ESPN is at it again. Last year it was “Titletown, USA” (Valdosta, GA? Really?) Now, those brilliant minds in Bristol have decided to roll out a “Mount Rushmore of Sports” for each state. Then, they will take all of the results, plug them into the BCS formula, take those results and toss them into the NBA lottery ping pong ball machine and out of those results, have Inji the orangutan – who INCORRECTLY picked Arizona to win this year’s Super Bowl (You owe me money, Inji!) – pick the top five “Mt. Rushmores” of sports.
For Michigan, the results are impressive, and should make any Michigan man or woman proud.
- Steve Yzerman
- Barry Sanders
- Gordie Howe
- Joe Louis
Indeed, this is a foursome that embodied passion, excellence and sportsmanship. So what’s the problem here?
None of these elite athletes were born in Michigan. Not one. Now I’m sure the whole idea of this ESPN ‘production’ is to highlight great figures in state sports history, but if that were the case, Ronaldinho would be one of the greatest Spanish soccer players ever and Yao Ming would be the face of American basketball supremacy, just because they play there professionally. How about Josh Childress as one of the greatest Greek hoop stars? Exactly.
Nitpicking you say? Perhaps. But I choose to see this as a chance to take something that ESPN butchered started, and set it right. So without further ado, I present the ACTUAL Mt. Rushmore of Michigan Sports (according to me, of course.)
Earvin “Magic” Johnson – Lansing, MI
Johnson won five NBA championships, three MVP Awards, and three Finals MVP Awards. He also appeared in the NBA Finals nine times, made 12 All-Star teams, and he is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists per game with an average of 11.2. He also won gold with the “Dream Team” in 1992.
And he won a National Championship with Little Brother.
Charlie Gehringer – Fowlerville, MI
Gehringer compiled a .320 batting average and had seven seasons withmore than 200 hits. He was the American League batting champion in 1937 witha .371 average and was also named the AL MVP. He was among the Top 10 vote recipients in the Most Valuable Player voting for seven straight years from 1932-1938. His career totals of 2,839 hits and 574 doubles both rank 19th in Major League history.
Gehringer also led the Tigers to three American League pennants (1934, 1935, and 1940) and one World Series Championship (1935).
Hal Newhouser – Detroit, MI
“Prince Hal” was homegrown talent that joined the Tigers in 1939 at the age of 18. In his 16 season, Newhouser was a seven time All Star, was named AL MVP twice in a row, the only pitcher to ever accomplish this feat. In 1945, he won the pitcher’s Triple Crown, leading the American League in wins (25), ERA (1.81) and strikeouts (212). He also led the league in innings pitched, games started, complete games and shutouts en route to the Tigers’ 1945 World Series championship.
And now, let the debate REALLY begin…
Jim Abbott – Flint, MI
He graduated from Flint Central High School, where he was a stand-out pitcher and quarterback, leading his football team to the state championships. He was drafted in the 36th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1985 draft, but didn’t sign, instead opting to play at the University of Michigan.
He led Michigan to two Big Ten championships and in 1987 he won the James E. Sullivan award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, becoming the first baseball pitcher to win that award. He pitched the final game in the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a gold medal for the United States. Abbott was voted the Big Ten male athlete of the year in 1988, and was selected 8th overall by the California Angels . In 1993, Abbott pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians as a member of the New York Yankees. He was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his accomplishments while attending Michigan.
He did all of this with ONE HAND. Respect.
- Mike Modano – Westland, MI: 8 time NHL All Star and 1999 Stanley Cup Champion
- Kirk Gibson – Pontiac, MI: 1988 NL MVP, Silver Slugger Award winner and 2 time World Series Champion
- John Smoltz – Warren, MI: Cy Young Award winner in 1996, 8 time All Star and 1995 World Series Champion
- Serena Williams – Saginaw, MI: 8 Grand Slam titles. (Did you know she was born in Michigan? Me neither.)
So there it is. Whether or not you agree, it’s impossible to deny the greatness of these athletes. If you think this should look differently, let me know. I’m all ears.