Rocket’, ‘MJ’ and the ‘Say Hey Kid’ recognized among the 20-29 jerseys

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

20. Barry Sanders.

Possibly the most exciting player in NFL history, Sanders started his assault on the record books before he even played for the Detroit Lions. While at Oklahoma State, Sanders set 34 NCAA records in his junior season. These records included 2,628 yards rushing in a season, 7.6 yards per carry, as well as 37 rushing touchdowns. This was more than enough to win the 1988 Heisman Trophy. Sanders was drafted third by the Lions in 1989. His greatest NFL season was in 1997 when he rushed for 2,053 yards and was named NFL Co-MVP with Brett Favre. He shocked the football world when he retired before the 1999 season at the age of 30, only 1,458 yards shy of breaking Walter Payton’s career rushing mark of 16,726. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Honorable Mention: Frank Robinson (Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds), Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia Phillies), Lou Brock (Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals)

21. Roger Clemens.

Regarded as one of the best pitchers in major league history, Clemens has reached career marks that some thought were unattainable in the era of the five-man pitching rotation. Clemens’ first 12 seasons were spent with the Boston Red Sox. In 1986, his first full season as a starter, Clemens won the American League MVP award, plus his first of seven Cy Young Awards by going 24-4 and leading the league with a 2.48 ERA. He also struck out a MLB record 20 batters in a game that season, a mark he would repeat 10 years later. In 2003, Clemens won his 300th game and struck out his 4,000th batter in the same game. Clemens currently sits eighth all-time in wins with 354 and second in strikeouts with 4,672. He was also named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team in 1999. Being named in the Mitchell report on steroids has put Clemens’ legacy in question. He still has not decided if he will play next season, which would be his 25th.

Honorable Mention: Roberto Clemente (Pittsburgh Pirates), Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons), Warren Spahn (Boston/ Milwaukee Braves)

22. Emmitt Smith.

No running back has more carries, rushing yards, or rushing touchdowns in the NFL than Smith. A three-time Super Bowl champion, Smith was the NFL MVP in 1993 and in 1995 and set a then NFL record with 25 touchdowns in a season. He has been inducted into the Dallas Cowboys’ and Florida Gators’ Rings of Honor and was a 2007 College Football Hall of Famer. Smith is a shoe-in to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he is eligible in 2010.

Honorable Mention: Clyde Drexler (Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets), Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers), Jim Palmer (Baltimore Orioles)

23. Michael Jordan.

Not much can be said that already hasn’t been said about Michael Jordan. Voted the Greatest Athlete of the 21st Century for ESPN’s “SportsCentury” series, Jordan is one of the most recognizable figures on the planet. Being one of the few athletes to transcend sports, MJ was also voted seventh by TV Guide as one of the top entertainers of the century. Jordan holds the record for highest career scoring average, 30.1 ppg, most NBA Finals MVP awards with six, is a five-time league MVP, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, 14-time All-Star and is third on the NBA career points list. His net worth is estimated at $410 million, and Jordan’s net worth to the U.S. economy has been estimated at $10 billion.

Honorable Mention: LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Don Mattingly (New York Yankees), Ryne Sandberg (Chicago Cubs)

24. Willie Mays.

The 1979 Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays is on the short list for greatest all-around players in history. Mays finished his career in third place on the all-time home run list with 660 dingers, but he now sits at fourth after his godson Barry Bonds passed him in 2004. His record of 24 All-Star appearances will likely never be broken or even challenged. Mays spent 20 years with the New York/San Francisco Giants and missed the entire 1953 season after being drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea. The time off had little effect as Mays won his first MVP award his first year back in 1954. Mays became the first player to hit 500 home runs and have 3,000 hits.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Gordon (NASCAR), Bill Bradley (New York Knicks), Rick Berry (Golden State Warriors), Tony Perez (Cincinnati Reds)

25. Barry Bonds.

The greatest home run hitter in major league history with 762, Bonds is a lightning rod for controversy. Bonds’ place in history will be a never-ending debate as he has been linked to the BALCO lab steroid scandals for the last five years. Bonds, a hall of famer before the steroids link, had a meteoric rise up the home run list beginning in 2001 with a single season major league record 73 home runs. Bonds’ number would be even more staggering if he wasn’t walked a MLB record 2,558 times in his career, or five full seasons of at-bats. His seven MVP awards are also the most by a single player. Bonds is currently a free agent and is unsure if he will play his 23rd major league season.

Honorable Mention: K.C. Jones (Boston Celtics), Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers), Fred Biletnikoff (Oakland Raiders)

26. Wade Boggs.

A 2005 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Boggs was one of the best hitters of his generation. During his 18-year career (1982-1999), Boggs won five batting titles, and from 1983-1988, he hit lower than .357 only once. Boggs spent his first 11 seasons with the Boston Red Sox before spending four years with the New York Yankees, where he won his only World Series during the 1996 season. Boggs finished his career playing two seasons for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. During his final season in 1999, Boggs joined the 3,000 hit club, becoming the only player to ever hit a home run for the milestone achievement.

Honorable Mention: Darrell Green (Washington Redskins), Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders), Billy Williams (Chicago Cubs)

27. Carlton Fisk.

Fisk is best known for waving his home run ball into fair territory during game six of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park as a member of the Boston Red Sox, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his career. In 2005, the Red Sox named the left field foul pole the “Fisk Pole” to honor his game six homerun. His next 13 years were spent with the Chicago White Sox. No catcher caught for more games than Fisk’s 2,226. When he retired in 1993, Fisk held the record for most homeruns by a catcher with 351. Fisk was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Honorable Mention: Juan Marichal (San Francisco Giants), Jim “Catfish” Hunter (Oakland Athletics), Eddie George (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans)

28. Marshall Faulk.

Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 1994 NFL draft, Marshall Faulk became one of the most versatile running backs in league history. When he was traded to the St. Louis Rams for the 1999 season, Faulk took off, helping lead the Rams to their first Super Bowl victory. From 1999-2001, Faulk was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year and was named league MVP in 2000. Faulk is ninth on the NFL career rushing list and sixth in all purpose yards with 19,172. His #28 was retired this season by the Rams.

Honorable Mention: Warrick Dunn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma Sooners, Minnesota Vikings)

29. Satchel Paige.

The greatest pitcher in Negro League history, Paige’s career spanned a remarkable five decades from 1926 to 1965. It took 22 years in the Negro Leagues before Paige got a shot at the majors. He signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians at the age of 41 in 1948. The oldest player to play in an All-Star Game, Paige made two of them for the St. Louis Browns in 1952 and 1953 in his mid 40’s. Paige’s last game was a one hit, three innings outing for the Kansas City Athletics at the age of 58. Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

Honorable Mention: Rod Carew (Minnesota Twins, California Angels), Eric Dickerson (Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams) Ken Dryden (Montreal Canadiens).