Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends
Depart to when they die.
Imagine all the athletes, of past and present day.
Now imagine a Cafe;
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s only 101 tables;
It’s open to a select few.
Imagine all the athletes, hoping to get a seat.
You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Deciding the greatest athletes by number;
Who get to enter the Cafe 101.
So far 12 tables at the Cafe 101 have been spoken for. There are some athletes left wondering why they’ll never get into the Cafe 101 while many still remain hopeful that the hostess will call their name and that they will gain entrance to the most exclusive restaurant in Sports Heaven. Today 4 more will get the call as I dive into exploring the greatest athletes to ever wear the numbers 19, 26, 62, & 98.
Quarterback, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Colts & San Diego Chargers (1956-1973)
Super Bowl V Champion, 2x NFL Champion, 10x Pro Bowl Selection, 3x NFL MVP, 3x Pro Bowl MVP, 3x Bert Bell Award, 6x 1st Team All-Pro, 1x 2nd Team All-Pro, 1x 2nd Team All-Conference, NFL 75th Anniversary Team, NFL 1960′s All-Decade Team, Hall of Fame – 1979
19 is a number that has been worn by two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, one of the greatest pitchers, one of the greatest outfielders, and one of the all-time greatest shortstops, among several other athletes. This was definitely the toughest decision of this installment because there are easily 5 or 6 players you could argue as the greatest 19 but for me it kept coming back to “The Golden Arm”, Johnny Unitas.
There are many who still consider Johnny Unitas the greatest QB to ever play the game. Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1956, the Steelers thought he was too dumb to play quarterback and cut him before the season even began. The rest as they say, is history. Johnny Unitas was the 1st Quarterback in NFL history to pass over 40,000 yards and his 10 Pro Bowl selections as a QB were a record until Brett Favre got his 11th in 2009. At the time of his retirement, his 118 regular season wins were an NFL record. Along with Kurt Warner, he is one of only 2 quarterbacks to have attained a QB Rating of 120 in 4 consecutive games. His 3 NFL MVP awards were also a record that was later tied by Brett Favre and broken by Peyton Manning. It is a good thing that Unitas did not live long enough to see Peyton break his record as he severed all ties with the Colts once they left Baltimore and in his final years embraced the Ravens. There is no doubt in my mind that Johnny U is the greatest to ever wear 19.
RUNNER-UP: STEVE YZERMAN, Detroit Red Wings (1983 – 2006)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Bob Feller, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Lance Alworth, Joe Sakic, Tommie Frazier (College), Bernie Kosar, Jose Bautista, Greg Luzinski, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, & Joe Montana
TOO SOON TO TELL: Jonathan Toews, Miles Austin, Scott Kazmir, Eddie Royal, Ted Ginn, Jr., Brandon Marshall, & Joe Thornton
Third Baseman, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, & Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1982-1999)
1996 World Series Champion, 2x AL Pennant Winner, 12x MLB All-Star, 8x Silver Slugger Award, 2x Gold Glove Award, 5x AL Batting Champion, 3,000 Club, Hall of Fame – 2005
At #26, sit two of the greatest shutdown corners to ever play in the NFL but for me #26 is Wade Boggs. Wade Boggs was one of the greatest MLB players of all time and one of the best to ever play the hot corner. His 12 consecutive appearances in the All-Star as a third baseman is third best all-time behind George Brett and Brooks Robinson. Between 1982 and 1988 he had only one season where he batted below .349 (he batted .325 in 1983) and had 7 consecutive seasons in the 80′s where he collected 200 hits and 100 runs. In his 18 year career he had only 3 sub-.300 batting seasons. In 1996, Wade Boggs helped the Yankees win their first World Series in 18 years. The most noted achievement of Wade Boggs’ is that he was the first player in MLB history whose 3,000th hit was a Home Run. While there are several athletes you can make an argument for – to me Wade Boggs is the most deserving of Table #26.
RUNNER-UP: ROD WOODSON, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, & Oakland Raiders (1987-2003)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Antoine Winfield, Billy Williams, Gene Autry, Herb Adderly, Johnny Oates, Sean Taylor (College) & Clinton Portis
TOO SOON TO TELL: Dan Uggla, Chase Utley, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, & Taylor Mays
Center/Guard, Miami Dolphins & Minnesota Vikings (1970 – 1981)
2x Super Bowl Champion, 3x AFC Champion, 6x Pro Bowl Selection, 4x 1st Team All-Pro, 2x 2nd Team All-Pro, NFL 1970′s All-Decade Team, Hall of Fame – 1987
When it came down to #62, I knew I was going with Jim Langer. He is one of the greatest centers of all time. Only one team in NFL history has pulled off the perfect season (the 1972 Dolphins) and the line that led to that success was anchored by Jim Langer. He is remembered primarily as a quick blocker. What made Langer so unusual and so good is that he was a converted middle linebacker. He had the strength and speed of a linebacker combined with the size of lineman which made him an incredibly productive pass protector. Yes, #62 belongs to Langer.
RUNNER-UP: CHARLEY TRIPPI, Chicago Cardinals (1947 – 1955)
ON THE WAITING LIST:Guy McIntyre & Casey Wiegmann
TOO SOON TO TELL: Terrence Cody & Joba Chamberlain
Halfback, University of Michigan (1938-1940)
1940 Heisman Trophy Winner, 1940 Maxwell Award, 1940 AP Male Athlete of the Year, College Football Hall of Fame – 1954
There are few college football programs that are more storied than the University of Michigan Wolverines. Many greats such as Desmond Howard, Ron Kramer, and Tom Brady played their ball there but if you ask most Michigan fans the greatest Wolverine of all time they will tell you it was “Old 98″, Tom Harmon – the first Michigan Wolverine to win the Heisman. Tom Harmon was the original dual threat player. He finished his time at Michigan with 2,134 yards rushing, completed 100 passes for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led the nation in scoring in 1939 and 1940 (a feat that has never been matched). To understand how good Harmon was, all you need to do is take a look at his last collegiate game which came in Columbus against Ohio State.
In that game, he scored 3 rushing touchdowns, 2 passing touchdowns, 4 extra points, intercepted three passes, and punted 3 times with an average of 50 yards per punt. Due to his love of broadcasting, Harmon only spent one season playing professionally and then pursued a career in acting and broadcasting. He could have been just as legendary as a pro as he is as a collegiate athlete. Table 98 has to be given to “Old 98″.
RUNNER-UP: TONY SIRAGUSA, Indianapolis Colts & Baltimore Ravens (1990 – 2001)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Robert Mathis
TOO SOON TO TELL: Brian Orakpo, Nick Fairley, Phil Taylor, & Sedrick Ellis
Agree? Disagree? Tweet @can_of_corn with hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!
Will your favorite athletes be able to get a table at the Cafe 101? Keep reading to find out! If you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks please comment below or tweet them to @can_of_corn! Courtesy of Devan Dignan+