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The 50 Greatest New Jersey Sports Figures

Sports Illustrated This list of the top 50 greatest 20th-century athletes originally appeared in the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated. Have someone to add to SI's list? Click here to submit your choices.

20th Century Top 50
Rank Profile
1 Carl Lewis, Willingboro
Won four gold medals at 1984 Olympics, three medals (two golds and a silver) at the '88 Olympics, two golds at the '92 Olympics and a gold in the long jump in '96.
2 Rick Barry, Roselle Park
All-State at Roselle Park High; NBA Rookie of the Year with Warriors; 23.2 ppg for career.
3 Franco Harris, Mount Holly
Ran for more than 1,000 yards eight times in 13 seasons with Steelers; member of four Super Bowl-championship teams.
4 Amos Alonzo Stagg, West Orange
University of Chicago football coach (from 1892 to '32) was first to use center snap, onside kick, lateral and man in motion.
5 Marty Liquori, Cedar Grove
Last high schooler to break four-minute mile; ranked No. 1 in 1500 meters in 1969 and '71.
6 Goose Goslin, Salem
Hall of Fame outfielder batted .316 over career (1921 to '38); led AL in triples twice.
7 Joe Medwick, Carteret
Football star at Carteret High; National League MVP in 1937; played in nine All-Star games.
8 Anne Donovan, Ridgewood
Three-time basketball All-America at Old Dominion; 1983 National Player of the Year; three-time Olympic team member.
9 Renaldo Nehemiah, Newark
Set high school records in 120-yard and 110-meter high hurdles; held world record in 110-meter high hurdles from 1979 to '89.
10 Mickey Walker, Elizabeth
In 1920s, "Toy Bulldog" held world welterweight and middleweight titles.
11 Dick Button, Englewood
Five-time world figure skating champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist (1948, '52); at '52 Games became first to do a triple jump in competition.
12 Monte Irvin, Orange
All-state in four sports at East Orange High; Negro leagues All-Star four times; drove in major league-leading 121 runs for 1951 Giants.
13 (Jersey) Joe Walcott, Camden
Won heavyweight title at age 37 in 1951 by knocking out Ezzard Charles.
14 Larry Doby, Paterson
American League's first black player, with Indians (1947); seven-time All-Star.
15 Bill Parcells, Oradell
Coached Giants to Super Bowl victories in 1987 and '91, and Patriots to '96 AFC crown.
16 Lou Creekmur, Woodbridge
Set school shot put record at William and Mary; eight-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman helped Lions win three NFL titles in 1950s.
17 Drew Pearson, South River
From 1973 to '83, Cowboys receiver caught then team-record 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 46 touchdowns.
18 Carol Blazejowski, Cranford
Three-time All-America in basketball at Montclair State; twice led the nation in scoring.
19 Paul Robeson, Somerville
Two-time All-America end was third black to enter Rutgers (1915-19); earned 12 letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track and field.
20 Jim Ringo, Phillipsburg
NFL center from 1953 to '67 made All-Pro eight times; played in 182 straight games.
21 Charlie Berry, Phillipsburg
NFL All-Pro in 1925 and '26; 11 seasons as major league catcher; 24 years as NFL official; 21 years as AL ump.
22 John Van Ryn, East Orange
One of best doubles players in U.S. history, winning 14 of 16 Davis Cup matches (with Wilmer Allison) and six Grand Slam championships.
23 Henry Wittenberg, Jersey City
As light heavyweight won wrestling gold medal at 1948 Olympics and silver at '52 Games.
24 Gene Wettstone, West New York
Founded and coached Penn State gymnastics team for 38 years; won nine NCAA titles and coached nine Olympians.
25 Cathy Rush, West Atlantic City
Coached Immaculata College women's basketball team to three straight AIAW titles (1971-72 to '73-74).
26 Joe Theismann, South River
Quarterback set Notre Dame season record with 2,820 total yards in 1970; led Redskins to '83 Super Bowl victory.
27 Mel Sheppard, Almenesson
Track star won gold in 1908 Olympics in 800 meters, 1,500 and medley relay, and at 1912 Games in 4x400 relay.
28 Alex Wojciechowicz, South River
Hall of Famer played center and defensive back for Lions (from 1938 to '46) and Eagles ('46-50); was mainstay of two Philly title teams.
29 Debbie Meyer, Haddonfield
Swimmer won Olympic gold in 1968 in 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle.
30 George Mehnert, Newark
Won flyweight wrestling title at 1904 Olympics and bantanweight competition at '08 Games.
31 Irving Fryar, Mount Holly
Nebraska All-America was only player with 1,000-yard receiving seasons for three NFL teams.
32 Gus Lesnevich, Cliffside Park
Light heavyweight champion won belt in 1941; set record for quickest knockout in light heavyweight history (1:58 of the first round) with '48 win over Billy Fox.
33 Frank Cumiskey, West New York
Won five national AAU all-around gymnastic titles (1934-'47) and 17 individual titles.
34 Deron Cherry, Palmyra
Chiefs free safety from 1981 to '91 had 50 career interceptions and played in six Pro Bowls.
35 Doc Cramer, Beach Haven
Twenty-year major league outfielder made five All-Star teams and led AL with 200 hits for Red Sox in 1940.
36 Ron Dayne, Berlin
Overbrook High All-America won Heisman Trophy and set NCAA Div. I alltime rushing record with 6,397 yards at Wisconsin from 1996 to '99.
37 Milt Campbell, Plainfield
As a high school senior, finished second in 1952 Olympic decathlon; won event in '56.
38 Rosey Grier, Roselle
1954 All-America tackle at Penn State played in NFL from '55 to '66; helped Giants win four Eastern Conference titles.
39 Don Newcombe, Madison
In 1956 former Negro leagues pitcher won the first Cy Young Award with 27-7 record and 3.06 ERA for Dodgers.
40 Bill Larned, Summit
Tennis star won five straight U.S. singles titles from 1907 to '11.
41 Lydell Mitchell, Salem
Salem High football and basketball star; was All-America and led the nation with 174 points and 29 TDs at Penn State in 1971.
42 Orel Hershiser, Cherry Hill
Cy Young winner with Dodgers in 1988, when he pitched major league record 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
43 Tom Heinsohn, Union City
Starred at Holy Cross; played on eight Celtics NBA champion teams in 1950s and '60s; coached Boston to two titles.
44 Dick Savitt, Bayonne
One of four U.S. men to win Wimbledon and Australian titles in same year (1951); four times ranked in world's Top 10.
45 Ernest Blood, Passaic
From 1915 to '24, coached Passaic High basketball team to 200-1 record and 159-game winning streak; won seven state titles.
46 Mike Rozier, Camden
Nebraska running back won 1983 Heisman Trophy with 2,148 rushing yards (179 per game) and 29 touchdowns.
47 Charlie Jamieson, Paterson
In 1928 slick-fielding Cleveland Indian became only outfielder to initiate two triple plays in one season; batted .303 from 1915 to '32.
48 Tom Courtney, Newark
NCAA 880-yard champion for Fordham in 1955; won track gold medals at '56 Olympics in 800 meters and 4x400 relay.
49 Joseph Burk, Beverly
World's top sculler from 1937 to '41; developed shorter stroke that became standard.
50 Claudio Reyna, Springfield
Midfielder for U.S. Olympic soccer team in 1992 and '96; three-time All-America at Virginia.

Photograph by John Gichigi/ALLSPORTY


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