Skip to main content

The 50 Greatest Sports Figures From Arizona

There's a difference between loyalty to the home team--athletes
imported to play for our local colleges and pro franchises--and
the deep emotional bond we share with hometown heroes, the local
legends we knew back when. They are the boys and girls from next
door, or the next town. We watched them grow up, watched them
play when it was still play. Unfortunately, these luminaries are
almost inevitably dispersed because of sport's mercenary nature,
lured away by scholarships or contracts. Well, we're bringing
'em all back home for the millennium--not necessarily to where
they were born, but to where they first showed flashes of the
greatness to come. Thus, Broadway Joe is in Pennsylvania, not
Alabama or New York; and the Mailman is in Louisiana, not Utah.
The result: the top 50 from your state and, on the following
pages, a list of those from all 50 states. In short, the
ultimate home teams.

#1 Jim Palmer
Scottsdale High basketball and baseball star; eight-time 20-game
winner and three-time Cy Young winner for Orioles.

#2 Charlie Hickcox
Won three golds and a silver swimming at 1968 Olympics; set eight
world records within 16 months in '67 and '68.

#3 Curley Culp
All-America defensive lineman and NCAA wrestling champion at
Arizona State; six Pro Bowls in 14 NFL seasons.

#4 Michele Mitchell
Won platform-diving silver at 1984 and '88 Olympics and U.S.
title nine times; now coaches at Arizona, where she was a
four-time All-America.

#5 Ty Murray
Youngest all-around rodeo world champion, at 20; shares record of
six world titles.

#6 Randall McDaniel
All-America offensive guard at Arizona State in 1987; Pro Bowl
pick 10 times with Vikings.

#7 Sean Elliott
Wooden Award winner at Arizona in 1989 and was Pac-10's alltime
leading scorer; fourth-leading scorer in Spurs history.

#8 Danny White
Only Arizona State quarterback in College Football Hall of Fame;
third-ranked passer in Cowboys' history.

#9 Louis Tewanima
His silver medal run in the 10,000 meters at the 1912 Olympics
set a U.S. record that stood for 52 years.

#10 Bob Baffert
Leading money winner among trainers over last three years; his
horses have won four of last nine Triple Crown races.

#11 Curt Schilling
Fastball clocked at 89 mph while at Shadow Mountain High; 319
strikeouts for Phillies in 1997 is NL record for righthanders.

#12 Marilyn Ramenofsky-Wingfield
Three-time U.S. swimming champion broke world record in 400-meter
freestyle three times in 1964.

#13 Michael Carbajal
An Olympic silver medalist in 1988, he unified the IBF and WBC
light flyweight titles in '93; has a career record of 48-4.

#14 John Denny
Cy Young winner in 1983; had 123 career wins with Cardinals,
Indians, Phillies and Reds.

#15 Lafayette (Fat) Lever
Set ASU career records for assists and steals; NBA All-Star point
guard twice.

#16 Kerri Strug
Clinched U.S. women's first Olympic team gymnastics gold in 1996
on final vault despite twisted ankle; three-time medalist at
world championships.

#17 Jim Grabb
Won two singles and 20 doubles titles, including 1992 U.S. Open,
in 13 years on ATP tour.

#18 Jon Cole
Held more than 200 U.S. and European state and meet marks in
discus and shot put in 1960s and early '70s, then made three
Olympic teams as weightlifter.

#19 Jerry Colangelo
Put Arizona on major league map; bought Suns in 1987 and brought
big league baseball to Phoenix 10 years later.

#20 Wilford White
Led NCAA in rushing at ASU in 1950; Danny White's father.

#21 Mike Pagel
Set ASU season record for TD passes in 1981; played for Sun
Devils' College World Series champion that year; played 12 years
in NFL.

#22 Dwayne Evans
Set three age-group track world records at age 11; won 200-meter
bronze at 1976 Olympics at 17, making him youngest track medal
winner ever.

#23 Darren Woodson
Walk-on linebacker at ASU moved to safety for Cowboys when
drafted in '92; All-Pro four times.

#24 Tom Pagnozzi
Won three Gold Gloves as catcher with Cardinals from 1987 to '97;
All-Star in '92.

#25 Win Young
Three-time NCAA diving champion at Indiana; bronze medalist at
1968 Olympics.

#26 Fred Carr
All-America linebacker and member of UTEP's basketball team in
1967; started 140 straight games for Packers; MVP of '71 Pro

#27 Michael Bates
Won bronze in 200-meter dash at 1992 Olympics; made Pro Bowl
three times with Panthers.

#28 Rodney Peete
All-Pac-10 third baseman and All-America quarterback and Heisman
runner-up at USC; was drafted by NFL and MLB.

#29 Danny Villa
Outland Trophy finalist and All-America guard at ASU in 1986;
12-year NFL career.

#30 Jimmy Bryan
Seven straight national dirt-track championships in late 1940s
and early '50s; three U.S. National Auto Racing championships
and won the '58 Indy 500; killed in a race accident in '60 at
age 33.

#31 Hank Leiber
Three-time NL All-Star outfielder with New York Giants and Cubs
from 1933 to '42.

#32 Mossy Cade
All-America at Santa Cruz High in track and football; All-America
cornerback at Texas.

#33 Patsy Willard
Diver won bronze at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo; also won
seven national championships.

#34 Cecil Mulleneaux
Played six seasons in the NFL between 1932 and '38.

#35 Carl Mulleneaux
Football, track and wrestling star at Utah State; second Arizonan
to play in the NFL, following older brother, Cecil.

#36 Bob Horner
Jumped from ASU to Braves' starting lineup; homered in his first
major league game and was NL Rookie of the Year in 1978; in '86
hit four homers in a game, and had 218 in his career.

#37 Billy Mayfair
First to win U.S. Amateur and U.S. Public Links titles; has five
victories in 11 years on PGA Tour.

#38 Keith Russell
Won silver in platform diving at 1967 Pan Am Games, placed fourth
at '68 Olympics and won silver and bronze at the '73 world

#39 Louie Espinoza
Won WBA junior featherweight title in 1987; also held NABF, USBA
and WBO titles and had pro record of 52-12-2.

#40 Mike Bibby
Led Arizona to NCAA title as a freshman in 1997; made NBA
All-Rookie team with Grizzlies in '99.

#41 Billy Hatcher
Only player to hit safely in his first seven World Series at
bats, hit .750 for Reds in 1990 Series; career .264 hitter with
four 30-steal seasons in 12 years with seven teams.

#42 Ron Hassey
School-record 86 RBIs for 1974 ASU team; played in majors for 14

#43 Howard Twitty
Earned $2.7 million and won three tournaments in 24 years on PGA
Tour; Comeback Player of the Year in 1993.

#44 Mark Alarie
Fifth-leading scorer in Duke history; All-America on the 1986
team that won NCAA-record 37 games; played five years with
Nuggets and Bullets.

#45 Gilbert (Gib) Dawson
Running back led Douglas High to win over Tucson High in 1946,
ending its 32-game win streak; played one year with Packers.

#46 Vance Johnson
NCAA long-jump champion at Arizona in 1982; played in four Super
Bowls as member of Broncos' Three Amigos receiving corps.

#47 Byron Evans
All-America linebacker, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year at
Arizona in 1986; played eight years with Eagles.

#48 Alex Kellner
All-Star lefthander as A's rookie in 1949, when he went 20-12;
won 101 games in 12-year career.

#49 Eddie Urbano
NCAA 150-pound wrestling champion in 1985; a two-time All-America
at ASU with a 105-17-1 record.

#50 Rob Waldrop
Outland Trophy winner as a noseguard at Arizona in 1993.