Thorpe was the greatest The ESPN and Associated Press...


January 02, 2000

Thorpe was the greatest

The ESPN and Associated Press polls that rated the greatest athletes of the century were heavily weighted to athletes competing over the second half of the century. This is understandable since the second half was the age of television, and the exposure of these athletes was so much greater.

Furthermore, many of the panel members probably are not even aware of the exploits of the great athletes of the first half.

The most prominent of these is Jim Thorpe, who in 1950 was selected by the AP as the greatest male athlete (ahead of Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ty Cobb), greatest football player (ahead of Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski and Ernie Nevers) and second-greatest track star (behind Jesse Owens) of the first half-century.

Fifty years later, he is third behind Ruth and Michael Jordan in the AP poll and seventh in the ESPN poll. The AP poll did not even include him among the top 10 football players. Incredible.

I think he is still No. 1 in both categories.

Herman Blinchikoff, Baltimore

Finney is glaring omission

Sports Illustrated's 50 greatest sports figures of the century for Maryland had one glaring omission -- Redmond C. S. Finney.

At Princeton, he was a first-team All-American in football, a first-team All-American in lacrosse and captain of the wrestling team -- all in the same year. At that time, it was rare for a college student to play three major sports in the same school year, and today it is unheard of.

But play them he did, and he engraved himself as one of the elite athletes in America. As a performer, as a leader and as an exponent of the highest sports values, Reddy Finney was the best that this state and this country ever had to offer.

Robert I.H. Hammerman, Baltimore

Grove beats Ripken any day

Ranking Cal Ripken Jr. ahead of Lefty Grove in Sports Illustrated's list of the century's greatest Maryland athletes is absurd.

Ripken is a great representative of Maryland and Baltimore, but he is not a better player than Grove. He's not even close.

Grove dominated hitters during an era when the ball was as lively if not more lively than it is today. His 300 wins, seven consecutive seasons leading the league in strikeouts and nine ERA titles far outrank Ripken's selfish yet oddly admired consecutive-games streak.

Anyone with half a baseball brain would pick Grove over Ripken anytime.

Lee Donelson, Joppatowne

Top 12 list would be better

John Steadman's lists of 10 Maryland and non-Maryland home-teamers on Dec. 19 were great, and I suggest he expand them to at least a dozen each.

Particular omissions, however, were Jimmie Foxx of Sudlersville, a three-time MVP who should be near the top, and Joe Bellino of Navy, a Heisman Trophy winner.

Frank "Home Run" Baker and Harold Baines, as well as at least one more of the great Baltimore Colts, would be excellent candidates to fill out the lists.

William Roe, Sudlersville

Win one for Art? Absolutely

John Eisenberg showed true cynicism in his column of Dec. 24 about Ravens owner Art Modell.

Eisenberg's comments, including his closing line -- "But when Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland, he lost his shot at putting on a white hat and riding off into the sunset, to the cheers of sports fans everywhere" -- speak volumes about The Sun's sportswriters trying to continually revisit the past. It is almost that they wish Baltimore would never have returned to the NFL.

I would be happy if the Ravens won one for Art, for the greatest fans and for the best NFL city, Baltimore.

Marvin D. Blanton, Bel Air

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