fastball and slider pitcher, Niekro found a second life as a knuckleball
specialist in the mid-1970s. He became a 20-game winner for the first time in
1979--his 13th year in the majors--and led the Astros to their first postseason
berth the next year. In '87, at age 42, he and his older brother, Phil, passed
Gaylord and Jim Perry as baseball's winningest brothers. Joe had 221 of their
Born into one of
the nation's richest families, he had a hand in the formation of two soccer
leagues, a pro tennis circuit and an NBA team. But it's football he'll be most
remembered for. Snubbed by the NFL in his effort to get a team, Hunt formed the
AFL and was the driving force behind the merger with the NFL. He gave the Super
Bowl its name after watching kids play with a Super Ball.
The immensity of
his cranium (he wore a size 83/4 hat) and his willingness to lower it into
would-be tacklers earned Heyward the nickname Ironhead. A star at Pitt--he
finished fifth in the 1987 Heisman voting-- Heyward slimmed from 340 pounds to
260 and developed into a Pro Bowl, 1,000-yard back for the Falcons in '95.
Three years later he was forced to retire after learning that he had a brain
"I never knew
anyone who played for Red who didn't like him," Bill Russell once said.
"Of course, I never knew anyone who played against him who did." It's
not hard to see why Auerbach was beloved by his Celtics; players want to win,
and that's what Auerbach did. From 1957 to '86, Boston won nine NBA titles with
him on the bench and seven with him in the front office. And while his victory
cigars and Brooklyn brashness infuriated opponents, even Auerbach's critics
would concede that by signing the league's first black player ( Charles Cooper)
in '50 and by handpicking Russell to be the league's first black coach 16 years
later, the old redhead left the NBA a whole lot better than he found it.
performances don't get much more definitive than Puckett's in Game 6 of the
1991 World Series. The Twins' centerfielder threw his bowling ball of a body
off the Metrodome fence to rob the Braves of a double and a run, which would
have stood as the enduring image of the Series had he not hit a walk-off homer
eight innings later, propelling Minnesota to the championship. Such slick
fielding (six Gold Gloves) and clutch hitting (career average: .318) made
Puckett an All-Star in each of his last 10 seasons. His inexorable march toward
3,000 hits ended 696 short in 1995, when he developed glaucoma and was forced
to retire at 35. At the time of his death--he suffered a stroke in
March-- Puckett was blind in his right eye.