Mid-days with Mike Lindsley

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Quarterbacks to Have Never Won a Super Bowl Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

Quarterbacks, mostly unfairly, are judged by rings. Montana and Brady have plenty. Bradshaw has them. Aikman has two. And on and on it goes. There are plenty of QB's who don't have rings who were darn good and pioneered the game that we know today. The "ML Mount Rushmore Series" continues with quarterbacks to have never won a Super Bowl.

1. Jim Kelly. Looking back on Kelly's career, he actually was a major pioneer offensively. #12 ran the K-Gun, no-huddle offense to perfection. Today's game is full of offense, and yet many teams can't match what the Buffalo Bills' offense of the 1990's did (oh, and without all of the rules benefiting offensive players). Kelly totaled 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns during his Hall of Fame career. But it was more about the managing and play-calling and audibles inside a complex offense that made JK so great.

2. Dan Fouts. Deep balls. Accurate. Tons of numbers. Fouts was the first NFL quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in three straight seasons. Led the NFL in passing four straight seasons (1979-82). 1993 Hall of Famer. 43,000+ career passing yards. Back-to-back 30 touchdown seasons. Fouts' ability to stand in the pocket, take a hit and check down all receiving options was stuff of legendary proportion. NFL 1980's All-Decade Team. Fouts has been breaking the game down as well as anyone as an analyst and color commentator for years.

3. Fran Tarkenton. The recent obsession over hybrid quarterbacks by some NFL general managers is a big part of the game now. Look no further for a pioneer than Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton could throw it and run it. Owned every major quarterback record at the time of his retirement. Tarkenton was a wizard behind center. 47,000+ career passing yards. 342 touchdowns. 3,674 career rushing yards. And 32 touchdowns running on 675 carries. Guided the Vikings to three NFC titles. Tarkenton, when talking about the quarterback position, is vastly underrated.

4. Dan Marino. Quite possibly the purest passer the game has ever seen. Right from his rookie season, when he guided the Dolphins to the Super Bowl (lost to the 49ers and he never returned), everyone could see the ability in Marino. Marino was so good at throwing in-between defenders. 61,361 career passing yards. 420 touchdowns. 1984 NFL MVP. Nine Pro Bowl selections. NFL passing leader five times. Marino could throw short or long with incredible touch and accuracy. 2005 Hall of Famer. Marino was so good that some think he is a Top 3 to 5 quarterback without the ring. We are all left to wonder how many more times Marino would have been in a Super Bowl if his front office did a better job of surrounding him with talent and a better situation like a Troy Aikman or Terry Bradshaw had or many other quarterbacks had with one ring or many rings.
Syracuse Men's Basketball Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

The next in line for the "ML Mount Rushmore Series" is a special one. It is a team I grew-up watching right in my backyard. Players I idolized and watched through grade school and then ended-up interviewing later as a sports media personality. Add to that covering the team in future years as a local reporter, national reporter and local talk show host. This is fun. It is close to home. Let's see who makes it from the 'Cuse (remember, this is college, so coaches can be included; What, you thought we would leave him out?).

1. Jim Boeheim. What a career. What a legacy. What loyalty. Five Final Four appearances. 2003 national title. 2-3 zone copied around the country in college and asked about in the pro ranks. Eight Big East regular season titles and five tournament championships. Has transitioned just fine into the ACC with the blue bloods of college ball. 2005 Hall of Famer. 2010 Coach of the Year nationally. Four-time Big East Coach of the Year. Boeheim is Syracuse basketball. That is the beauty of college sports. The players eventually leave. But it is the coach who can continue to grow the seed after it is planted. Boeheim's remarkable ability to get the most out of average to above average teams (1996 Final Four run) is perhaps his greatest quality, or maybe it is his success when doubted for whatever reason or when his back is against the wall (2015-16). Jimmy B. has made his mistakes, no one can dispute that. But on the other side is his tremendous success on The Hill. Boeheim has also had an enormous impact on Team USA as a coach in International play and being a strong voice to some of the best players in the world. He is the owner of multiple gold medals in Olympic play. That just adds another layer for recruiting at SU. Off the court, he has been genuine in his contributions to the community and various charities. Hate him or love him because of his post-game press conferences, personality or coaching style, Syracuse, NY will be a different place when he is done coaching and the transition will be difficult. When you talk Syracuse basketball, and have for decades, the name Boeheim comes first.

2. Pearl Washington. Boeheim acknowledged during Washington's funeral how much "The Pearl" changed the program when he went to Los Angeles the second time and everyone all of a sudden recognized Boeheim as "Pearl's coach." Washington, gone far too soon after a battle with cancer, was the most important player in Syracuse history and happened to at the same time be a dynamic, flashy do-it-all point guard who guided the Orangemen. Washington, from Brooklyn, would also change college basketball in terms of style and substance. To say Pearl is missed is a gross understatement. Washington was a fantastic, generational player, who helped form the Big East, basketball on television and hoops in the Northeast. He was a phenomenon. He was also a better person.

3. Dave Bing. Bing could flat-out score from anywhere (leading scorer in program history until Sherman Douglas arrived). Boeheim has often said that Bing is the best player in SU history (the head coach would know since he played in the backcourt with him). Bing averaged 24.8 points per game at Syracuse in three seasons (1963-66 (freshman weren't allowed to play on the varsity at that time) as well as over 10 rebounds per game, a double-double for his career. Bing could also pass the basketball well. Bing, from Washington D.C., really was the pioneer for recruiting in the nation's capital for SU (a nice assist as well from Ernie Davis who helped convince him to come play ball in Central New York). Detroit took Bing #2 overall in the NBA Draft. He won Rookie of the Year and led the league in scoring during his sophomore season. 1980 Basketball Hall of Fame member. But his greatness started in a Syracuse uniform.

4. Carmelo Anthony. Only one year. Who cares? Without Carmelo, Syracuse doesn't have a national title, doesn't have one of the best practice facilities in college basketball and doesn't have a name recognition with a future Hall of Famer that recruits can connect with. Carmelo was out-of-this-world during his 2002-03 lone freshman season at SU. 22.2 PPG. 10.0 RPG. Big East First Team. Big East Rookie of the Year. Final Four Most Outstanding Player. His best came on the biggest stage, in the national semifinal against Texas with 33 points and 14 rebounds. Before that, Syracuse looked done against Oklahoma State in the tournament, but it was Anthony who put the team on his back and willed it to victory. One year's worth of basketball doesn't matter here. It is the impact Carmelo had during that one season, what he helped deliver and his continued mark on the program for years after he left.
Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

Next in line for the “ML All-Time Mount Rushmore Series” is one of the most glorified, successful football franchises of all-time, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Players, front office executives and coaches are included. Let’s see what this list looks like for the Steel City’s finest.

1. Joe Greene. The Pittsburgh Steelers are known around the world for their defense from the 1970’s and the “Steel Curtain.” Well, “Mean Joe” was the anchor. Four-time Super Bowl champion, 10-time Pro Bowl selection, Two-time Defensive Player of the Year, 1970’s All-Decade Team and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Greene turned the whole team around with his presence and demand for greatness. He was a terror who pulverized quarterbacks and chased down running backs. Plus, he could actually cover anyone from running backs to tight ends to receivers because he was such an amazing athlete. There wasn’t even a double team to stop him. Greene is widely considered the greatest defensive lineman in pro football history. Greene was also a pioneer for athletes in later years with his famous Coca-Cola commercial that debuted in 1979 and was aired during the 1980 Super Bowl. It showed his softer side, but more importantly allowed athletes an opportunity to see what a commercial endorsement could do, especially black athletes. Greene entered the Hall of Fame in 1987. The greatest Steeler of them all.

2. Art Rooney. Nothing would have been possible without Rooney, the founder and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers with the original name of “Pirates” (just like the baseball team) in July, 1933. The Irish-American preached loyalty, teamwork, patience and consistency from the beginning, all current franchise staples handed down to his son. “The Chief” was famous for standing-up for the right thing, including being the only owner to vote against moving the rights of the New York Yanks to Dallas. Rooney’s leadership was second to none and he was one of the most respected owners around the league. Rooney’s Steelers became a power in the early 1970’s thanks to advanced scouting and hiring the “right” people. That all came from the top. Art Rooney entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964. The Steelers are a football model that many teams have tried to copy over the years and a Top 5 NFL franchise of all-time and much of the credit can be given to Rooney.

3. Chuck Noll. Some say that Noll is overrated because he had all the offensive and defensive parts and that anyone could have coached those 1970’s Steelers. That’s a lame argument. Noll was a master motivator and got all of his players to buy into what this franchise was becoming, elite and all-time, not just a flash in the pan. Practices were looked upon as big games. Responsibility was the only option. Love for your teammates was a no-brainer. Respect for everyone in the organization was a must. Noll coached Pittsburgh for 23 seasons and won those four Super Bowl titles, four AFC crowns and nine Central Division championships. Noll won 209 games and posted a 16-8-0 record in the playoffs. Add to that winning records in 15 of his final 20 seasons. 1993 Pro Football Hall of Famer. Noll was a wizard when it came down to drafting a player he knew was great but would become more elite than any other player taken (think Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf in later years). Noll was also incredible at developing players. Noll was very focused and knew exactly what he wanted and needed to make Pittsburgh into a dynasty. In 1969, Noll selected Joe Greene #4 overall. Over the next few years, Pittsburgh, with Noll’s guidance, selected Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris and then four more future Hall of Famers in the 1974 Draft, including Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. Noll also knew Pittsburgh and helped the morale of the city with his blue collar approach to football. The legendary coach also gave plenty of opportunities to black players and coaches. 1970’s and 1980’s All-Decade Teams. One of the best head coaches ever.

4. Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw for sure had plenty of weapons like Harris and Stallworth and Swann, but he also energized a city and fan base and his teammates with his relentless energy and Aw Shucks attitude that was welcomed because of how clutch Bradshaw was in the big games. Look back at those NFL Films throws that Bradshaw made in the final game, rolling out of the pocket and hitting his receivers right in the hands. Some of the most perfect Super Bowl throws in history were made by Bradshaw. He, like everyone on the 1970’s Steelers, captured four Super Bowl rings but also added the big game MVP in Super Bowls XIII and XIV. He won NFL MVP in 1978 and is a Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team member and NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team member. 1989 Pro Football Hall of Famer. His numbers don’t jump out like a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning (212-210 TD-INT ratio, for example), but it was his demeanor, influence and clutch play on the ultimate stage as a quarterback, the most important position in football for decades, that make Terry Bradshaw a member of the All-Time Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore.
Chicago Cubs All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

They finally did it in 2016! 108 years waived good-bye with a World Series Game 7 win over Cleveland, and what a Fall Classic it was. Players and managers and executives are all included on this one because it is a franchise, which is important once you get to a certain name. Enjoy and congrats, Cubs, on finally getting back to the top of baseball after a century and eight years of suffering. Here is the Chicago Cubs All-Time Mount Rushmore in the ML continued series.

1. Ernie Banks. The face of the franchise. Let's play two! 512 home runs. A class act. 1977 Hall of Famer. A great yet still underrated fielder with a rifle arm and an all-time hitter. One of the premier shortstops in baseball history. 500 doubles club. 2,583 career hits. 1,600+ RBI as a shortstop is beyond remarkable. Won the N.L. MVP in 1958 and 1959. Banks must have been dancing when the ball landed in Anthony Rizzo's glove to end the 2016 World Series. How he deserved to be a champ in that uniform through his loyalty and hard work. All 19 seasons in a Chicago Cubs uniform. Banks never played in a postseason. It wasn't his fault. The era had pennant winners only and he had no support. And yet he never complained about it. That adds to his legacy even more. Mr. Cub. The name speaks for itself.

2. Ryne Sandberg. Another amazing franchise player with class who never won a ring or had enough chances to do so. Arguably the greatest fielding second baseman of all-time. .989 fielding percentage. Once played 123 straight games without an error and 582 errorless chances. Nine Gold Gloves. Quiet leader who influenced a clubhouse and a team and a city. 1984 M.V.P. Underrated hitter for power and average. In that 1984 year, Ryne hit 19 home runs and 84 RBI when the numbers meant more than the Steroid Era. Played the game the right way. 400+ doubles. Nearly 300 home runs. 2,386 hits. 1,000+ RBI. 10-time All-Star. A lifetime Cub. Sandberg was a truly amazing player. .285 lifetime average. 2005 Hall of Famer. And when he went into Cooperstown, he had a word or two about the steroid users and how he was disappointed in all of them without mentioning names or going over the top. He mentioned that his era played the game the right way. They sure did. It was the best Hall of Fame speech I have ever seen to this day.

3. Billy Williams. Edges out Fergie Jenkins for more years with the team (Jenkins played 10 in Chicago while Williams played 16) and the fact that he was an everyday player. Williams was simply sensational. 400 home run club member. 1961 Rookie of the Year. A fan favorite. 400 double club. 2,700+ hits. A consistent .290 average through his career. Like Banks and Sandberg above, the guy didn't have a lot of support and had a horrendous front office. Williams was all things Chicago Cubs and a slam dunk for this list and there shouldn't be an argument.

4. Theo Epstein. Try hating this pick. Drafting-scouting-trading. He did it all as president of baseball operations in helping the Cubs to the 2016 World Series title and ending a drought worth 108 years. Just send this baseball genius to Cooperstown. He did it in Boston and did it again in Chicago. It is a rare feat to also have the entire city and the players on a team respect you the way that Theo is respected everywhere he goes. People want to play on a team with this man in charge. You can argue that he is the greatest baseball executive of all-time for the sole reason of forming a team. But let's let you argue that one over a cold one at Murphy's Bleachers on the North Side. If you can get a seat.
Cleveland Indians All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

The 2016 postseason caused this one to happen earlier rather than later. The Indians, while not the Yankees or Dodgers or Red Sox, have a proud American League tradition with plenty of historical baseball storylines. Remember, because this is a pro sports franchise, so players, managers and executives are up for consideration. Here is the all-time Mount Rushmore for the Tribe in the “ML Mount Rushmore Series.”

1. Bob Feller. Arguably the greatest right-handed pitcher of all-time. Imagine the numbers if he didn’t defend our country in World War II. Feller was in his prime when he gave-up nearly four years to combat as a member of the Navy as a Gun Captain on the famed USS Alabama. Still, his career was amazing. He came back better than ever (he had won 24, 27 and 25 games per season before enlisting in the service at age 23 by the way) after his military service. 3.25 ERA. 2,581 strikeouts. 266 career wins. .621 winning percentage. 44 shutouts. Over 3,800 innings pitched. 1948 World Series champion. 8-time All-Star. A great pitcher. A great American. Feller was a huge supporter of integrating baseball and organized the first barnstorming tour to use airplanes to travel from site to site. Feller recruited All-Stars from both major leagues, including the Negro League All-Stars. This shouldn’t go unnoticed considering that “Rapid Robert” asked Satchel Paige to head the Negro team. This would eventually push Paige into the Major Leagues, way overdue obviously, and Feller and Paige would become teammates with Cleveland in their later playing years.

2. Larry Doby. Doby, like Paige, could have been the first to integrate baseball overall. It turns out that Jackie Robinson was hand-picked by Branch Rickey. But Doby still was the first black player in the American League and often wrongfully gets forgotten. Doby was a pioneer for black players and helped further push integration throughout baseball and more importantly in the American League, where racist owners and general managers took longer to change the game than those in the National League. Doby also happened to be a sensational player. 13 seasons in the big leagues, 10 with Cleveland. Doby hit a solid .283 with 253 home runs and over 1,500 hits. Add to that 970 RBI and seven All-Star Games. Doby had solid range in centerfield and was an overall terrific fielder with a good arm. Doby’s numbers would look better in the Major Leagues if he were allowed to play. The New Jersey native was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veteran’s Committee. Doby is one of the most important players and figures in Indians, American League, baseball and American history.

3. Bill Veeck. Veeck became a true innovator when he became owner of a major league team for the first time in 1946. That team was the Cleveland Indians. He saw the branding of the game and in-game promotions well before his time. He immediately put Indians games on radio. Veeck also signed Larry Doby, understanding how important it was to integrate the American League and was stunned that it hadn’t happened before he arrived. One year later in 1948, Veeck signed Satchel Paige, making Paige the oldest rookie in Major League history and of course kept integration moving in the right direction. Keep in mind that Veeck had the vision and funding to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in earlier years, but when Veeck told baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis that he wanted to fully integrate the team, Landis quickly moved to National League higher-ups to get them to control and pull the team away from Veeck. Veeck’s unique approach to promotions was legendary. The 1991 Hall of Famer hired a clown to be coach (Max Patkin), held a “Good Old Joe Earley Night” for a fan who complained that the Indians were honoring everyone except the average Joe and after his days with the Indians, sent a 3 foot 7 inch man named Eddie Gaedel to the plate as a pinch hitter as owner of the struggling St. Louis Browns. Gaedel walked on four pitches and was replaced for a pinch runner. He did complete the task of being the shortest man to ever play in the big leagues thanks to the legendary Veeck. Veeck was one of a kind. There has been no baseball executive like him since.

4. Jim Thome. A giant of Cleveland baseball. A true fan favorite. His first 12 years were with the Indians and he helped the team to two pennants in 1995 and 1997. One of the most feared hitters of his era. Thome had six 100-RBI seasons as an Indian and was someone pitchers had to pitch around or change the approach for. Thome bounced around the big leagues after his time in Cleveland with five other teams, but he made his career and his mark with the Tribe, the team that drafted him in the 13th round of the 1989 amateur draft, quite the story to say the least. 600 Home Run Club member. 1,699 RBI. .554 slugging percentage. 4,667 total bases. Cooperstown awaits.
Mount Rushmore of Men's Tennis.
By Mike Lindsley

We go to the clay and the grass and the hard surfaces and men’s tennis for the all-time greatest men’s tennis players in the “ML Mount Rushmore Series.” Here is who made the cut.

1. Roger Federer. There is no denying Roger’s place in history. Lately, he has had to deal with the haters who say he is washed-up and old and can’t win another major. So that means he doesn’t have the most of all-time with 17? What a joke. Fed, despite his rough record against Rafael Nadal, is the greatest of all-time as far as this writer is concerned. If Jack Nicklaus is #1 in golf, with 95% or more of the reason being that he has the most majors with 18, then it should apply here too. Fed owns four Australian Open titles, one French Open, seven Wimbledon crowns and five U.S. Open titles. He has won it all on all four surfaces (just eight men to do so). A record 302 weeks at one point ranked #1 in the world. From 2004-2012, no one was better than Fed. Need more? Well over 1,000 wins. He continues to play deep into Grand Slam tournaments. The guy is a magician with a racket. He plays power at the baseline or finesse at the net. His serve and volley game is the best ever. Roger is an overhand slam on Mount Rushmore.

2. Pete Sampras. 64 career titles. 14 Grand Slam titles. Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007. No one looked smoother than Pete on a tennis court. Like Federer, he did it with class and grace. One of tennis’ great moments was when Sampras went out on top, winning the 2002 U.S. Open, his final Grand Slam tournament. Sampras collected over $43 million in prize money during his time and set-up a lot more big money for players today. Where would American men’s tennis have ended-up without Sampras (and for that matter, Andre Agassi, the two having played so many epic matches against one another)?

3. Rod Laver. Only player to win the Grand Slam twice. 11 Grand Slam singles titles. A pioneer of the game right when he turned pro in 1962. Every tennis player wanted to be like Rod Laver like every football player wanted to be Joe Namath like every baseball player wanted to be like Mickey Mantle and like every golfer wanted to be like Arnold Palmer. #1 in the world for seven straight years (1964-70). He would have won more Grand Slam crowns had he been allowed to play as Laver was excluded from the tournaments during a five-year period in the mid-1960’s because the pre-open era was for amateurs only. See: the “open era” began in 1968 and Laver was a professional and ranked #1. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.

4. Novak Djokovic. Say what you want about eras and athletes and equipment, but the flat-out truth is “The Joker” is a better historical all-around player than Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. He gets the edge over Rafael Nadal (despite “Rafa” having 14 Grand Slam titles to Joker’s 12) because Nadal has pretty much dominated on one surface, clay, at the French Open. Novak is in the prime of his career, and while the era has been tough (turned pro in 2003), he seems the most fit, healthy, well-rounded and fearless player on tour. He likely can play in another 32-40 Grand Slam titles and a bunch of tournaments to add to his career titles and Grand Slams. Already has well over $100 million in tour earnings. Don’t be surprised if years from now we are talking about The Joker as the GOAT.
Mount Rushmore of NFL Head Coaches.
By Mike Lindsley

Everything goes on these lists. Winning and innovation and all the rest of it. Let's have a look at the Mount Rushmore of NFL head coaches in the continued “ML Mount Rushmore Series.”

1. Vince Lombardi. He built the Green Bay Packers and he built a lot of the NFL that we know today, really. This guy believed in his systems and they worked. How important was Lombardi? The Super Bowl trophy is named after him. God, family and the Green Bay Packers. He won Super Bowl 1 and II. He won six NFL titles, which equates to four more Super Bowl-like titles considering the era (four were won before the Super Bowl era, two were won advancing Green Bay to the big game). Think head coach and general manager and lead scout. Sure, there weren't as many teams and travel was lighter and free agency wasn’t yet relevant and all that other stuff, but Lombardi was ahead of his time and ran the whole show. The Packers' leader sent his fullback Jim Taylor and running back Paul Hornung on a "sweep" that was based off of the right set blocking by an offensive line. It became a "thing" in the NFL for decades. In this current pass-happy league, maybe more should go back to this on occasion to trick the defense. Lombardi entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame a year after his death in 1971.

2. Bill Belichick. He has defined coaching the last few decades. His best coaching job, believe it or not, was actually in Super Bowl XXV as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. His 2-9 defense plugged gaps and allowed Thurman Thomas to have a big game, but it wasn’t enough for Buffalo. Belichick scouted quarterback Jim Kelly better than anyone, knowing that JK committed to seeing series in his head and had trouble reading multiple looks. After this one, Belichick simply became arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history. Parity, free agency and not having a lot of stars on the New England Patriots. No problem. Four Super Bowl titles. Seven AFC crowns. Three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year. Almost .700 winning percentage in the playoffs. He is a mastermind. His mind works like no other. Forget that Cleveland Browns tenure. It’s the Browns. They have always been a mess. And remember, Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore and assured Belichick that he would coach the team. Instead, Belichick was fired. Looks like it worked out nicely for a guy considered by many to be #1.

3. Don Shula. The most wins of all-time. Just two losing seasons in his career. Shula owns two Super Bowl rings. One of those winners was the still only undefeated team in NFL history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Few men have been able to motivate a locker room full of ego maniacs like Shula. Six-time NFL Coach of the Year. Five-time AFC champ. Don’t forget his career with the Baltimore Colts from 1963-69. He went 71-23-4 and was an NFL champ in 1968 (lost in the famous Super Bowl III Joe Namath prediction game to the Jets). Shula is a legend. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

4. Bill Walsh. A true pioneer with his invention of the West Coast offense. He knew exactly where to play everyone and how to get his system to the top. Sure, it helps to have Hall of Famers, but they all have to buy in as well. Walsh won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and was one of the best playoff coaches of all-time. The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed him in 1993. Some may take a Chuck Noll or a Paul Brown or someone else in this spot because of longevity or another reason. But Bill Walsh was the Sandy Koufax of NFL coaching. Ignore the length of time. When you’re the best for long enough, call it a day.
Buffalo Bills All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

One of the most heartbroken sports franchises of all-time is the Buffalo Bills. Their fans cannot stop crying after the 1990's run that saw four straight AFC titles and four straight Super Bowl losses. The bright side? Amazing Hall of Famers, a run that will never again be duplicated in the NFL, loyalty, being in it every year for a title and unmatched, to this day, interaction with a fan base from many players who still live in the area. Here is the "ML All-Time Mount Rushmore Series" continued with the Buffalo Bills (reminder, this can include owners and coaches because it isn't a league-wide Mount Rushmore, it is a franchise).

1. Jim Kelly. Kelly didn't want to come to Buffalo. Good thing that he eventually did. He became a fan favorite after he got rid of the attitude and became a Hall of Fame QB. Led the "K-Gun" and "Hurry-Up" offense that became famous in Orchard Park. The face of the franchise for his entire career. Kelly finished all of his NFL years as a Bill, which makes his legacy in Buffalo even more special and his #12 jersey continues to sell year after year to all generations. An incredible 35,000-plus yards throwing and 237 touchdowns. He made the entire offense better during the four straight Super Bowl appearances. Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. His recent battle with cancer brought fans closer to him and almost made people appreciate him even more. Kelly is a Buffalo hero, as a person and a player. And through the years, is without question the face of the overall franchise since it became one in 1960 (AFL).

2. Bruce Smith. The greatest defensive player in franchise history. BRUUUUCE still resonates across Western New York. The anchor of the 1990's defense. 11-time Pro Bowl player. Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. 1980's and 1990's All-Decade Teams. Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame and his #78 retired. Four-time AFC Player of the Year. Nine-time First Team All-Pro. The old saying is that you only need one amazing pass rusher to get to the ultimate position in football, quarterback. Well, Bruce was that. There was one level. And then there was the Bruce Smith level. All-time NFL sacks leader with 200 on the nose, most of those coming in his prime as a Bill. Dominated the NFL across the board from 1985-1999. The thing that always gets overlooked is that Bruce Smith, before the real hype age with social media and the Internet surge, exceeded the hype as a #1 overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. Not many can say that. Don't blame Bruce for the Bills not winning a Super Bowl. He faced every double team and every tough running back as an "extra" blocker in the league. Smith is a member of the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. Finally, the Bills had a lot of other great players in the 1990's. But Bruce made them all better, on both sides of the ball, a sign of a true champion player.

3. Jack Kemp. Kemp led the Bills to four playoff appearances and two AFL championships, the only titles in franchise history. Say what you want, but those counted as rings then. Kemp threw an amazing, accurate deep ball that gets overlooked from that era. Kemp was also classy as ever and held Buffalo in high regard until his dying days. He crossed over into politics successfully and carried the Buffalo Bills franchise in the best possible way as a politician. O.J. Simpson doesn't make this list, not because he wasn't a good player, but simply because he wasn't Jack Kemp and we all know why.

4. Thurman Thomas. The fourth spot on these lists is typically the toughest. In this case, the third and fourth are the toughest after the no-brainers of Kelly and Smith. Ralph Wilson Jr., Marv Levy, Andre Reed and a host of others are left off the list and it isn't easy. But Thurman Thomas makes it because he was a flat-out game-changer. And one of the Top 5 "all-around" players I've seen on either side of the ball. You had to game plan around him. He was the single focus all the time, in every game, including postseason. He is also underrated as an all-purpose historical back in an NFL offense. Call him a pioneer. Teams tried to draft running backs and mold them into Thurman Thomas-types once #34 was dominating NFL defenses. How many guys could really catch it and run it like Thomas in the league's history? Five? Sayers-Faulk-Dickerson-you get the point. He could run it short if there was no fullback in there or run it long. He could catch it and go. Thomas also caught the deep ball anywhere on the field. Nothing was more pretty during the Super Bowl Bills era than a screen play to Thomas, who ran in and out and around an amazing offensive line for a big gain or even to the end zone. He may have lost his helmet before Super Bowl XXVI against Washington, but he was absolutely a heart and soul guy of the team. Thomas rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons (1989-1996). Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. Thomas would gain around 2,200 total yards minimum from scrimmage per season in today's NFL. He was that good. 1991 NFL MVP. Finally, Thomas is a beloved and active figure in the Buffalo community to this day. O.J. Simpson is not. It's a hard pick between two all-purpose backs and amazing NFL players, but that should count for something too, considering what O.J. ended-up being. Players are always tied to the franchises they played for later in life no matter what. Simpson hasn't represented the Bills well while Thomas has, at the stadium and in the Buffalo community. Simpson deserves to die in jail while the "Thurmanator" deserves to be on this list.
Toronto Blue Jays All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

We go North of the Border for the next in the series. Don't ever underestimate the love Canada has for its baseball, especially in Toronto, where the Jays won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993 and are starving for another. Here are the four best in Jays franchise history.

1. Roberto Alomar. He might just be the best second baseman in the history of the game. No one hit for average and for power and yet looked so smooth and dominant in the field like "Robbie." Alomar played for Toronto for just five seasons (1991-95) but his impact was second to none. 1992 ALCS MVP. 16 hits in the 1992 postseason. 18 playoff RBI for the Jays. Incredible clubhouse impact. Two championships. Five-tool player. Immediate connection to the hispanic community in diverse Toronto. Alomar entered the Hall of Fame in 2011 having played for several teams. But he made the most impact for the Blue Jays and it isn't even close.

2. Roy Halladay. Simply gave everything he had. Ownership never spent money while he was in his prime to get "Doc" into a World Series while pitching in Toronto. Keep in mind, Halladay dominated baseball's best division (American League East) during the steroid era. That is a double whammy. Borderline Hall of Famer. Class act. A.L. Cy Young in 2003. 148 wins as a Blue Jay. No doubt he earns this spot.

3. Carlos Delgado. Like "Doc" and "Robbie," Delgado wowed the fans, but in a different way, with towering home runs. Like them though, a class act. One of the most feared hitters in the American League from 1998-2004. Finished second in the 2003 AL MVP voting to Alex Rodriguez, who was likely on steroids considering what we know now. Delgado collected a remarkable 145 RBI that season. He never played in in the playoffs as a Blue Jay, mostly because the Yankees and Red Sox were so good. But he deserved it because he was so good and because ownership never spent enough money during his tenure (some of which was with Halladay who dealt with the same problem as previously stated). A clear face of the franchise from a position player standpoint.

4. Joe Carter. Inches out Dave Stieb and George Bell for two reasons. One, the franchise isn't strong with elite players. Two, he had the biggest home run/hit in franchise history and one of the biggest homers/hits in baseball history. December 5, 1990 was the biggest day in Toronto Blue Jays franchise history. Out go Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff (two darn good players in their own right). In come Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. 1993 World Series. Game 6. 9th inning. One out. 2-2 count. Jays down 6-5 to the Phillies. Carter ropes a three-run walk-off home run off Mitch Williams down the left field line. This is still the second home run in World Series history to end it all. Carter actually played seven seasons for the Jays (1991-97) and had six 100-RBI seasons. His tenure and star power is longer than most for a franchise that brought in free agents, traded for players and sent out all types during the 1990's. He is the most important Toronto Blue Jay of all-time. Remember, it is hard to repeat in any sport in any era (first time baseball saw a back-to-back winner since the 1978 New York Yankees).
Saratoga Race Course Horses All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

This idea stems from my good friend Michael Backus. The best race horses ever to run at historic Saratoga Race Course. Did they have to win at the oldest American track? No. They simply had to run. Here is the ML Mount Rushmore Series continued with the best horses to ever run at Saratoga Race Course.

1. Secretariat. Perhaps the best of all-time. But on August 4, 1973, it was Onion's day. Onion's trainer, Allen Jerkens, noted before the race that Secretariat was a little off during a pre-race workout. There has been talk since 1973 that the Triple Crown winner ran with a fever. Well, either way, Secretariat's late push along the inside rail to go stride for stride with Onion didn't pay off. Onion took home the Whitney Handicap in one of sports' greatest upsets.

2. American Pharoah. Strong argument that Pharoah is the 2nd best horse of all-time or even #1 to some (won all season long, faced a ton of pressure in our social media and travel age and beat the deepest and best Kentucky Derby field ever). The Bob Baffert-trained horse won the Triple Crown, dominated at the Breeder's Cup and won the Haskell. But at Saratoga? More of the "Graveyard of Champions" variety. Pharoah had a nice lead and it looked like, down the stretch, that this horse would go unbeaten in 2015. Instead, Frosted pushed the legendary colt with bump after bump only to allow Keen Ice to come on strong at the end to win the Travers Stakes. This doesn't hurt the legend of Pharoah, as he dazzled the fans of Saratoga with his workout on Friday and shined throughout the country in every other major stakes race, giving horse racing its first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed took the hat. Speaking of…..

3. Affirmed. The only Triple Crown winner to have a consistent, true rival throughout the whole horse racing season. Think Arnie vs. Jack. Red Sox and Yanks. Dodgers-Giants. Ali-Frazier. And on and on and on. Affirmed actually lost, after winning, the 1978 Travers Stakes to rival Alydar, who could never beat the Triple Crown winner during the big three races. Affirmed was disqualified due to interference. The jockey on Affirmed was actually Laffit Pincay Jr. after regular rider Steve Cauthen went down in a spill in Saratoga a week and a half before the Travers. This race is still debated to this day by the ones who saw it. Was it really interference? Didn't Affirmed win fair and square? Why would the entire crowd of over 30,000 boo together? Either way, it added to the rivalry (10th meeting at this point of the horse racing season) and to the "Graveyard of Champions" mystique at Saratoga Race Course.

4. Man o'War. Here is that tough fourth spot yet again, as if it will ever change. Man o'War, it is debated, is on the all-time Mount Rushmore of horses, period. But why he arrives on this list is because MOW was an awesome horse and the fact that this was the race that caused us to have the term "upset" in sports for years to come, plus what it actually took to beat the great colt. Man fell to Upset in the Sanford Memorial. Man o'War, it is said, didn't legitimately lose this race because there was a replacement starter and MOW wasn't facing the right direction at the starting gate as the race commenced. Too little, too late. Either way, what you had in this race was an all-time race horse in Man o'War and a term we now use every single time David takes down Goliath. Both equal a Man o'War spot on this particular Mount Rushmore for his greatness and possibility that he dominates the race if put in a fair position at the start (consider he was unbeatable with ease before the Sanford). Finally, an interesting side note from the era. What happened weeks later in baseball? The Chicago White Sox "Black Sox" scandal.
New York Mets All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

The "ML All-Time Mount Rushmore Series" continues with the New York Mets franchise. Here we go.

1. Tom Seaver. The only no-brainer on this one. He was nicknamed "Tom Terrific" for a reason. As a Met, simply dominating. Four 20-win seasons. Three CY Young Awards. 1967 Rookie of the Year. Nine 200-strikeout seasons. Untouchable stuff across the board. The pitching leader of the 1969 Miracle Mets. His postseason wasn't amazing, but it was his will to win, leadership and ability to win games over and over that propelled the Mets into a belief that they could actually become a miracle team in New York. Seaver, you could argue, is a Top 5 pitcher of all-time. His tenure was short in Queens, which means he's like the Sandy Koufax from the right side for the New York Mets.

2. Doc Gooden. Shea Stadium was empty. No theatre. No drama. No electricity. Enter Dwight Gooden. 1984. Boy, did things change. A Rookie of the Year season that packed the stands. 17 wins. 276 strikeouts. 2.60 ERA. Immediate expectations for 1985, which aren't easy to fulfill in New York. What did Doc do as a follow-up? 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, CY Young Award, 4th in the MVP voting. Then, in 1986, he helped the Mets to their second title in franchise history. Gooden, had he not gotten involved in drug use, would have strolled into the Hall of Fame. As it is, he is an all-time Met. So great, he is on the franchise's all-time Mount Rushmore.

3. Darryl Strawberry. The hitting version of Gooden. One of the sweetest swings of all-time. Completely changed the way the Mets' lineup was formed. The Mets had no choice but to build around his amazing power from the left side. Straw won 1983 Rookie of the Year and immediately handled the pressure of New York. Fans flocked to see him hit, like they did Gooden pitch. Strawberry hit 252 home runs from 1983-1990 in a Mets uniform. He also had back-to-back 100 RBI seasons in 1987 and 1988. In 1986, he, like Gooden, helped the team to the top of baseball. Straw has turned his life around after trouble with drugs and will forever be linked with "Doc" in that regard as well as on the playing field. He too would have strolled into the Hall of Fame had he stayed focused. But there is no disputing his impact. Gooden and Strawberry also had short tenures in Queens when you really think about it and bounced around the big leagues after their Met playing days. But the impact and production made the team relevant and a winner again, thus placing Straw, like Gooden, on the Mets All-Time Mount Rushmore.

4. David Wright. The fourth spot, again, is the toughest. But Wright wins out here because of tenure, which removes Mike Piazza (despite how amazing he was in a Mets uniform), Gary Carter and all the rest of them. Wright has been the face of the Mets for well over a decade. He has been loyal to the franchise while for years they operated with a welfare mentality. Wright finally won a pennant in 2015 with the club and played in his first World Series, something he deserved. He doesn't have any numbers that jump out over his career or in a single season. He doesn't have a ton of awards or an MVP or a Rookie of the Year. He has just been the face of a franchise for a long time and steady and loyal and consistently productive, while battling injuries and being a great teammate and representing baseball and the Mets well. That's good enough for this list.
Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

The "ML Mount Rushmore Series" continues with baseball's best from the Steel City. Here we go.

1. Honus Wagner. When you think old time baseball and how it all began, a few come to mind. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson and, of course, the great Honus Wagner. He is, after all, on the most famous baseball card ever. Wagner was a splendid hitter and would have translated to any era. He was that good. He was also a Hall of Fame first class member, like the above players mentioned. .328 career batting average. 3,420 career hits. He flat-out got it done. "The Flying Dutchman" (nicknamed this for his speed and German heritage) was an innovator at the stolen base, taking 723 bags during his remarkable career. Pittsburgh is blue collar and throwback and an old school town. Does Wagner fit this description, or what?

2. Roberto Clemente. No player in the game's history has resembled the five-tool model more than Clemente. He could throw and run and hit and hit for power and snag anything with the glove. Finished with 3,000 career hits. Won the 1966 N.L. MVP, four batting titles and 12 Gold Gloves. 15-time All-Star. Helped the Pirates to two World Series crowns in 1960 and 1971 (won Fall Classic MVP). Best outfield arm of all-time. His #21 should be retired by Major League Baseball because what he did for the Latin players is equal to that of what Jackie Robinson did for black players. His tragic death while flying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua just adds to the heroism of Clemente (December 31, 1972). Lifetime .317 hitter. Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. You hear Mantle and Mays and Ruth and Aaron and Snider and DiMaggio and Cobb and everyone else a lot, but perhaps Clemente should be mentioned more, considering how many different ways that he could impact a game. Clemente was an amazing player and person. A slam dunk on this Pittsburgh Pirates Mount Rushmore.

3. Willie Stargell. Part of a remarkable "We are Family" Pirates outfit that won two crowns in 1971 and 1979. Prolific slugger who finished with 475 home runs and 1,540 home runs. Won N.L. and World Series MVP awards in 1979. Seven home runs, 20 RBI and 37 hits in October play. 1988 Baseball Hall of Famer. Another guy who represented Pittsburgh well through the years and connected with the fans.

4. Bill Mazeroski. This is a hard spot. But "Maz" beats out Ralph Kiner because Kiner's tenure as a "Buc" was so short. It beats out Barry Bonds because Bonds, despite probably being the better overall player, also had a short tenure in Pittsburgh having played only seven seasons in a Pirates uniform and could really never get the team over the Atlanta Braves hump and win a pennant, nevermind capture a World Series title. This guy Mazeroski? He played all 17 seasons in Pittsburgh and hit one of the two biggest home runs in baseball history and easily the biggest in Pirates history. His 1960 World Series walk-off home run is one of, if not the greatest, baseball moments of all-time. It beat the Yankees. It sent the National League into a "we can beat the American League and those big, bad Yankees" hysteria. Need more? That home run is still the only walk-off variety in a Game 7 in Fall Classic history (off Ralph Terry, by the way). "Maz" is in fact in the Hall of Fame, although it is debatable as his stats aren't write-home worthy and the Veterans Committee pushed him through in 2001. Mazeroski, however, is here for that moment, mostly, plus he was a pretty darn good player in Pirates history, despite not being elite all-time and a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Eight Gold Gloves as a slick second baseman. 2,000-hit club. Seven-time All-Star. The fourth spot is usually the toughest for the "Mount Rushmore Series," and this is no different. Bonds was a better overall player. But this is a franchise Mount Rushmore. And "Maz" meant more over the years than Bonds (pre-steroids for all we know, and frankly the PED use wouldn't have anything to do with this list anyway in terms of the pure ballplayer) or Kiner or Wilbur Cooper or Fred Clarke or Pie Traynor or Paul Waner or anyone else to the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise.
Baseball's All-Time Pitching Mount Rushmore.
By Mike Lindsley

The “ML Mount Rushmore Series” continues with baseball pitchers. We have already taken a look at the all-time Mount Rushmore for baseball based on positions (Ruth-Mays-Jackie Robinson-Aaron). It doesn’t get any easier with those who threw the fastballs and curveballs and sliders and everything else.

1. Walter Johnson. “The Big Train” was unhittable for his entire career. 417 career wins. 17 ERA. 3,509 strikeouts. The argument against Johnson is that he didn’t play in a modern era or didn’t travel a lot or didn’t face black players. It wouldn’t have mattered because he was that good. Dead Ball Era? Johnson did pitch in that era, but he also pitched in the era of the offensive rise, when Babe Ruth changed from pitcher to hitter and changed the game forever with the uppercut swing. The most underrated stat in baseball history is Johnson’s staggering 110 career shutouts. Johnson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class in 1936 and the first ceremony was in 1939. Johnson belongs on the pitching Mount Rushmore.

2. Sandy Koufax. His career ended due to arthritis and injuries, but for the time he pitched he might have been the best ever. One of the best “big game” pitchers of all-time. Don’t pay attention to “only” 165 wins as some might say. Pay attention to his .655 won-loss percentage and 2.76 lifetime ERA. Or perhaps his 25+ wins three times. How about 2,396 strikeouts and 137 complete games? Koufax won three CY Young Awards and in 1963 captured the MVP as well. But as mentioned, it was in the big games where Koufax shined the most. Koufax won four games in the 1963 and 1965 World Series and won Fall Classic MVP both times. His ERA in four World Series played? 95. That is borderline inhuman. Koufax also hurled a perfect game in 1965 and tossed four career no-hitters. Koufax, to this day, had the best fastball-curveball combination in baseball history. The legendary Dodger was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. It was only 12 years of pitching, but Koufax was so dominating that he makes this list.

3. Greg Maddux. 8th all-time in wins with 355. 3,371 strikeouts, good for 10th all time. Won four CY Young Awards, all in a row from 1992-1995. The most cerebral pitcher of all time. Whenever we talk today about someone “learning how to pitch instead of throwing,” it always comes back to “Mad Dog” Maddux, who never needed to throw above 91-93 MPH. The Braves were pretty good before Maddux arrived, having won pennants in 1991 and 1992 and coming so close to that elusive ring. But with Maddux, they became the National League team of the decade. Maddux helped the Braves reach the World Series again in 1995 and this time win it. The Braves returned to the World Series in 1996 and 1999 thanks to 34 more wins from the crafty righthander. Keep in mind that Maddux did all of this during the biggest offensive explosion in baseball history and when there was no drug testing for steroids. Sure, pitchers could have been on them too, but we for sure know hitters were using in abundance. Look at the numbers and the bodies and all of the stuff that has come out since the early 1990’s. Maddux still dominated through the era. “The Professor” earned an ERA of 1.56 in 1994 and then 1.63 in 1995 (strike year), the lowest back-to-back ERA marks since Walter Johnson in 1918-1919. Maddux was also the best fielding pitcher of all-time. He collected 18 Gold Gloves and was like another vacuum up the middle. He prevented his own runs from scoring with his slick play from the mound. Five-tool player gets talked about a lot as far as position players go; hitting, hitting for power, fielding, running and throwing. Well, what about a five-tool pitcher? Pitch make-up, IQ, collective numbers, the ability to field, the ability to pitch in the clutch. Maybe we should talk about that more? And the first example would be Greg Maddux.

4. Randy Johnson. Certainly the least likeable guy on this list, but “The Big Unit” beats out the likes of Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, CY Young, Nolan Ryan, Christy Matthewson, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton simply because he has everything those pitchers have (clutch performances, awards, numbers, ring (s) but at a higher level. He is 2nd all-time in strikeouts with 4,875, a 300-game winner, holds a pitching Triple Crown, owns five CY Young Awards and has tossed both a no-hitter and perfect game. Add to that 10 trips to the All-Star Game. 2001 World Series? Dominating for Arizona in a seven-game breathtaking series. He won co-MVP. And also came out of the bullpen. Johnson owns the best slider in baseball history. Many forget that he helped save baseball in Seattle in 1995 when he was a part of a Mariners team that edged the Yankees in five games during the American League Division Series (Johnson went 18-2 that season for the West Division champs and won the first of his five CY Young Awards). Johnson is also the most intimidating pitcher of all-time, regularly throwing 100 MPH from a 6’10 mark in terms of height. Johnson pitched into his 40’s and we will never know if he, like Roger Clemens, toyed with performance enhancing drugs. But all we know right now is that there is no proof. So Johnson wins over Clemens on this list as well, and also pitched in the greatest offensive era in baseball history and still dominated (like Maddux).
All-Time Women's Tennis Mount Rushmore:
By Mike Lindsley

This list is less complicated than others. Four stand out and that's that. Here are the four best women's tennis players of all-time on this version's Mount Rushmore.

1. Steffi Graf. Simply the best of all-time. And there is work to be done still if she is to be topped, both in staggering records and titles won. 22 Grand Slam titles. Had to go through a much tougher era than #2 on this list. Forehand and backhand. Smooth as smooth can be. Serve-volley was tough to counter because every shot came back. Graf won four Australian Open crowns, six French Open tournaments, seven Wimbledon brackets and five U.S. Open titles. Her versatility on all surfaces was only matched by the grace she displayed as a player who was well-respected by all her competitors. Graf also had 900 career wins and 107 career titles. Graf separates herself from all players because of three stats. In 1988, she won the Golden Slam, all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same calendar year, the only tennis player, male or female, to do that in history. In addition, she has captured every Grand Slam event at least four times and was once ranked #`1 in the world for a record 377 straight weeks, the longest period any male or female has held the top spot since rankings were issued. Let's also remember the horrible culture Graf came from when East Germany and West Germany could never figure things out and the tennis legend always had to look over her shoulder. Graf is the best ever. Period.

2. Serena Williams. The most powerful and dominating all-court player of all-time. There is a little Tiger Woods in her too. She walks on the court, knows she will win, her opponent knows she will win and she knows her opponent knows she will win. 22 Grand Slam titles (tied with Graf for best all-time). Incredible rival with sister Venus hasn't mattered, as she has blown her out of the water. Plus, Serena has had the pressure from her overbearing Dad and still persevered. Williams has a shot to be the best ever, but needs to win at least two or three more Grand Slam titles to distance herself from Graf. Why? Graf's era was loaded with Evert-Navratilova-Seles-etc.

3. Martina Navratilova. When you take her singles and doubles success, she is the most versatile player of all-time and arguably the best. Held #1 for 332 straight weeks in singles and 237 in doubles, the only player to do so in both categories for over 200 weeks. A glider of sorts with the best backhand of all-time and an underrated, powerful forehand that was sneaky down the line. Martina also happened to be the most controlled player at the net in women's history. She knew exactly how to put away points. Her lefty touch was a thing of beauty. 18 Grand Slam titles. Over one five-year period she was the Sandy Koufax of women's tennis. 428 of 442 singles matches won. Absolutely lights-out time period. She also battled constant adversity, playing tennis while trying to re-gain proper citizenship in her native Czechoslovakia after having it stripped away, and then deciding whether or not the same rights would be suffice in the U.S. while her homeland despised her "Americanism" instead of celebrating her success. Need a cherry on the sundae? The "Queen" of Wimbledon won a record nine plates on grass. Absolutely incredible. Martina was, and continues to be, a legend of women's tennis.

4. Chris Evert. Remember John F. Kennedy running for president? That was Evert, as a woman, playing tennis. Brash and beautiful and new and graceful and elegant and providing an impactful game that young people warmed to. A wonderful rival for the above Martina. One of the great rivalries in sports history, in fact. 18 Grand Slam titles. She reached 34 Grand Slam singles finals, more than any other player in the history of professional tennis. The toughest test in golf is the U.S. Open. When you win that tournament once or multiple times, you are thought of differently in the annals of history. In tennis? It is the French Open because of the challenging surface and traps most players. Well, Evert owns seven of those, a record. She is now an incredible analyst for the sport, and someone who deserves a microphone for as long as she wishes to cover the game.
College Football Running Backs All-Time Mount Rushmore:
By Mike Lindsley

The players. The eras. Include or don’t include the Heisman Trophy as a MUST to be on the grand stage? This might be the toughest of all in the “ML Mount Rushmore Series.” Quick note: this is based on college careers ONLY. Here’s a shot at it.

1. Jim Brown. Obviously has to be on the list. He is the greatest football player ever at Syracuse and later was the greatest pro football player of all-time (not that that matters here, but it is worth another mention). Brown rushed for 2,091 yards at Syracuse in the 1954, 1955 and 1956 seasons and averaged 5.8 a carry. He scored 19 touchdowns. Keep in mind that he couldn’t play freshman football back in those days and barely got into the university because of discrimination. Need more? Brown was a consensus All-American in 1956 and was robbed of the Heisman Trophy that same year because he was black. Everyone knows it. Instead, it went to the “white” Paul Hornung from Notre Dame. In fact, Brown finished in 5th place. 5TH PLACE! Yet he had more yards rushing than Hornung, Johnny Majors (2nd) from Tennessee and Tommy McDonald (3rd) from Oklahoma. If you hear anyone say that Brown’s numbers weren’t that good in college, remind that person that seasons back then were only eight games in total before a bowl game. Then tell them to get a life. Jim Brown. Easily on Mount Rushmore.

2. Archie Griffin. You have to put the only player in history to win the Heisman twice on this list. Shifty, powerful and consistent. Griffin rushed for 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1974 and another 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns during his incredible Heisman-winning years. He ended his career with 5,589 career yards rushing, an NCAA record at the time. No one before him or since has equaled the Buckeye back in leading the Big 10 Conference in rushing for three straight seasons.

3. Hershel Walker. The greatest running back in SEC history and best player in conference history has to be on the Mount Rushmore. Many would argue that Walker is the best college player of all-time as well. Strength-size-speed-vision-consistent. Walker spent three seasons at Georgia and dominated. 5,259 yards and 49 touchdowns. He helped the Bulldogs win the national title in 1980. Walker was also named a consensus All-American and SEC Player of the Year each year of his career and won the famous Walter Camp, Maxwell and Heisman awards in 1982, arguably the greatest individual season in college football history. What kind of legacy did he leave behind in the record books? 11 NCAA records, 16 SEC records and 41 school records. This list is so hard, but Walker basically edges out the likes of Doak Walker, Tony Dorsett, Bo Jackson (Walker ran for 956 more yards in three years than Jackson in four) and Earl Campbell (Walker ran for 816 more yards in three years than Campbell did in four). That’s how good he was.

4. Ernie Davis. Before we highlight Davis, we are reminded of #1 Jim Brown’s impact at Syracuse and college football. Brown recruited Davis to Central New York. Now to Davis, who was the smoothest runner the game has ever seen. Inside, outside, powerful when he needed to be and graceful in running away from defenders. Like Brown, Davis played a year in the 1950’s (1959) and then into the 1960’s. By then, college football’s schedule had expanded to more games, but Davis still didn’t play his freshman year either due to rules. The second #44 didn’t disappoint on The Hill. 2,386 yards in three seasons and an incredible 6.6 yards per carry. Oh, and 20 touchdowns. Add to that Davis’ remarkable ability as a receiver. 2,778 yards from scrimmage and 24 more touchdowns during his career. In 1959, Davis helped Syracuse win its only national title, an incredible 23-14 win over powerhouse Texas, in Texas, at the Cotton Bowl (Davis won MVP), where discrimination against the black running back and the school was beyond high. And it is there and beyond where Davis separates himself from all others. There is no Hershel Walker or Bo Jackson or Barry Sanders or Ricky Williams or Reggie Bush or Tony Dorsett without Ernie Davis. He was the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. He fought discrimination and social injustice without fists, but instead with a sharp mind, kindness and reasonable solutions with the likes of John F. Kennedy and many other national leaders. Ernie Davis was the Jackie Robinson of college football running backs and players overall. And he was an elite player. It’s incredible to think of what Davis would have become had he not died of leukemia at a young age. Drafted #1 by the Redskins and then traded to the Browns, Davis would have been an incredible pro player and might have helped form the greatest 1-2 punch in NFL history with Jim Brown. In 2008, the long overdue movie “The Express” hit theatres to celebrate the life of Ernie Davis and all that he meant and a large celebration took place in Syracuse, NY, where the Carrier Dome field was named “Ernie Davis Legends Field,” and rightly so. Davis’ success on the football field, sacrifice and adversity against racism and pioneering for black college players after him justify a spot on this Mount Rushmore of all-time college running backs.
Men's Golf's All-Time Mount Rushmore:
By Mike Lindsley

So many players and eras. Tough to pick just four. Let’s give it a shot. Here is, in the continued “ML’s Mount Rushmore Series,” the men’s golf variety:

1. Jack Nicklaus. “The Golden Bear” is the standard for golf excellence. 18 majors. And within those 18 wins an astounding four U.S. Open titles, the toughest test in golf. Nicklaus also amazingly finished 2nd 19 times in majors and in the Top 3 46 times. 46 times?!? Insane. What’s important to note about Nicklaus’ career is he won a lot during the best era in golf history and had many rivals including Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer. It was a legendary era. Sometimes, athletes don’t win as much because the era they played in. Other times, an athlete wins more because there wasn’t a Nicklaus or a lot of other very good players. Nicklaus contended with the best of the best and won more. Perhaps there was no greater win than The Masters at age 46 in 1986. The highlight of Jack raising his putter still brightens our television sets like it was yesterday. Don’t forget about Jack’s two U.S. Amateur titles, considered close to major wins at the time. Nicklaus has been a captain of Team USA in multiple events and one of the brilliant course designers in the world. Add to that a tremendous, humble guy who has been a major player in growing the sport nation and worldwide. Jack is #1. And “The Golden Bear” is easily on the Mount Rushmore of men’s golf.

2. Tiger Woods. No player in his respective prime in golf history was as dominating as Tiger. Changing the game is what Tiger did, from larger purses to Nike apparel sales and equipment to workout routines for other players and putting golf on the map as a global sport with immense popularity. No golfer could create a commercial where all the people say “I am Tiger Woods.” Perhaps the only athlete overall who could pull that type of popularity through the years is Michael Jordan (instead we all wanted to be like Mike). Tiger won 14 majors. He owned them all at one point from 2000-2001, thus named the “Tiger Slam.” There was one point where in golf where we asked ourselves four times a year, “Tiger or the field?” He was that great, that intimidating, that incredible, that clutch, that consistent. Being a black golfer and winning The Masters in 1997 was a huge turning point for the game. Woods has won Player of the Year 11 times, and incredibly as recent as 2013. Tiger being Tiger was one thing. But when he walked on the course, he knew he was going to win, other players knew it, and he knew other players knew it. Our current state of the game is good from an attendance standpoint at majors and golf is still as popular as ever before in terms of people playing it worldwide and buying clubs and apparel. But television ratings are down, and that is because Tiger Woods is down. People unfortunately have short memories when talking about Woods. He was the best many have ever seen. But he, along with his father and the media, created an expectation of breaking Nicklaus’ major record, which seemed like a slam dunk until things fell apart when Earl Woods died. But his career is still from another golf universe. Tiger on the Mount Rushmore of men’s golf is as easy as a Woods red shirt on Sunday.

3. Bobby Jones. This is a tough spot because it is between Jones, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. All are worthy in their own ways. But Jones wins out because he founded Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters, our most popular golf tournament in America, won 13 majors and won the 1930 Grand Slam (back then the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs). Jones also won four more majors than Hogan (nine) and six more than Snead (seven). A towering figure at the time, Jones was a perfect figure during the 1920’s and 1930’s when America was truly embracing sports on a huge level. Between his success winning majors and tournaments and his founding of Augusta and The Masters, Jones wins a spot here.

4. Arnold Palmer. Not the “best” golfer in history, but the most “important” golfer in history. “The King” created the enormous gallery, tripled purses, brought golf into America’s houses and living rooms and to blue collar courses as well, not just country clubs. Want flair? Want a player for the patrons? Arnold delivered so much that “Arnie’s Army” was created as his own fan base. No golfer before or since has ever had his fans named in that fashion. Oh, and the guy could play. 60 PGA Tour wins. Seven major championships. 15 straight years with at least one win. One of golf’s greatest wins was by Palmer, in 1960 at the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, when he outlasted Nicklaus and Hogan. Jones founded The Masters and Augusta, and then Palmer later made the tournament what it is today. Need more? Palmer was the first PGA Tour millionaire and a four-time money champion. He still is an iconic figure cherished by the golf community and current players. The respect people have for Palmer is second to none. Beloved. A pioneer. A big time player. An ambassador. Good enough for a spot on the Mount Rushmore of men’s golf.
Hockey's All-Time Mount Rushmore:
By Mike Lindsley

So many players and eras. Tough to pick just four. Also, this is a players' Mount Rushmore, so goalies are left off due to the separation of position which is necessary. You can't possibly compare a career between the pipes to a center scoring goals. So, here we go, hockey's All-Time Mount Rushmore in another piece as a part of the "ML Mount Rushmore Series."

1. Wayne Gretzky. "The Great One" is the most obvious choice. He was the heart and soul and face of the Edmonton Oilers. What's incredible is he was LeBron James on skates before LeBron James in terms of hype. No hockey player has been hyped like Gretzky before or since. Numbers? Out of this world. 894 goals. 1,963 assists, 2,857 points. Plus his success in the WHA before that. Wayne won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers. His trophy collection needs multiple cases. Nine Hart Trophies as league MVP, 10 Art Ross Trophies for most points, two Conn Smythe Trophies as best playoff performer and five Lester B. Pearson Awards as the most outstanding player voted on by his peers (now called the Ted Lindsay Award). The league, however, as we know it today, whether you like it or not, is all because of the trade that sent Gretzky to Los Angeles on August 9, 1988. That opened-up teams to the West Coast and a commitment to hockey by front offices who had long ignored it in favor of other American sports that controlled fan bases. Everywhere Gretzky played, he made teams and players better. Blues, Rangers, Oilers, Kings. He practically owned New York and only played there for three years. #99 is retired by the NHL and for good reason. The arguments against Gretzky's stats are that he didn't have to play against Soviet players and that defense was weak in a free-wheeling NHL era. You can also counter that by saying no player, Soviet or defensively, would have seen the play before it happened as quickly as Wayne did. Gretzky is the greatest of all-time. He owned cities and franchises and made the game better. The back of the net was his office, the ice was his palace and if you had a chance to see him, call yourself lucky. #99 was also "The Greatest One" and there will never be another.

2. Bobby Orr. Transition offense started by a defenseman started with #4. Orr was a magician with the puck. He was an artist on skates. He is the greatest Boston Bruin of all-time. Some argue that Orr is the greatest player of all time. Orr won eight Norris Trophies as best defenseman and three MVP awards. Arguably the most famous photo in hockey history is Orr leaping through the air in celebration of his Stanley Cup-clinching goal 40 seconds into overtime against the Blues in the 1970 Finals (Game 4, scored on Glenn Hall). That was a big one, giving the B's their first Cup since 1941 and putting Boston hockey back on the map, a tremendous hockey city. Orr, like Gretzky, also happens to be an outstanding guy and ambassador for the sport. Like Joe DiMaggio, Bobby Orr had songs with him in the lyrics. He is an icon. A spot on Hockey's All-Time Mount Rushmore is richly deserved.

3. Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey. The father of hockey. Gordie Howe was the perfect hockey player and yet if he had to, beat the snot out of anyone in his way to protect himself and his team. Perhaps no one in sports history was to a franchise like Howe to the Detroit Red Wings. He won four Stanley Cups in Motown and was a 23-time All-Star for his career. Add to that six MVP awards and six Art Ross Trophies as a point champ. Why are there so many Red Wing fans in the Midwest and beyond? They connected with Howe and so they connected with the Red Wings and then generations followed. Think Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals. Howe spanned decades and was the most respected man in hockey history right to his death on June 10, 2016. Every hockey player wanted to be Gordie Howe. #9 was the standard. And rightly so.

4. Mario Lemieux. "Super Mario" glided and whistled on skates with power and style. #66 was probably the most naturally talented player in hockey history but he worked at his craft so much that he became dominating. Mario won two Cups in Pittsburgh in the early 1990's and collected two more in ownership of the Pens in 2009 and 2016. Lemieux is credited with saving hockey in Pittsburgh. He is also the only man to have his name on the Stanley Cup as both a player and an owner. Hardware? Three Hart Trophies and six Art Ross Trophies. Mario led Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002 and 1987 counted just as much to the homeland in capturing the Canada Cup. Like Gretzky, Mario exceeded the hype, as a #1 overall draft pick of the Penguins in 1984. Lastly, let us never forget how beloved and missed he was around hockey, by fans and media and players during his stellar career. Mario retried twice due to health issues (1997 while battling lymphoma and 2006 due to an atrial issue). Amazingly, Mario won the MVP and scoring title in 1995-96 after sitting out the entire 1994-95 season due to Hodgkin's lymphoma. The nickname "Super Mario" was only too fitting.
Baseball's All-Time Mount Rushmore (Players Only)
By Mike Lindsley

So many players. So hard to do. How can you pick four guys in any sport all-time? I will give it a shot here with our National Pastime, the great sport of baseball. Criteria: elite player, longevity, obvious numbers, a winner, changed the game within the game and transcended the sport within our country/world/culture. Quick reminder: this is a "players only" Baseball Mount Rushmore. Pitchers have to be separated for obvious reasons (that Mount Rushmore is coming soon). Here we go.

1. Babe Ruth. Without Ruth, there might not be the home run as we know it today. His uppercut swing changed the Dead Ball Era and forced teams to go away from John McGraw's "small ball" of slapping hits and bunting and running. Baseball became BIG because "The Babe" was BIG. Without Ruth, there also might not be the New York Yankees, thanks to the sale of "The Bambino" to the Yanks from the Red Sox (Harry Frazee really needed that "No No Nanette" to go off well). Then the Yankees became the Yankees and the Red Sox became the Red Sox. "The Curse of the Bambino" was born and lasted until 2004. All Ruth did was win and slam home runs in the Bronx, in a stadium literally built for him by Yanks owner Jacob Ruppert. As a Yankee, Ruth would play in seven World Series and win four. His home run total is 714. His hit total is 2,873. For a slugger, his lifetime batting average is a stunning .342. When someone says baseball, we say Babe Ruth. When someone puts up incredible numbers, we today refer to them as "Ruthian." Ruth also was the face of the "Roaring 20's" in America, grew the game on tours to Japan and elsewhere and allowed the American public into his world by visiting sick kids in hospitals and roaming the streets as a cultural icon. Babe Ruth was a like a Twitter sensation and YouTube star 95 years before social media existed. Oh, and last but certainly not least, he would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher. Ruth went 94-46 before becoming the greatest slugger of all-time and also won two World Series with Boston as its ace. Baseball is Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth is baseball. Now and forever, and it will never change.

2. Hank Aaron. "Hammerin' Hank" would eventually eclipse Ruth's home run total on April 8, 1974. Aaron was a true five-tool player and was a winner, capturing a World Series title for Milwaukee in 1957 over the hated Yankees. Aaron, remember, fought his way through racism and incomprehensible treatment to become one of the greatest players in big league history. He helped put Milwaukee on the map as a true baseball-loving town and to this day, is considered the greatest living ballplayer. Numbers? Out-of-this-world. 2,297 RBI, still #1 all-time. His home runs: 755. And still the Home Run King if you ask this author (Barry Bonds' gigantic head and numbers don't register when they were chemically enhanced). .305 lifetime batting average. 3,771 career hits. Think about that. Henry Aaron has 700 home runs and 3,000 hits. No one in history does. His role playing ambassador for the game has been second to none. No one has done it better, no one has embraced helping those who he played with and against to obtain pensions and respect and a quality life. He has helped players and non-players alike with the B.A.T group, the "Baseball Assistance Team," in providing financial assistance to those in need inside and outside the game, so they can continue to hold jobs and have a better life. The player Hank Aaron is a no-brainer on Baseball's Mount Rushmore. The person, baseball advocate and cultural and social icon, for how he handled the racial punches during the home run chase and his overall baseball career, stands just as tall.

3. Willie Mays. "The Say Hey Kid" was the most entertaining player of all-time. Speed-arm-glove-hit for power-hit for average. The greatest all-around player of all-time, which is saying something considering he spanned the era of Aaron-Mickey Mantle-Joe DiMaggio-Eddie Matthews-Frank Robinson-so many others. Mays faced the same nonsensical racism that Aaron did and flourished throughout. While Ruth created his namesake from the uppercut home run and changing the game offensively, Mays changed the game with his defense despite still being one of the greatest offensive players to ever live. Every amazing outfield play, especially over-the-shoulder catches, brings broadcasters nationwide currently to say the player "channeled an inner-Willie Mays" or something close to that. Mays' robbery of Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is always one of the first highlights shown during the baseball calendar. The game was tied 2-2 in the 8th inning as well, and Mays prevented runs from scoring and set a tone in the Fall Classic. The Giants won in the 10th on a Dusty Rhodes home run and would go on to win the World Series over the Indians. Mays hit 660 home runs, drove in 1,903 RBI and is a 3,000-hit club member. Throw in there a .302 batting average, 12 Gold Gloves and two MVP awards. Mount Rushmore has a spot for the greatest all-around ballplayer who ever lived. Say Hey!

4. Jackie Robinson. We can go on and on about who the fourth guy could be. Lou Gehrig or Ty Cobb or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial or Frank Robinson or anyone else. So, it's easier to take none of them and instead take the guy who changed the game forever, who also happened to be one of the elite players of all-time. April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson became the first black player in big league history, in part by Branch Rickey's innovative thought to change the game. What followed was an amazing Brooklyn Dodger, who stole home and cruised from first to third with ease and hit doubles and homers and base hits and triples wherever he wanted and helped dethrone the mighty Yankees, finally, in 1955 for the "Bums" who waited no longer for a title. But Robinson's impact then and continued impact now is unmatched in terms of the social and racial climates, thus the real reason for his position on Baseball's Mount Rushmore. He opened the doors for black players in baseball, gave black Americans in the United States a new jolt of confidence and continued to fight racial issues until his dying day. Without Robinson, there might never have been a Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr. or any Latin players either. Jackie Robinson entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson would have been a Hall of Fame player for even longer than his 10 short years if integration happened earlier. There were other "greater" players than Robinson in history, some named above. But it's what he did on that historical day in 1947 as baseball's first black player and beyond as a social/racial activist that truly places him on Baseball's Mount Rushmore.

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