Since 1941, the majestic sculpture of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt in the Black Hills of Keystone, S.D., have represented one of the most iconic and enduring images of the United States.
I am thus inspired to present my “Mount Rushmore” of sports in Wisconsin, both at the local and state levels. For better or worse, here’s what I offer for your consumption:
PACKERS: Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Don Hutson
Comment: The first three are obvious. The fourth was a real challenge considering Reggie White, James Lofton and Forrest Gregg are among the other greats who played for the Packers. The choice falls to Hutson, a receiver who revolutionized his position during his Packers career from 1935-45.
BREWERS: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers
Comment: As great as Yount was, Molitor is my choice for the greatest Brewer. He is 10th all-time in major league history with 3,319 hits. Had he not missed most of the 1984 season with an injury, Molitor easily could be in the top five.
BRAVES: Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette
Comment: What’s remarkable to me is Aaron won only one National League MVP award during his 23-year-career. No player has ever intrigued me more than Spahn, who didn’t win his first major league game until the age of 25 and finished with 363 victories. At the age of 44 in 1965, he finished his career with the Giants by compiling a 3.39 earned run average in 71⅔ innings. And then he was released. How many millions would such a performance be worth these days?
BUCKS: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Giannis Antetokounmpo
Comment: The Bucks have abused the ridiculous practice of retiring numbers as much as any sports organization, with eight numbers hanging in the rafters to show for their one NBA championship. But Abdul-Jabbar is one of the five greatest players of all time. Robertson is still in the top 20 in NBA history. And it’s remarkable to think Antetokounmpo is still only 22.
UW FOOTBALL: Russell Wilson, Ron Dayne, J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas
Comment: I was so tempted to put Brent Moss on this list and it doesn’t have anything to do with being a homer. Let us not forget that the former Park High School All-State running back was the focal point on the first Badgers team to win a Rose Bowl in January 1994. And that team laid the foundation for the football excellence that has been on display in Madison ever since. And I do realize Alan Ameche won the Heisman Trophy in 1954, but I just cannot omit any of the four names listed above.
RACINE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Tony Romo, Burlington; Brent Moss, Park; Kevin Barry, Park; Johnny Clay, Park
Comment: It hurts not to include Chris Maragos, the only player from Racine County to earn a Super Bowl championship ring and who might end up with the longest NFL career of any Racine County player. But Barry and Clay are the only two county Players to ever be named the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin. Moss was the Rose Bowl and Big Ten MVP during the 1993 season. And the recently retired Romo is, statistically, one of the five greatest passers in NFL history.
RACINE COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL: Jim Chones, St. Catherine’s; Robert Berryhill, Horlick; Caron Butler, Park; Jim McIlvaine, St. Catherine’s
Comment: I will always remember Berryhill as the Michael Jordan of county basketball during his time at Horlick from 1983-86. He was really someone to see. As for McIlvaine, let’s not forget that he was the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin as a senior at St. Catherine’s in 1990 and was a legitimate defensive game-changer who was given a seven-year $33.6 million contract by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.
RACINE COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL: Sonja Henning, Horlick; LaTonya Sims, Park; Samantha Logic, Case; Keisha Anderson, Park
Comment: A strong argument could be made that Henning is the greatest athlete to come out of the county. She was the AP Player of the Year in basketball in Wisconsin as a senior at Horlick in 1987, is the all-time leading scorer among boys or girls in county history and was a first-team All-America for Stanford in 1991 (a year after she started on its national championship team).
STATE COACHES: Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire, Dick Bennett, Bo Ryan
Comment: The legend of Lombardi burns as brightly as ever going on 50 years after he coached his last game for the Packers. Ryan never won a national championship, but he might have done more with less – relatively speaking – than any coach in college basketball history. He wasn’t getting elite one-and-done players. He made a career of masterfully molding role players into dominating teams that exponentially raised the profile of UW basketball.
Story by Peter Jackel, Courtesy of The Journal Times.