Yesterday TotalProSports told you about Brandon Crawford, the San Francisco Giants’ starting shortstop who, as it turns out, grew up in San Francisco rooting for the team with which he just won the World Series. And I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that is awesome. So I got to wondering: what other athletes have gotten the chance to live our their childhood fantasies and play for their hometown teams?
Well, obviously, I did a little looking around, and today I’m presenting the results of my curiosity in list form. Some of the players on this list will be obvious to some, but others might surprise you. So you should check it out.
I couldn't bring myself to include LeBron on this list of hometown "heroes" for the obvious reason that he is now the most reviled man in Cleveland. However, I couldn't go without mentioning the Akron, OH, native, either. So consider him officially mentioned. (Sorry for bringing it up, Cleveland.)
Dishonorable Mention: LeBron James
You may not be too familiar with the exploits of Paul Arizin if you're under the age of 50. However, he was one of the best NBA players of the 1950s, making the All-Star game 10 times and, more importantly, winning an NBA championship in 1956 with his hometown team: the Philadelphia Warriors. Amazingly, he didn't make the basketball team at his high school, and so was not recruited to play in college. However, he made the team at Villanova as a sophomore when the coach spotted him playing in a local amateur league, and by his senior year he was named the Collegiate Player of the Year, well on his way to becoming a Philadelphia legend.
15. Paul Arizin
A guy doesn't have to have a long, storied career playing for his hometown town to become a hometown hero. Sometimes all it takes is a few big plays. Just ask St. Louis-native David Freese. Last year he pretty much guaranteed he would never have to buy a beer in St. Louis for the rest of his life with a legendary October performance. Not only was he the MVP of the 2011 NLCS, but in the World Series he of course hit that game-tying triple in the bottom of the 9th of Game 6. Then hit the walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th, forcing a Game 7, which his hometown team won.
Talk about living out your childhood dreams.
14. David Freese
Dennis Eckersley had a decent career as a starting pitcher with the Indians, Red Sox, and Cubs. However, it wasn't until he he was traded to his hometown Oakland A's that he became a legendary closer and cemented his place in the Hall of Fame, winning the World Series in '89 and both the AL MVP and AL Cy Young Awards in 92. Of course, when Eck was born, the A's were still playing ball in Kansas City, so more than likely he grew up a Giants fan.
13. Dennis Eckersley
Except for the one year he spent at Memphis playing for John Calipari, Derrick Rose has spent his entire basketball life as a star in his hometown of Chicago. By his senior year at Simeon Rice Career Academy he was averaging 9.1 rebounds and 25.2 points per game, and of course in 2011 he won the NBA MVP award playing for the Bulls. If he's really lucky, in the coming years he'll get to fulfill what seems like his destiny and bring the Larry O'Brien trophy back to his hometown.
12. Derrick Rose
Joe Mauer grew up in the Twin Cities, and he couldn't be more of a hometown guy. He starred in three sports in high school—baseball, basketball, and football—and excelled at each. In fact, as a high school QB, he was named the Gatorade HS Player of the Year as well as the USA Today HS Player of the Year back in 2001. However, he decided not to take that scholarship with Florida State so he could stay home and get drafted by his hometown Minnesota Twins, #2 overall, in the 2001 draft. Obviously, that was a wise choice, as he has since won 3 batting titles (the only catcher to do that) and earned a big, fat, $184 million contract that will keep him in Minnesota through 2018.
Oh, and on top of that, Joe is engaged to a Twin Cities girl. In fact, she went to his high school.
11. Joe Mauer
NHL ironman Chris Chelios made Detroit his home later in his career, winning the Stanley Cup there and opening up his own sports bar downtown. However, the guy spent the first 15 years of his life living on the southwest side of Chicago, where he idolized the Blackhawks and the Bears. So it must have been a pretty special moment when the Montreal Canadiens traded him to Chicago in 1990. Though he didn't bring the Cup to the windy city, he did make his hometown proud by winning two of this three Norris Trophies there.
10. Chris Chelios
Gridiron legend Red Grange was born in Pennsylvania, but he grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. At the University of Illinois, Grange earned the nickname "Galloping Ghost." In his 20-game career with the Illini, he racked up 3,362 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns, which is why many consider him the greatest college football player of all time. And then, with his considerable stature, Grange helped legitimize the NFL as the primary pro football league in the land when he signed to play with—who else?—his hometown Chicago Bears.
9. Red Grange
It seems like Rickey Henderson played for a good 50% of the teams in Major League Baseball throughout his long career. However, in reality, he "only" played for 9 teams, and that's only 30%.
In any case, most people will probably remember Rickey as an Oakland Athletic, not only because he broke the stolen base record with Oakland and helped them make three consecutive World Series, but also because his career included four separate stints there. And that is hardly surprising, given that Rickey was born and raised in Oakland. Why wouldn't he want to keep coming back to his hometown team?
8. Rickey Henderson
These days Nolan Ryan is the president of the Dallas-area Texas Rangers. However, he grew up in Alvin, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. And of course, he would later spend 8 solid years playing for the Houston Astros before finishing his career with the Rangers.
7. Nolan Ryan
It's one thing to get to play for your hometown team. But can you imagine what it would be like to be part of a hometown dynasty?
Well, Mark Messier can. The Edmonton, Alberta, native was drafted #48 overall by his hometown Oilers in 1978. Then all he did was help them win 4 Stanley Cups in 6 years—3 with Gretzky, and 1 without. In fact, Messier won the MVP award in 1990 and was the captain of that Gretzky-less, Stanley Cup-winning Oilers team.
6. Mark Messier
When you think "Chicago Bears," two names come to mind. One is Ditka. The other is Butkus. And while the former grew up in Carnegie, PA, the latter was born and raised in the Windy City. The 8x Pro-Bowler and Football Hall of Famer was one of the greatest linebackers in the history of the NFL, and in his day one of the most feared and respected men on the gridiron. So it's wonder he has long been one of Chicago's greatest sports icons.
5. Dick Butkus
There were lots of stars on the Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s. However, only one of them was born in Cincinnati: baseball's all-time hits king, Peter Edward Rose. Charlie Hustle came to epitomize the hardworking everyman in Cincinnati, and of course he re-established the great baseball tradition in his hometown (the Reds are the oldest professional baseball team) by leading them to back-to-back World Series titles in 1974 and 1975...and then again in 1980.
4. Pete Rose
Babe Ruth was from Baltimore, Mickey Mantle was from Oklahoma, and Derek Jeter was born in Jersey and grew up in Michigan. However, there is one Yankee great that grew up right in Manhattan, and his name is Lou Gehrig. Along with the Great Bambino, the Iron Horse helped the Yankees win 6 World Series Championships from 1927 to 1938, establishing them as the kings of New York, lording over the Dodgers and Giants.
3. Lou Gehrig
There is place more passionate about hockey than Montreal, and there is no team more successful in the history of the game than that city's team: the Canadiens. So it's only fitting that that team's greatest player, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, grew up right there.
Richard, the game's original sniper, was the first player to score 50 goals in a season, and he did it in the first 50 games, a feat which has only been duplicated by four other players. He also became the first player to score 500 career goals, which he scored in just 978 games.
Of course, more important than any of that were the championships. The Rocket helped the Canadiens win the Cup a whopping 8 times during his career, including an unbeatable streak of 5 in a row from 1956 to 1960.
2. Maurice Richard
Cal Ripken, Sr. spent 36 years in the Baltimore Orioles organization as a player, scout, coach, and manager. So Cal Ripken, Jr. was born and raised right there in Baltimore, where he would play his entire 20-year Hall of Fame Career, winning 2 AL MVP Awards, hitting 431 home runs, making 19 All-Star Games, and of course breaking Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played—which many people consider the most memorable moment in MLB history. So if you want to talk about hometown heroes in sports, the conversation begins and ends with Cal.
1. Cal Ripken, Jr.
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