Awhile back we featured the five athletes we hate. Nasty stuff but I joined in cuz it gave me another chance to burn Palmeiro in cyber effigy.
Enough hate, already. This is Valentineís Day and so I wish to offer the ten figures in sports I love, respect, support and cheer for. The list is expanded to ten because these selections cover my lifetime. Feel free to chime in with yours.
1. Ernie Banks ñ His entire demeanor exemplifies why I love sport, baseball and the Cubs. Met him when I was 13. The picture of his arm around me will always hang in a place of honor.
2. Ryne Sandberg ñ Pure class & his HOF speech ranks # 1 of all sports speeches.
3. Orel Hershiser ñ Should be in the HOF but will never make it. Great deportment and knows his stuff. Good witness for Christ as well.
4. Freddie Patek ñ My favorite non-Cub growing up. A champion for all of us short guys. Once the 5í 4î Royals shortstop was asked what it felt like being the shortest player in the majors. Without missing a beat he retorted, ìA lot better than being the shortest player in the minors!î
5. Steve Alford ñ Clean-cut kid who led the Hoosiers to the championship in í87. An expert free-throw shooter, the crowd would chant his routine as he stepped to the line ìSocks, shorts, one,two, three (bounces), swoooosh!î
6. Steve Stone ñ Not as a baseball player but for his announcing, his wit and his intelligence. Have I mentioned recently how much I miss him?
7. Don Kessinger ñ The first Cub I ever met in 1970. With quiet efficiency, he got the job done. Was a Christian athlete long before it was ìcoolî to be a Christian athlete.
8. Eric Kirchner ñ Benchwarmer for the General in the late 70ís, but he risked getting thrown off the team when he gave me, his fellow journalism major, an interview for a class project.
9. Mike Singletary ñ Those piercing eyes continue to haunt every offensive lineman he faced at the line of scrimmage.
10. Kevin Hoyer ñ High School seniors normally donít let sophomores hang with them. Kev was all-everything in our school. Jock, well liked A-list all the way. And he let me, a short, fat waterboy for the Junior Varsity team run around with him. That meant a lot to me then as I struggled immensely with self image.