If you are true high school sports fan, a real bleacher bum, if you are Chicagoan that knows how to get from Englewood to Ravenswood to Rogers Park, then you have to be enjoying Sun-Times sportswriter Neil Hayes' weekly series on the 25 greatest athletes in Chicago history. It's a great read.
The last installment is Sunday and you have to have been living on another planet if you didn't figure out that the No. 1 choice is Red Grange.
I had a hand in the selections. I was asked to submit my list of the top 25 athletes. So were several other Sun-Times writers. Hayes made the final selections. I don't have a problem with his choices.
I nominated 26 athletes. Of Hayes' top 25, I missed on John Kinsella, George Connor, Candace Parker, Dan Issel and Phil Cavarretta. I opted for Sweetwater Clifton, George Wilson, Chick Evans, Fritz Pollard, Ken Anderson and Dave Butz.
It makes for wonderful saloon conversation and I hope Hayes will follow through with a post-series article on the athletes who didn't make it and the reaction of readers who wondered why their favorite athletes didn't make the list.
Before you criticize the list or question why Bill DeCorrevont or Elmer Angsman or Ziggy Czarobski or Dick Barwegan or Tom Hawkins or LaMarr Thomas or George Wilson were overlooked, you must understand the criteria.
It isn't a list of the 25 best high school athletes in Chicago history. It is a list of 25 Chicago area high school graduates who went on to stardom in college and professional or Olympic sports. If they stood out in high school, that's a bonus. The selections are weighted heavily on each athlete's post-high school performance.
Determining where an athlete belonged on the top 25 list was a delicate balancing act between how much of an impact he or she had on their primary sport, if they were outstanding in more than one sport, and the magnitude of their accomplishments. Are they Hall of Famers?
So Leo Nomellini was chosen even though he didn't compete in football in high school. But he was a two-time All-America lineman at Minnesota and became an NFL Hall of Famer.
In my view, Sweetwater Clifton, George Wilson, Chick Evans (the only golfer nominated) and Fritz Pollard were no-brainers. Clifton was the first African-American to sign with the NBA, Pollard was the first African-American head coach in the NFL and Wilson played on an NCAA championship team, an Olympic gold-medal winning team and in the NBA.
But you can't pick them all. You can make arguments for one and all, however. Nobody argued that Red Grange, Dick Butkus, George Mikan, Otto Graham, Lou Boudreau and Isiah Thomas didn't believe in the top six. You might question the order--that's another barroom debate--but certainly not their merits.