Cafe 101: The 6th Course

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

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.

<< 5th COURSE

This week I got an interesting group of numbers and had to spend quite a bit of time debating where I was going to go with my first two numbers of the day.  I know there will be complaints about my #29 pick but it’s important to remember that some athletes had more than one jersey number and while they did not get in at one number, they may still make it in another.  Without further ado, the greatest athletes to ever wear 11, 29, 60, & 79.

TABLE

MARK MESSIER

Centre, Indianapolis Racers, Cincinnati Stingers, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, & Vancouver Canucks (1978 – 2004)
6x Stanley Cup Champion, 15x All-Star, 2x Hart Memorial Trophy Winner, 2x Lester B. Pearson Award Winner, 1983-84 Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, Edmonton Oilers Team Captain, New York Rangers Team Captain,  NHL Hall of Fame – 2007

While I did spend some time thinking about #11 my thoughts always came back to Mark Messier – one of the greatest hockey players of all time.  Mark Messier was a 6x NHL Champion and a 15x All-Star.  Over the course of his 26 year long career that started in the now-defunct WHA Messier scored 1,887 points (2nd most all-time behind Wayne Gretzky) and played 1,756 regular season games (2nd most all-time behind Gordie Howe).  Messier is the only person in North American sports to have captained two separate teams to a championship in their respective sport (Oilers and Rangers).  Not just one of the greatest hockey players of all time, many consider Messier among the best leaders (in any sport) of all-time for what he brought to the ice and his team.  He was the type of player that made everyone around him better and it was obvious that he should get Table #11.

RUNNER-UP: ISIAH THOMAS, Detroit Pistons (1981 – 1994)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Sparky Anderson, Drew Bledsoe, Carl Hubbell, Elvin Hayes, Luis Aparicio, Yao Ming, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart (College), Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Norm VanBrocklin, Barry Larkin,  Jerry Lucas (College), Phil Simms, Edgar Martinez, Gilbert Perreault, Paul Waner, “Lefty” Gomez, & Bob McAdoo

TOO SOON TO TELL: Alex Smith, Jimmy Rollins, Anthony Gonzalez, C.J. Sapong, & Carlos Tevez

TABLE

ROD CAREW

1st Baseman/2nd Baseman, Minnesota Twins & California Angels (1967-1985)
18x All-Star, 1977 AL MVP, 1967 AL Rookie of the Year, 1972 AL Batting Champion, 1977 Roberto Clemente Award, Hall of Fame – 1991

#29 was a toughie because there were so many ways I could’ve gone with this.   I could’ve chosen one of the greatest goalies of all time, two of the best pitchers to ever throw in the major leagues, or one of the greatest running backs ever.  Instead I chose a player who is one of the all-time great second basemen, a member of the 3,000 hit club and possibly the greatest player in the history of two different Major League franchises.  I know that there will be a lot of debate with this choice (do yourself kindly to remember there are some athletes eligible for multiple jersey numbers) but in my mind Table #29 belongs to Rod Carew.

One of the biggest factors that leads to Rod Carew’s astounding career is his longevity and how long he played at a high level.  His careers with the Twins and Angels were both so impressive that his #29 has been retired by both ball clubs.   Carew burst on to the scene in 1967 wrapping up the Rookie of the Year award and 10 years later he was the AL MVP.  Between his two different teams, he appeared in a staggering 18 MLB All-Star games.   One of my favorite Rod Carew statistics is that in 1972 he batted .318 which was good enough to win him the batting title.  Oddly enough, that was the only year of his career where he did not have a home run.  To this day, Carew is the only player to win a batting title without having hit a homerun.   Carew finished his career with over 3,000 hits, over 1,000 RBIs, and a .328 batting average and was only the 22nd player to be elected into the MLB Hall of Fame on the first ballot.  He holds both the Twins’ and Angels’ records for on-base percentage, holds the Twins’ record for career batting average (and is 2nd in this category for the Angels’).  What I find amazing about all of these things is that Carew’s career could’ve started 3-4 years earlier if not for a commitment to the Marine Corps and probably would have lasted 2-3 years longer if Major League owners had not conspired to force him into retirement in 1985 (not conspiracy theory – it’s been proven and a judge awarded Carew nearly $800,000 in 1995 as a result) and then his numbers may have just been ridiculous – can you say potential 4,000 hit club member?  I gave a lot of thought into who deserved this table but for me, it kept coming back to Rod Carew.

RUNNER-UP: KEN DRYDEN, Goaltender, Montreal Canadiens (1970 – 1979)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Eric Dickerson, Satchel Paige, John Smoltz, & Paul Silas

TOO SOON TO TELL: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DeMarco Murray, Eric Berry, Roy Helu, LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Ryan Clowe, Michael Bush, & Andre Fleury

TABLE

OTTO GRAHAM

Quarterback, Cleveland Browns (1946-1955)
3x NFL Champion, 4x AAFC Champion, 5x Pro Bowl Selection, 9x All-Pro Selection, 1x Second Team All-Pro Selection, NFL 75th Anniversary Team, NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, 3x NFL MVP, 1950 Pro Bowl MVP, 2x AAFC MVP, 1955 Hickok Belt Winner, Hall of Fame – 1965.
1946 National Basketball League Champion

While there are not many athletes across sports who wore the #60 this was no easy task.  It came down to Otto Graham, who some NFL historians consider the greatest quarterback of all time, and Chuck Bednarik, the last true two-way player in the NFL.  Both are great but I had to take Otto Graham.  In the AAFC and later in the NFL, Otto Graham took the Browns to the title game in 10 straight seasons, he won 7 of those.   He won every championship in the brief history of the AAFC and then when the Browns joined the NFL, they won it all in the very first season.  His 86.6 QB Rating is among the best all-time.  He finished his career (when football was a running game) with 23, 584 yards passing and 174 passing touchdowns.  His 57-13-1 record as an NFL starter over 6 NFL seasons represents the highest winning percentage (.810) of any quarterback in NFL history.  In addition to his Hall of Fame football career, he also briefly played for the Rochester Royals in the National Basketball League and helped them win the 1946 Championship.   There’s not a doubt in my mind that Graham was the best athlete to ever don #60.

RUNNER-UP: CHUCK BEDNARIK, Linebacker/Center, Philadelphia Eagles (1949-1962)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Bill Willis, Walt Kirk, Scott Schoneweis, & Jose Theodore.

TOO SOON TO TELL: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jason Demers, & Kevin Poulin

TABLE

HARVEY MARTIN

Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys (1973 – 1983)
Super Bowl XII Champion, Super Bowl XII MVP, 4x Pro Bowler, 1x 1st Team All-Pro, 3x 2nd Team All-Pro, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL Defensive Player of the Year – 1977

Like #60, not a whole lot of athletes have worn #79 but it has been worn by some great NFL players.  While Bob St. Claire and Roosevelt Brown deserve some consideration – I had to go with Harvey Martin who was perhaps, the best pass rusher of the 1970s.  He was a very large factor in the first Super Bowl Win in Dallas Cowboys history which led to him being the co-MVP of that Super Bowl.   As the cornerstone of the vaunted Doomsday Defense he had 114 sacks in his 11 season career.  He led the Cowboys in sacks in 7 of those seasons.  Table #79 has to go to Harvey Martin in my eyes.

RUNNER-UP: ROOSEVELT BROWN, Offensive Tackle, New York Giants (1953 – 1965)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Bob St. Claire

TOO SOON TO TELL: Andrei Markov

Agree? Disagree? Tweet @can_of_corn with hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!

Click to enlarge the seating chart for Sports Heaven’s most exclusive restaurant.

 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+


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Cafe 101: The 5th Course

Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

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.

<< PREVIOUS

When I started on my quest to determine the greatest athlete to ever represent each jersey number from 00 to 99, I looked across the world of sports and knew some numbers would be challenging (every number 35 and under), some would be extremely difficult – 1, 7, 10, 12, 21, 32, 33, etc. but when I looked at the field of numbers there was 1 number I thought would be the most difficult of all, and it’s probably not one you would expect – #4.  I saw #4 and I immediately thought of Brett Favre, Lou Gehrig, and Bobby Orr.  It wasn’t the greatness that was going to make this difficult, well at least not just the greatness, it was that this is personal.  I’ve long been a fan of Lou Gehrig and he is one of my favorite baseball players (definitely my favorite Yankee) of all-time.  As a Vikings fan, I am a big Brett Favre fan and of course I live and work in Massachusetts so the influence of Orr is overwhelming.  Of course last week my Random Number Generator determined I would write about 4 this week and so I spent the last few days thinking long and hard on one question –

Favre Orr Gehrig?

Without further ado, this was my decision:

TABLE

LOU GEHRIG

First Baseman, New York Yankees (1923-1939)
6x World Series Champion, 7x All-Star, 2x AL MVP, Yankees Team Captain (1935-1939),  Major League Baseball All-Century Team, Hall of Fame – 1939

In a great battle between Iron Men (Favre and Gehrig) and one of the greatest hockey players of all time (Orr), I had to take Lou Gehrig.  For the longest time I thought I would take Brett Favre, one of the greatest Quarterbacks of all time, but then I began to realize that Gehrig is probably the greatest first basemen of all time and not just that, I think he is one of the top 5 baseball players of all time.  About 10 months ago I wrote that, “If I could build an all-time team around one player – no doubt in my mind that that player would be the Iron Horse” and I don’t plan to detract from that now.  He started and played in 2,130 straight games (a record until Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it in 1995), he has 23 career grand slams, scored the winning run in 8 World Series games, has the most extra base hits of a first baseman, had a .765 slugging percentage in 1927, and was so good that the Hall of Fame waived the waiting period rule so they could vote him in a few months after he retired.   Had Gehrig not come down with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he would have likely finished his career with around 3,700 hits and 650 homeruns.  In my mind, Lou Gehrig, not Babe Ruth, is the greatest Yankee of all-time.

More than that, he was a great all around person and his famed “Luckiest Man” speech, in my opinion, is the single most moving moment in the history of sport.

RUNNER-UP (TIE): BRETT FAVRE, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, & Minnesota Vikings (1991 – 2010) & BOBBY ORR, Chicago Blackhawks & Boston Bruins (1966-1978)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Mel Ott, Paul Molitor, Adam Viniatieri, Jean Beliveau, Chauncey Billups, Duke Snider, & Teresa Edwards

TOO SOON TO TELL: Taylor Hall, Brandon Phillips, Vincent Lecavalier, Antawn Jamison, & Kevin Kolb

TABLE

RICHARD PETTY

NASCAR Driver (1959 – 1992)
7x NASCAR Champion, NASCAR Rookie of the Year – 1959, 7x Daytona 500 winner, NASCAR Hall of Fame – 2010 (Inaugural Class)

There’s a reason that Richard Petty is known simply as “The King”.  He is without a doubt one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all-time and his 7 NASCAR titles are a record (tied with Dale Earnhardt).  He is also the only driver to have won the Daytona 500 7 times.  His 127 poles and 700 top 10 finishes in 1,185 races are also unbelievable feats.   Even sports fans like myself that really do not follow NASCAR are aware of the accomplishments of Richard Petty and have heard of the Richard Petty School of Driving.  This was a pretty simple decision for me to give Table #43 to Petty.

RUNNER-UP: DENNIS ECKERSLEY, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, & St. Louis Cardinals (1975-1998)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Jack Sikma & Troy Polamalu

TOO SOON TO TELL: R.A Dickey, Darren Sproles, & Nazem Kadri

TABLE

DERRICK THOMAS

Linebacker/Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs (1989 – 1999)
9x Pro-Bowl Selection, 3x 1st Team All-Pro, 3x 2nd Team All-Pro, 7x 1st Team All-AFC, 1x 2nd Team All-AFC, NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year – 1989, UPI AFL-AFC Rookie of the Year – 1989, Dick Butkus Award (1988), All-American (1988), NFL Hall of Fame – 2009

58 was one of the easiest decisions I had to make.  You could make an argument for Jack Lambert here but Derrick Thomas is one of the greatest pass-rushers of all time.  I’m amazed to this day how long it took him to get in the Hall of Fame because the guy was an absolute beast.  He hold Chiefs franchise records with 41 career forced fumbles, 8 forced fumbles in a season, 19 fumble recoveries, 126.5 career sacks, 20 sacks in a season, and 3 career safeties.  Additionally the guy holds the NFL record for most sacks in a game with 7.  That mark broke the previous record of 6 in a game, which had also been set by Thomas. John Elway always said he could’ve played a few more years in a warmer climate like Miami.  I think Elway could’ve played a few more years if he didn’t have to face Derrick Thomas twice a year.  As a collegiate player, he set an NCAA record with 27 sacks in a single season while at Alabama.  His 52 career sacks at Alabama were also an NCAA record at the time.  It’s unbelievable to think of what Thomas could’ve accomplished if his career and life had not been cut short due to paralysis.  No doubt in my mind that Table #58 belongs to Derrick Thomas.

RUNNER-UP: JACK LAMBERT, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1984)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Johnathan Papelbohn & Carl Banks

TOO SOON TO TELL: Von Miller, Rey Maualuga, Karlos Dansby, & Kris Letang


TABLE

BUCK BUCHANAN

Defensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs (1963-1975)
Super Bowl IV Champion, 2x AFL Champion, 6x AFL All-Star, 2x Pro Bowl Selection, 6x All-AFL, 1x 2nd Team All-Pro, AFL All-Time Second Team, NFL Hall of Fame – 1990, College Football Hall of Fame – 1996

On back to back numbers we have famous Kansas City Chiefs defenders getting themselves a table at thea Cafe 101.  Buck Buchanan was an absolute monster from the time he played at Grambling under the legendary Eddie Robinson to the time he was the first draft pick in AFL history and had an amazing career with the Chiefs.  He was also the first black player to be drafted #1 overall in professional football history.  His defense and ability to penetrate the Minnesota Vikings’ vaunted offensive line helped the Chiefs hold the Vikings to only 67 yards giving the Chiefs their only Super Bowl win and one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets in history.  At 6’7″ 287 lbs, Buchanan was a force to be reckoned with.  Despite his size he was very quick and could run a 4.9 40 which allowed him to make tackles from sideline to sideline.  He started 166 straight games and is one of the greatest players in the proud history of the Kansas City Chiefs.

RUNNER-UP: HINES WARD, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (1998 – Present)

ON THE WAITING LIST: James Lofton & Todd Heap

TOO SOON TO TELL: David Nelson, Fred Davis, & Daniel Fells

Agree? Disagree? Tweet @can_of_corn with hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!

Click to enlarge the seating chart for Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant.

 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+


Cafe 101: The 4th Course

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

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.

<< PREVIOUS

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.

TABLE

JOHNNY UNITAS

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

TABLE

WADE BOGGS

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

TABLE

JIM LANGER

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

TABLE

TOM HARMON

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!

Click to enlarge the seating chart for Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant

 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+


Cafe 101: The 3rd Course

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

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.

<< PREVIOUS POST

As a sports fan, I love the idea of a paradise where all athletes are in their prime.  A place where we can watch Sandy Koufax and Roy Halladay pitch to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  A place where Terry Bradshaw can throw the deep ball to Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.  Where Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Shaq can all play on the same court.  Where Pele and Lionel Messi can go head to head on the pitch.  So far, Sports Heaven’s most exclusive restaurant has seated 8 (Tables 7, 10, 27, 30, 53, 59, 80, & 88) and today we seat an additional 4.  So without further ado we dive into today’s 4.  Please click the corresponding links above to read previous Cafe 101 posts.

TABLE

AL OLIVER

Outfielder/First Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, & Toronto Blue Jays (1968-1985)
1971 World Series Champion, 7x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger Award Winner, 1982 NL Batting Title

With there being so few athletes who have worn the number 0 (let alone GREAT athletes), this was one of the easiest tables to snare at the Cafe 101.  Of course most people think of Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas, himself when they see this number and while Arenas has had a solid career I had to take MLB journeyman Al Oliver.

Al Oliver had a great career.  He was the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award, was a big part of the 1971 world champion Pittsburgh Pirates, and his 1982 batting title shows that he performed over a long period of time.   In 1980, as a member of the Texas Rangers, he set an MLB record with 21 total bases in a doubleheader.  Al Oliver ranks in the top 50 in several MLB categories including hits (2,743), games played (2,368), total bases (4,083), RBIs (1,326), & Extra base hits (825).  Additionally he had a career batting average of .303 and hit 219 home runs in his 18 year career.  There are many who believe he is deserving of induction into the MLB Hall of Fame.  I don’t know about all that but I do believe he is clearly the most deserving of Table #0.

RUNNER-UP: SHAWN MARION, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, & Dallas Mavericks (1999-Present)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Orlando Woolridge & Gilbert Arenas

TOO SOON TO TELL:  Russell Westbrook, Bismack Biyombo, Mike Bibby, & Enes Kanter

TABLE

MAGIC JOHNSON

Point Guard, Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991, 1996)
5x NBA Champion, 1979 NCAA Champion, 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist, 3x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 9x All-NBA First Team, 2x NBA All-Star Game MVP, Basketball Hall of Fame  – 2002

There are many, many, many great athletes who have worn the #32 and I knew this number would be tough and spark a lot of debate; but this table has to go to Magic Johnson – in my opinion, the greatest point guard of all time.   You could even make an argument that he’s the greatest player of all time.  From his college career at Michigan State to his HIV-shortened NBA career with the Lakers, Magic Johnson was always the consummate professional and a winner at every point of his career.  His 11.2 assists per game average is still an NBA record and his rivalry with Larry Bird that started in college is the stuff of legend.  Some of the greatest athletes of all time have worn 32 and in my eyes, Magic was the greatest of the great.

RUNNER-UP: JIM BROWN, Cleveland Browns (1957 – 1965)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Sandy Koufax, Bill Walton, Elston Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Julius Erving, Karl Malone, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, David Beckham, O.J. Simpson, Christian Laettner (College), Edgerrin James, Kevin McHale, & Jimmer Freddette (College)

TOO SOON TO TELL:  Blake Griffin, Maurice Jones-Drew, Josh Hamilton, & Toby Gerhart

TABLE

JERRY KRAMER

Guard/Kicker, Green Bay Packers (1958-1968)
2x Super Bowl Champion, 5x NFL Champion, 5x 1st Team All-Pro, 1x 2nd Team All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowler, 1960’s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary Team

It is absolutely shocking to me that Jerry Kramer is not in the Hall of Fame.  In fact, he is the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not in the Hall of Fame.   When we’re talking about the #64, for me, it came down to two of the greatest guards in the history of the NFL.  It came down to Jerry Kramer and Randall McDaniel.  For me this was tough because it was about a Viking vs. a Packer and while Randall McDaniel is a Hall of Famer and widely regarded as the most versatile offensive lineman of all time, but I have to admit that Kramer is the better guard.   Jerry Kramer was an integral part of the famed “Packer Sweep” that helped lead the Pack to 5 NFL Championships.   His ability to get around the corner helped win the Packers the first two Super Bowls and is a big part of the reason that Jim Taylor is in the Hall of Fame.  His most notable achievement as a blocker is probably leading the way for Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown in the “Ice Bowl”.

Additionally he spent three years as a kicker for the Packers amassing 117 points.  In the 1962 NFL Title Game against the New York Giants, his three field goals and PAT were the difference in a 16-7 Packers victory.  Kramer has been snubbed by the Hall of Fame but he wasn’t about to get snubbed by me.  Table #64 belongs to him.

RUNNER-UP: RANDALL MCDANIEL, Minnesota Vikings/Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1988-2001)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  George Blanda, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds, & Y.A. Tittle

TOO SOON TO TELL: David Baas & Anthony Herrera

TABLE

SERGEI FEDOROV

Centre, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets,  Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Minsk, & Metallurg Magnitogorsk (1986 – Present)
3x Stanley Cup Winner, 3x President’s Trophy Winner, 2x Olympic Medalist, 3x Gold Medalist in World Championships,  6x NHL All-Star, NHL All-Rookie Team – 1991, Hart Memorial Trophy – 1994, 2x Frank J. Selke Trophy Winner, Kharlamov Trophy – 2003, Lester B. Pearson Award – 1994

The #91 debate really came down to some great defensive players in their respective sports.  On one hand we had Pistons & Bulls great Dennis Rodman who is one of the greatest defensive players the NBA has ever seen.  On the other we had Sergei Fedorov one of the best defenders and playoff performers to ever grace the ice.  In the end, I had to give the nod to Feds.  Fedorov is a proven winner who proved to be among the best in the world at every stage of his career.  His 1993-94 season is one of the best seasons anyone has ever put together.  He won the Hart, Selke, and Pearson Trophy all in one season.  That would be the equivalent of winning the MVP Award, Defensive Player of the Year Award, and being voted All-Pro unanimously all in one season in the NFL.  It’s absolutely unbelievable. In 1998 he won the Stanley Cup and the Olympic Silver Medal in the same year.

As great as Feds was during the NHL regular season, he was phenomenal during the playoffs.  He is considered by many the greatest playoff performer of all time.  He holds the record for most points in overtime (27).  He is ranked 13th in playoff points, 12th in playoff shorthanded goals, and 8th in playoff assists, and he was the 3rd player to have 4 consecutive 20+ point Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Yep, the Russian Rocket is more than worthy of Table #91.

RUNNER-UP: DENNIS RODMAN, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, & Dallas Mavericks (1986-2000)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Kevin Greene

TOO SOON TO TELL: Tamba Hali, Magnus Paajarvi, John Taveres, Justin Tuck, Marc Savard, Cameron Wake,  & Ryan Kerrigan

Agree? Disagree? Tweet @can_of_corn with hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!

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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!