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Nashville Scene A Hundred Years of Qualitude

The century's best, worst, and weirdest achievements

By Randy Horick

AUGUST 9, 1999:  All fin de siécle Sports Media Opinion-Maker-Slash-Geniuses share a solemn obligation this year toward all you news-hungry fans: to come up with lists of the century's bests. Baseball is inviting fans to select the top 100 players of the century. Sports Illustrated just published, with trumpet shout, the century's greatest sports photos. ESPN is counting down the 50 greatest athletes.

Hey, we (well, somebody) won't have this opportunity again until 2099. So in the spirit of the time, our committee of way, way insiders offers its own slightly subjective compilation of 20th-century greatness.

Flakiest flakes

8. Rev. Dale Brown. Outstanding achievement: Only hoops coach who could invoke Reinhold Niebuhr, Lao Tze, and Ish Kabibble in same sentence.

7. Dwayne Scales. Followed Brown from beyond our galaxy to play at LSU.

6. Jimmy Piersall. Once climbed the backstop in protest of umpire's call and refused to come down.

5. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. Bird to baseball: "Now, I want you to zoom up there about 90 mph, then give him a little zig and a zag before you cross the plate, OK?"

4. Bill "Spaceman" Lee. Pothead pitcher injured himself falling out of window of woman's apartment when her husband came home unexpectedly.

3. Sparky Lyle. Once defecated on cake in Yankees' locker room, claiming it might have been poisoned.

2. Darryl Dawkins. Claimed to be visiting from planet Lovetron; spent off-season working on "interplanetary funkmanship."

1. Joe Charboneau. Indians outfielder who pulled his own teeth and stitched cut arm with fishing line; went from Rookie of the Year to A ball in three seasons.

Most novel baseball fights

3. Giants' mercurial pitcher Juan Marichal clubs Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat, 1964.

2. Toronto's George Bell charges the mound and attempts kung fu kick on Red Sox pitcher Bruce Kison, who coolly steps aside and sticks out fist, flattening Bell, 1985.

1. White Sox's Robin Ventura charges Rangers' 46-year-old Nolan Ryan, who quickly subdues Ventura in a headlock and administers series of savage noogies, all on national TV, 1993.

Greatest Jewish athletes

10. Nancy Lieberman, basketball

9. Sid Luckman, football

8. Sidney Franklin, "The First Jewish Bullfighter"

7. Moe Berg, baseball

6. Barney Lebrowitz, a.k.a. "Battling Levinsky," World Light Heavyweight champion

5. Shlomo Glickstein, tennis

4. Irving Jaffee, Olympic speed skater

3. Hank Greenberg, baseball

2. Mark Spitz, swimming

1. Sandy Koufax, baseball

Source: Great Jews in Sports, by Robert Slater

Best afro hairstyles

6. Walt Frazier

5. Phil "Action" Jackson

4. Jerry Hairston

3. Dr. J

2. Oscar Gamble

1. Artis Gilmore--in 1973, his basketball-sized take-some-soul-to-the-hole 'fro officially replaced the Astrodome as Eighth Wonder of the World.

Best facial hair

3. Walt Frazier's muttonchop sideburns

2. East German women's swim team, 1976 Olympics

1. Rollie Fingers' handlebar mustache

Greatest on-field riots

4. Detroit, 1934, when Tiger fans dump trash on Cardinals leftfielder Joe Medwick

3. Anytime the Yankees win the World Series

2. Nickel Beer Night, Cleveland, 1974, when bottle-hurling, menacing Indians fans, rendered snot-slinging drunk, caused the Tribe to forfeit

1. "Death to Disco Night," Comiskey Park, 1977, when Bill Veeck offered discounts to fans who brought disco albums to the ballpark; the albums were blown up in centerfield between games of a doubleheader, and Comiskey fans stormed the field in a wild-eyed frenzy, forcing a forfeit of Game Two.

Top Pudges

3. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, best catcher of the '90s

2. Carlton "Pudge" Fisk, second-best catcher of the '70s

1. W.W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, Yale's All-America lineman and personal security guard for Theodore Roosevelt

Best poetry by an athlete

3. "basket-swayin', game-delayin', no-playin', get-out-of-the-wayin' "--description by Prince of Dunkness of his signature, backboard-shattering dunks

2. "glass-flyin', death-defyin', Robinzine-cryin' "--Dawkins' christening of another backboard breaker that showered glass on the hapless head of Kansas City's Dave Robinzine

1. "I'm gonna be the killa of that gorilla in a thrilla in Manila."--Muhammad Ali, predicting the outcome of his fight with Joe Frazier

Most laughably imbecilic baseball trades

9. Orioles: Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch, and Steve Finley to Astros for Glenn Davis, 1991

8. Reds: Frank Robinson to Orioles for Milt Pappas, 1965

7. Phillies: Ryne Sandberg to Cubs in swap of shortstops, 1982

6. Tigers: John Smoltz to Braves for Doyle Alexander, 1987

5. Giants: George Foster to Reds for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert, 1971

4. Reds: Christy Mathewson to Giants for Amos Rusie, 1900

3. Cardinals: Steve Carlton to Phillies for Rick Wise, 1972

2. Astros: Joe Morgan to Reds for, aw, who cares....

1. Mets: Nolan Ryan to Angels for Jim Fregosi, 1972

Great college coaching cheaters

5. Bear Bryant, Texas A&M. Slickest move: easier to list ways he didn't cheat.

4. Eddie Sutton, Kentucky. Slickest move: cash to recruits via Emery Express.

3. Barry Switzer, Oklahoma. "WHAT cheating?"

2. Jackie Sherrill, Texas A&M. Computer-ized list of slush fund contributors.

1. Bobby Collins, SMU. Trust funds for top recruits.

Greatest hypercompetitive psychos

5. Billy Martin. Thought he could take Reggie Jackson.

4. Bob Knight. Tossing chair on court; shoving son on bench; affair with player's girlfriend; lifetime ban from Puerto Rico after calling Brazilian women's team "whores" and assaulting policeman; forcing two players to find their own way home after disappointing loss at Illinois.

3. Dick Butkus. Mean enough to inspire comparisons with John Wesley Harding, who once shot a man for snoring.

2. Woody Hayes. Snapped down marker in fit of rage; attacked Clemson linebacker; frequently threatened to spontaneously combust.

1. Jack Lambert. Once threatened to kill teammates if Steelers lost--and meant it.

Most thrilling home runs

6. Ted Williams, in his last at-bat, 1960

5. Bill Mazeroski, 1960 World Series

4. Kirk Gibson, 1988 World Series

3. Babe Ruth's "called" shot, 1932

2. Bobby Thompson, 1951 "Shot Heard Round the World"

1. Jose Canseco, who so badly misjudged a fly ball in deep right field that it doinked off his head and over the fence, 1994.

To be continued.

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