Futon Report: Making a mountainous decisionWritten by Matt Sussman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Eruzione. There, I had to include his name as quickly as possible as penance for forgetting him in my original list of nominees for the Northwest Ohio Mt. Rushmore of Sports. Seriously, how could I forget the famed captain of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team and former Toledo Goaldiggers star?
And how did I forget guys like World Series MVP Orel Hershiser, who, before he pitched 59 consecutive scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, hurled pitches for BGSU? While we’re on the Falcon omissions list, how did I forget hockey player Rob Blake, who in his illustrious career won gold medals, a Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy (for best NHL defenseman)?
How did I forget longtime Toledo sportscaster Jim Tichy? I’m not sure, but what I can tell you, is why I left out Orris Tabner. It’s because I’m 26 years old and don’t know any better.
Steve Mix. Holy cow, how did I forget Steve Mix? Do you know who had to remind me about him? None other than Christine Brennan, another Mt. Rushmore of Sports nominee, who contacted Toledo Free Press to throw her support behind the 1960s-era UT basketball icon.
Should I have included two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? Is Findlay far enough north and westward enough to constitute being part of Northwest Ohio? The same question goes for Fremont native and Heisman Trophy-winning Wolverines cornerback Charles Woodson. These are the kinds of issues that could tear families apart and incite civil war.
I asked to hear about all those forgotten-except-by-friends-and-family athletes, and sure enough one reader told me the story of Carl Schliesser, a linebacker who went to Waite High School during the 1960s, then went on to fight in the Vietnam War and later became a Toledo police officer.
People also left comments on the Web site nominating, to name a few, Fostoria native and longtime Phillies scout Tony Lucadello; turn-of-the-century baseball player and Toledo native Roger Bresnahan; one-time Inverness head golf professional Byron Nelson; and 1972 gold medal sprinter and BGSU alum Dave Wottle. Thanks to everyone for reminding me about your beloved athletes. It pains me to say that, of my four winners, I did not include any of your favorites.
But remember, as much as I’d like to like it to be, this exercise is not about the four I picked.
It’s about looking at our entire region and feeling proud. When ESPN unveiled its list of 25 nominees for the Ohio Mt. Rushmore of Sports, it completely omitted Northwest Ohio athletes. As a result, ESPN left out an entire subset of athletes from the “419” who won the Heisman Trophy, the Stanley Cup, the Indy 500, the World Series, Olympic gold medals, Hall of Fame plaques and set records, broke barriers, touched lives and inspired communities.
As I step down from the soapbox, let’s get to the most important part of the column, which are my four selections:
- Chuck Ealey. When you finish 35-0 as a college quarterback, you deserve just about every accolade that comes your way. Ealey is a legend who never got his chance to be something even greater. Imagine the former UT quarterback leading the Browns or the Lions to the Super Bowl in the 1970s, perhaps winning one or two. Instead, north of the border, he became the first black quarterback to win a professional football championship in 1972.
- Scott Hamilton. The figure skating gold medal in 1984 is impressive. So are his TV appearances, including one in the upcoming season of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Here’s where he distances himself. Like Lance Armstrong, Hamilton beat testicular cancer. Then he one-upped Armstrong by fighting a noncancerous brain tumor. (Who said male figure skaters are wussy?) The road named after him in Bowling Green probably deserves a couple of extra lanes.
- Jim Leyland. When it comes to baseball managers, the pride of Perrysburg is in two exclusive clubs: He’s never been fired from a team (he’s on his fourth club), and he’s been to the World Series with two different teams. He put Barry Bonds in his place when he managed him in Pittsburgh. In a world of politically correct sound bytes, Leyland’s unabashed love affair with honesty, swearing and smoking makes him one of baseball’s coolest characters. If that’s not worth a fictional stone likeness of his face, I don’t know who is.
- Bob Nichols. There were a good handful of great UT players in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, including Steve Mix, Stan Joplin, Tom Kozelko, Jim Swaney and Harvey Knuckles. The commonality among all of them was Coach Nichols. His 376 career wins over 22 seasons is a MAC record. Nobody else’s name is painted for all eternity on the court of Savage Arena. And nobody else’s stoic face would look better in concrete.
Matt Sussman blogs regularly at www.toledofreepress.com.