city title in 1985; UTEP's alltime leader in
steals and assists; five-time NBA All-Star with Warriors and Heat.

#40
Ray Schalk
LITCHFIELD
Top defensive catcher of 1910s and '20s; first receiver to back
up plays at first and third base.

#41
Bill Veeck
CHICAGO
Colorful owner of Indians, St. Louis Browns and White Sox; had a
midget bat and exploded scoreboard to promote teams.

#42
Red Kerr
CHICAGO
Slick-passing center led Illinois to 1952 Final Four; played
844 straight NBA games, a record that stood for 17 years.

#43
Quinn Buckner
PHOENIX
Guard won two state titles at Thornridge High, NCAA championship
with undefeated Indiana in 1976 and NBA ring with Celtics in '84.

#44
Frederick (Fritz) Pollard
CHICAGO
Second black All-America, as back at Brown in 1916; first black
NFL coach, with Akron and Hammond Pros.

#45
Phil Cavarretta
CHICAGO
Cubs first baseman at 18, hit pennant-clinching homer as
19-year-old in 1935; was MVP and batting champion in '45.

#46
Cazzie Russell
CHICAGO
Won city title at Carver High; Michigan All-America guard; NBA
All-Rookie team in 1966-67.

#47
Ralph Metcalfe
CHICAGO
Set or equaled world records in three sprint events between 1932
and '36; won two individual silvers, a bronze and a relay gold in
two Olympics.

#48
John (Paddy) Driscoll
EVANSTON
Multithreat player--runner, passer, defender and master punter
and dropkicker--at Northwestern from 1915 to '16 and with
Cardinals and Bears.

#49
Jim Bottomley
NOKOMIS
First baseman for Cardinals, Reds and Browns was NL MVP in 1928
and hit .371 in '23.

#50
Sam Jethroe
EAST ST. LOUIS
Speedy Negro leagues star was Braves' first black player; 1950
NL Rookie of the Year.

B/W PHOTO: JAMES DRAKE #3 Dick Butkus

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)