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.



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



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



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



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)


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+


2011 Offseason Grades – NFC East

Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East



2011 DRAFT PICKS: Danny Watkins, G (1-23); Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (2-54); Curtis Marsh, CB (3-90); Casey Matthews, ILB (4-116); Alex Henery, K (4-120); Dion Lewis, RB (5-149); Julian Vandervelde, C (5-161); Jason Kelce, C (6-191); Brian Rolle, OLB (7-237); Greg Lloyd, ILB (7-237); Stanley Havili, FB (7-240)


If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay, he will be remembered as an absolute steal in the 4th round.

Philadelphia had 11 picks in this year’s drafts and when I look at how they used it I see it as “honest”.  The Eagles were aware of their weaknesses and drafted position by position to tighten things up.  A lot of people considered Watkins a reach in the first round, but Andy Reid believes he can be a Week 1 starter.  Watkins has good strength and is an adequate pass blocker and run blocker.  The one thing I always noticed when he played at Baylor is he is a “play to the whistle” type player so I think he’ll fit in fine in Philly.  Jarrett was a good pick up to help solidify the safety position and Curtis Martin seemed like an obvious choice for a team that, at the time, was weak at cornerback position.  Making Alex Henery the first kicker off the board made it pretty obvious that Akers was on his way out (which surprised me).  They doubled up on centers late with Vandervelde and Kelce clearly acknowledging their need there.  Philly did a good job of drafting in positions of need, I just don’t know how many of these players will have an impact. I love the Casey Matthews pick.  He was a great player at Oregon and comes from a great line of impact players who were underappreciated in the draft.  If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay (who is a leader on the Packers’ defense) then he was an absolute steal in the 4th round.





KEY ADDITIONS: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Raiders); Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Cardinals); Cullen Jenkins, DT (Packers); Vince Young, QB (Titans); Steve Smith, WR (Giants); Jason Babin, DE (Titans); Ryan Harris, OT (Broncos); Akeem Jordan, LB (Eagles); Evan Mathis, G (Bengals); Jarrad Page, S (Patriots); Derek Landri, DT (Panthers); Anthony Hargrove, DL (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Kevin Kolb, QB; Quintin Mikell, S; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Leonard Weaver, FB; Ernie Sims, LB; Max Jean-Gilles, G; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Stewart Bradley, LB

Nnamdi Asomugha was the obvious prize of free agency but I'm a big fan of the addition of Ryan Harris to this Eagles' line

A lot has been said and just how unbelievable the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason has been.  I have not seen this much hoopla about a team’s free agency since the 2007 Patriots when they brought in Moss, Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas, among others.  Last season the cornerback position was a glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles but they shored up that position through free agency and trade by bringing in 2 of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league.  Mikell was a gigantic loss for the Eagles at the safety position but Page should make for a good replacement and I really do believe it would behoove the Eagles to, at this point, move Asante Samuel to the safety position.  Steve Smith was a nice risk to take given Maclin’s mystery illness.  I love the addition of Babin and Jenkins.  I really believe that they will benefit from Trent Cole in the same way Kevin Smith and Ray Edwards were able to benefit by the addition of Jared Allen.  Vince Young was a great pick up if for no other reason, then to do with him what they did with Kolb and McNabb – flip him on the trade market for higher value.  The most unsung of this group but maybe the Eagles’ best pick up was Ryan Harris at tackle who should solidify that offensive line for the Eagles but there still remain some questions at center.



2011 DRAFT PICKS: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (1-16); Jarvis Jenkins, DT (2-41); Leonard Hankerson, WR (3-79); Roy Helu, RB (4-105); Dejon Gomes, S (5-146); Niles Paul, WR (5-155); Evan Royster, RB (6-177); Aldrick Robinson, WR (6-178); Brandyn Thompson, CB (7-213); Maurice Hurt, G (7-217); Markus White, DE (7-224); Christopher Neild, DT (7-253)

While I am not a fan of the Cornhuskers, I'm a big believer in what Roy Helu, Jr. can accomplish in the NFL

Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who can develop quarterbacks but where does this come from?  He inherited a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and has not had a strong QB ever since.  That being said, QB is the most obvious weakness for the Redskins and I feel that they made a huge mistake in trading down when they could have drafted, who I believe to be, the best quarterback in the draft in Blaine Gabbert.  Any time you get the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you need to take it and I feel like this is a mistake that will haunt Washington fans for years. However, the Redskins did get great value in trading down and Kerrigan and Jenkins should do wonders for their front four.  The pick that Redskins fans should be excited about is landing Nebraska running back Roy Helu in the 4th round.  This kid is a strong running back who in college could easily break tackles and can accelerate in the gaps.  I really think that Helu has a bright future as a number one running back in the NFL.





KEY ADDITIONS:Barry Cofield, DT (Giants); Josh Wilson, CB (Ravens); Stephen Bowen, DE (Cowboys); Santana Moss, WR (Redskins); Chris Chester, C (Ravens); Jamal Brown, OT (Redskins); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Broncos); Tim Hightower, RB (Cardinals), Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Ravens); Kellen Clemens, QB (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Albert Haynesworth, DT; Donovan McNabb, QB; Carlos Rogers, CB; Casey Rabach, C; Maake Kemoeatu, DT; Phillip Daniels, DE; Jeremy Jarmon, DT; Vonnie Holiday, DE

Given their draft, trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday for Tim Hightower was a move that could pay dividends for Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan got younger in the front four completely rebuilding it this offseason.  He addressed this need with the first two rounds of the draft and then went out in free agency and signed Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen who is one of the better young defensive ends in the league.  Re-signing Santana Moss was a necessity and the addition of Stallworth and Gaffney bolsters that receiving corps.  Chris Chester was a really solid pick-up as well to help strengthen a weak offensive line.  I will continue to say that I feel like the McNabb trade was a bad decision for Washington because after passing on Gabbert and trading Donovan, the Redskins are without a QB.  I do like the Tim Hightower trade quite a bit for Washington and between Hightower, Helu, and Torain, Shanahan should find a tandem that he can work with in his famous “running system”.



2011 DRAFT PICKS: Prince Amukamara, CB (1-19); Marvin Austin, DT (2-52); Jerrel Jernigan, WR (3-83); James Brewer,  OT (4-117); Greg Jones, ILB (6-185); Tyler Sash, S (6-198); Jacquian Williams, LB (6-202); Da’Rel Scott, RB (7-221)


The Giants had to be excited to find a cornerback like Amukamara available to them at pick 19

From a value standpoint, the New York Giants had an excellent draft.  I really did not think that Amukamara would fall past the Detroit Lions at 13 but he fell to the Giants and they were wise to take him.  Marvin Austin should help out that defensive line of theirs.  He fell because he lacks consistency but he has the talent to be an elite defensive tackle.  The two late picks of the Giants that I really like for them is James Brewer in the 4th round who has the skills to be a servicable tackle and could help out their O-Line but I feel that they did not do enough to address their aging offensive line.  Tyler Sash was a good risk to take in the seventh round.  He was a standout safety at the University of Iowa and was a cornerstone of a great defense.  In college he was an aggressive player who was a great tackler and had an ability to get his hands on the ball.  He has some parts of his game he needs to tighten up to play at the pro level but has the potential to do well in that Giants defense.





KEY ADDITIONS: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE (Giants); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Giants); Ben Patrick, TE (Cardinals); Stacy Andrews, OL (Seahawks); Kevin Boothe, G (Giants); David Baas, C (49ers)

KEY LOSSES: Rocky Bernard, DT; Shaun O’Hara, C; Rich Seubert, G; Shawn Andrews, G; Steve Smith, WR

Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw was the Giants' no. 1 priority going into the offseason

New York was so cash-strapped going into this season that they really couldn’t do much in free agency.  They were able to re-sign their top two priorities in Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants already had offensive line issues and now have lost Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews.  I do believe that David Baas is an upgrade for them over the aging O’Hara and I like the addition of Stacy Andrews but I feel this line has a long ways to go.  I do see the Steve Smith loss really hurting this team because, if nothing else, he took pressure off of Hakeem Nicks.  Overall the Giants were able to replace what they lost which still leaves the Giants looking pretty average in a much improved NFC.



2011 DRAFT PICKS: Tyron Smith, OT (1-9); Bruce Carter, OLB (2-40); DeMarco Murray, RB (3-71); David Arkin, G (4-110); Josh Thomas, CB (5-143); Dwayne Harris, WR (6-176); Shaun Chapas, FB (7-220); Bill Nagy, C (7-252)


Some say Smith was taken too early but if he plays well, you can never take a Pro Bowl OT too high

A lot of people criticized Dallas for not trading out of their pick to try and get more value at the offensive tackle position but the Cowboys got the man they wanted in Tyron Smith and 9th overall and I believe he was a perfect pick for the Cowboys.  I believed that the Cowboys needed to fix their offensive line issues and so the fact that they waited until the 4th round to continue to do that was confusing.  The Cowboys also should have addressed the cornerback position earlier.  Given the departure of Marion Barber, the DeMarco Murray pick makes sense in the 3rd round.  The best value pick here was Dwayne Harris who is a small, speedy receiver with great hands that should do nicely in the slot for the Cowboys offense and provide a great target for Tony Romo.







KEY ADDITIONS: Jason Garrett, Head Coach (Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator); Doug Free, OT (Cowboys); Kyle Kosier, G (Cowboys); Marcus Spears, DE (Cowboys); Jason Hatcher, DE (Cowboys); Gerald Sensabaugh, S (Cowboys); Abram Elam, S (Browns)

KEY LOSSES: Marion Barber, RB; Roy Williams, WR; Leonard Davis, G; Marc Colombo, OT

The best offseason move the Cowboys made was removing the interim tag from Jason Garrett's title.

The Cowboys had a down year last year in a season where many had them pegged to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.   With Tony Romo healthy again and a new head coach, this is a team that hopes to bounce back in a serious way.  Jason Garrett was the only man for the job and as one of the hottest head coaching candidates available, the Cowboys were smart to hang on to him before he left to go elsewhere.  Then Garrett turned around and brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game in Rob Ryan to help that Cowboys defense regain old form. Like the Giants, the Cowboys were limited by their cap situation but that did not stop them from re-signing most of their important players.  Roy Williams was going to be gone regardless and the Cowboys are sold on the future of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (along with DeMarco Murray) in that backfield.  Sensabaugh is a good safety but the addition of Elam at that position was a great move by Dallas.  The loss of Marc Colombo does hurt, but Tyron Smith should prove to be an upgrade at the position.

When I look at the landscape of the NFC East, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  A strong Philadelphia Eagles team drastically improved almost overnight.  The Redskins have gotten stronger at some positions and weaker at others.  The New York Giants look like a team that will once again, just miss a wildcard spot, and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t do much but they did fire their head coach and they do get their Pro Bowl quarterback back in the fold which should make a huge difference.  As always, this is going to be a fun division to watch. 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!