The kicker with the most famous foot in sports history walks with
a limp and has a specially made right shoe that he describes as
something "Frankenstein would wear." The foot that booted an
NFL-record 63-yard field goal has kicked off countless
conversations. "In my profession it helps me that people still
recognize me," says Tom Dempsey, 62, the New Orleans-based
national sales director for a consumer relations firm that
advises auto dealerships. "It gives me instant credibility."
On Nov. 8, 1970, with the Saints trailing the Detroit Lions 17-16
in Tulane Stadium and two seconds to play, Dempsey, who was born
without a right hand and without toes on his right foot, nailed
the game-winner with his customized shoe, smashing the record by
seven yards. The Denver Broncos' Jason Elam tied the mark in
1998, and Dempsey knows that it will fall someday. "That's fine
with me," he says. "I've gotten more out of that kick than I ever
could have asked for."
Carl Banks pounded the pavement to get into the fashion
business--and he has the shoes to prove it. In 1987 and '88,
while Banks was midway through a 12-year career as a linebacker
with the Giants, Redskins and Browns that would include two Super
Bowl rings and a trip to the Pro Bowl, he walked up and down New
York's Seventh (Fashion) Avenue to launch his second career.
Today Banks, 40, is the director of sports licensing for G-III
Apparel Group, overseeing a product line that will net about $100
million in revenues this year. The company has licenses with the
four major pro leagues and more than 50 colleges for everything
from T-shirts to women's jersey dresses, the latest fashion
craze. Banks, a communications major at Michigan State, first
considered entering the fashion business when he despaired at
finding clothes to fit his 6'4", 235-pound frame.
Those worn-out shoes, a brown pair of size 15 cap-toe lace-up
Ballys, now sit on a shelf in his New Jersey home, where he lives
with his wife and their four children. "Fashion is tougher than
football because there are no referees," says Banks, who cuts
deals with big retailers like Macy's. "There are no set rules.
You have to overcome more adversity than running into a 300-pound
lineman. Going from mind to market with a design is my Super
Dressing for Success
Banks isn't the only former athlete involved in the fashion or
clothing-sales business. Here are some others.
Brendan Foster, British track Olympian, His sportswear line, View
From, is carried by one of England's largest department store
Dominik Hasek, NHL goalie, His Dominator Clothing line of casual
sportswear, already a hit in Europe, is now available in the U.S.
Rick Honeycutt, Major league pitcher, Sells college apparel and
other sportswear at Rick Honeycutt Sports in Chattanooga
Michael Irvin, NFL receiver, Will introduce the Michael Irvin
Collection of shirts, pants and shoes in July in collaboration
Drew Pearson, NFL receiver, His Drew Pearson Marketing Inc. sells
10 million hats a year and has licenses with the NBA, NHL and MLB
Gabriela Sabatini, tennis, Designs an eponymous line of clothing
in addition to perfumes and watches
Steve Timmons, volleyball Olympian, Co-owner of Redsand, an
Encinitas, Calif.-based company that sells surf-and skaterwear
Rudy Giuliani has asked Ron Blomberg about it. So have Jason
Giambi, John Madden, Joe Namath, the guy on the phone from the
credit-card company, the waitress who served him lunch in Atlanta
and, oh, 5,783 other people over the last 30 years. They all
wanted to hear about his initial plate appearance in Boston's
Fenway Park on April 6, 1973, the day Blomberg, playing for the
New York Yankees, became baseball's inaugural designated hitter.
"There aren't too many firsts in the game anymore," says the
54-year-old Blomberg. "I'm proud to be associated with one of
Though the idea of the DH was discussed by executives as far back
as 1906 (when Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack made the
suggestion in a Philadelphia North American article), it took 67
years for a hitter to replace the pitcher in the batting order.
Trailing the National League in both attendance and scoring, the
American League adopted the rule to inject excitement and attract
attention. And on Opening Day 1973, in the first game of the
afternoon, it did.
Ralph Houk hadn't used Blomberg at designated hitter during
spring training, but three days before the opener the fourth-year
first baseman slightly pulled his right hamstring. "I'd had some
success hitting against Luis Tiant, Boston's starting pitcher, so
Ralph put me in as the DH," says Blomberg, the Yankees'
first-round pick in 1967. "I really had no idea what it was."
When Tiant retired the first two batters, it looked as if the Red
Sox' Orlando Cepeda, scheduled to hit fifth in the bottom of the
inning, might get the first DH at bat. But Matty Alou hit a fly
into the swirling wind, and centerfielder Reggie Smith misplayed
the ball into a double. Tiant then walked Bobby Murcer and Graig
Nettles. Blomberg suddenly was up. He too walked and forced Alou
home, earning the first RBI by a DH. "We lost the game 15-5,"
recalls Blomberg, "but afterward about 50 reporters wanted to
talk to me."
Blomberg retired after the 1978 season with a .293 average and
now lives in Roswell, Ga., with Beth, his wife of 21 years.
Hitting remains his passion: Five days a week he's a volunteer
batting coach for a group of 10 teenagers, trying to help them
get college scholarships. "I love still being involved in
baseball," says Blomberg, whose son, Adam, attends medical school
at the University of Miami and whose daughter, Chesley, is a
senior at Roswell High. "And I love talking about being the first
DH. It wasn't that big of a deal to me at the time, but now it
Still in the Swing, 30 Years Later
A roundup of the inaugural designated hitters for the American
League's other 11 teams.
Mike Andrews, White Sox, Chairman of the Jimmy Fund charity,
Gates Brown, Tigers, Retired from M&M Manufacturing Co., Detroit
Ollie Brown, Brewers, Occupation unknown, Buena Park, Calif.
Rico Carty, Rangers, President, Summer Independent League, San
Pedro de Macoris, D.R.
Orlando Cepeda, Red Sox, Giants community representative,
Terry Crowley, Orioles, Orioles hitting coach, Hunt Valley, Md.
John Ellis, Indians, Owner and president, the Bass Group, Old
Ed Kirkpatrick, Royals, Retired rep for Rawlings, Laguna Niguel,
Tom McCraw, Angels, Expos hitting coach, Montreal
Bill North, Athletics, Financial adviser for Raymond James
Financial Services, Kirkland, Wash.
Tony Oliva, Twins, Twins minor league hitting instructor,
Frank Burgess? Like so many NCAA scoring champs, he never made it
to the NBA. But for him, hoops led to bigger things. Burgess
played a year at Arkansas AM&N, then for an Air Force team in
Germany, where a Gonzaga grad saw him and hooked him up with Zags
coach Hank Anderson. After averaging a nation-leading 32.4 points
in '61, Burgess had a pro stint before returning to Gonzaga to
get his law degree. In 1994 President Clinton appointed him a
U.S. District Court judge in Tacoma, Wash. "Basketball was my
ticket," says Burgess, 67, a father of five. "It all started with
Here's a sampling of the postcollegiate careers of other
long-forgotten NCAA basketball scoring leaders.
1962 Billy McGill, Utah, Materials controller for XonTech, Inc.
1963 Nick Werkman, Seton Hall, Sports-show host, teacher
1972 Dwight Lamar, La.-Lafayette, Sheriff's dept. safety instructor
1974 Larry Fogle, Canisius, Children's counselor
1975 Bob McCurdy, Richmond, Sales executive
1980 Tony Murphy, Southern, UPS driver, basketball coach
1984 Joe Jakubick, Akron, Customer-service specialist
1986 Terrance Bailey, Wagner, Preschool teacher
1992 Brett Roberts, Morehead State, Assistant principal
1996 Kevin Granger, Texas Southern, Special-ed teacher
For the complete list of NCAA scoring leaders, an SI cover
gallery and more then-and-now photos, go to SI.com.
COLOR PHOTO: PETER GREGOIRE WINNING STYLE Banks, once a Pro Bowl linebacker, has the latest fashion craze covered.
B/W PHOTO: RAY STUBBLEBINE/AP [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER WHAT A KICK Using a customized shoe for his toeless right foot, Dempsey booted his way into NFL history.
B/W PHOTO: AP [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER SWINGMAN The first DH, Blomberg shares his batting tips with kids.
B/W PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS, JR. [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN (BURGESS) NET GAIN "Basketball was my ticket," says Burgess, who now rules in a different court.
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER
COLOR PHOTO: JEFF JACOBSEN
COLOR PHOTO: SAM FORENCICH
COLOR PHOTO: DOUG KANTER/AP
COLOR PHOTO: FRANK RUSSO
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
We searched far and wide to find the resting places of some of
sports' most famous names and discovered a range of styles, from
the elegantly simple to the grandiose. Of course, all things
considered, even the greatest Bronx Bomber of them all would
rather be in Philadelphia.
Shoeless Joe found lasting peace in the town to which he moved
after being banned from baseball. His modest plot receives
thousands of visitors, who leave balls, bats and, occasionally,
You'll find the father of basketball and Kansas's first coach in
a part of Lawrence Memorial Park called Acacia A. For a mere
$895--below the national average--Jayhawks fans can get a plot
nearby and hoop it up for eternity with the doctor.
The middleweight champ is not, as a famed poem says, buried in an
anonymous grave "far out in the wilds of Oregon/On a lonely
mountain side" but in a well-marked plot in the state's largest
The man who made history in Flatbush rests not in Brooklyn but in
the next borough over, at this simple gravesite at Cypress Hill
Jim Thorpe, Pa.
In 1953 Mauch Chunk, Pa., renamed itself in honor of Thorpe; his
children have worked for years to have their father transferred
to a Native American burial site in Oklahoma.
Groundskeepers at the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven could have a
pretty good time picking up after the steady stream of
supplicants who pay honor to the Bambino's prodigious appetites
with tributes of hot dogs, potato chips, beer and cigars.