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The 50 Greatest North Dakota 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 Roger Maris, Fargo
Three-sport star at Shanley High; Yankees outfielder was AL MVP in 1960 and '61; broke Babe Ruth's record with 61 home runs in '61.
2 Phil Jackson, Williston
Played 12 seasons in the NBA; coached Bulls to six titles between 1991 and '98.
3 Darin Erstad, Jamestown
Scored 36 goals in 1992 for Jamestown High hockey team; state 110- and 300-meter hurdles champion; punted for Nebraska's '94 national championship team; outfielder with Angels.
4 Andy Hampsten, Grand Forks
Only American to win Tour of Italy and Tour of Switzerland.
5 Lute Olson, Grand Forks
Played on 1952 state basketball championship team at Grand Forks High; '97 NCAA title as Arizona coach.
6 Cliff Cushman, Grand Forks
Two-time Kansas All-America hurdler, in 1959 and '60; won silver medal in 400-meter hurdles at 1960 Olympics.
7 Cliff (Fido) Purpur, Grand Forks
First North Dakotan to play in NHL; joined St. Louis Eagles in 1934-35; had 60 points in 144 regular-season games in five seasons with two teams.
8 Amy Ruley, Fargo
North Dakota State women's basketball coach has led Bison to five NCAA Division II titles since 1980.
9 John Bennett, Grand Forks
Won NCAA long jump at Marquette in 1953 and '54, and silver medal at '56 Olympics.
10 Virgil Hill, Williston
Won silver medal at 1984 Games; won WBA light heavyweight title in '87; defended belt a record 19 times.
11 Casper Oimoen, Minot
A captain of 1932 and '36 U.S. Olympic ski teams; won three national titles in ski jumping.
12 Brad Gjermundson, Marshall
Four-time world champion saddle bronc rider (1981, '83, '84, '85); qualified for National Finals Rodeo nine times.
13 Dale Brown, Minot
Earned 12 letters at Minot State in basketball, football and track; LSU basketball coach from 1972 to '97; set school record with 448 wins.
14 Pete Retzlaff, Ellendale
Eagles receiver was five-time Pro Bowl pick; retired in 1966 with 452 catches for 7,412 yards and 47 touchdowns.
15 Sid Cichy, Fargo
Coached Shanley High football team to 231-38-3 record, 11 undefeated seasons and 15 state titles from 1948 to '77.
16 Dave Osborn, Cando
Three-time letterman in football and track at North Dakota; rushed for 4,320 yards and 29 touchdowns with Vikings from 1965 to '75.
17 Rick Helling, Lakota
Won 20 games for Rangers in 1998; is 44-34 in six seasons.
18 Bob Wiese, Jamestown
Two-time all-state back at Jamestown High in early 1940s was twice All-Big Ten at Michigan; lettered two years in basketball, three years in baseball for Wolverines.
19 Brian Voss, Bismarck
Won PBA national title and was bowler of the year in 1988.
20 Phil Hansen, Oakes
Two-time All-America at North Dakota State; defensive end is third player in Bills' history with 50-plus sacks.
21 Steve Myhra, Wahpeton
Set Colts' marks with 21 field goals and 96 points in 1961; kicked late-game field goal in historic '58 NFL Championship against Giants to force overtime.
22 Steve Blehm, Devils Lake
North Dakota School for the Deaf guard scored state-record 3,930 points (1970 to '73).
23 Ron Erhardt, Mandan
All-conference quarterback at Jamestown College; Giants offensive coordinator with two Super Bowl championship teams (1986 and '90).
24 Pat Smykowski, Lidgerwood
Set North Dakota State women's basketball career marks for points, three-pointers and assists, from 1986 to '89.
25 Don Barcome Jr., Grand Forks
In 1979, captained first American team to win world junior men's curling championship.
26 Ken Hunt, Grand Forks
Major league outfielder from 1959 to '64 had best season in '61 with Angels, hitting career-high 25 home runs.
27 Jim Kleinsasser, Carrington
Two-time Division II All-America tight end at North Dakota, in 1997 and '98; led team in '98 with 45 catches; second-round pick of Vikings.
28 Glenn Hansen, Grand Forks
Set state career scoring record at Grand Forks High; played in NBA from 1976 to '78.
29 Janelle Bakken, Thompson
Has five snowmobile drag-racing world records and more than 160 first-place showings.
30 Jeff Boschee, Valley City
Averaged 26 points at Valley City High as a senior and was state's first McDonald's high school All-America; now point guard at Kansas.
31 Randy Hedberg, Parshall
Minot State QB passed for school-record 5,737 yards and 49 touchdowns; started four games for Buccaneers in 1977.
32 Kami Anderson, Valley City
Twice named all-state in girls' basketball at Valley City High; Stanford's 18th alltime leading scorer (1985 to '88).
33 Bob Feeney, Bismarck
North Dakota's alltime winningest high school football coach had 234-110-1 record at three schools (1964 to '98).
34 Corey Ihmels, Williston
Won three straight state cross-country championships (1989 to '91); won '91 national cross-country championships.
35 Nadine Schmidt, Braddock
North Dakota State guard-forward was NCAA Division II Final Four MVP in 1991 and '93.
36 Al Dosch, Strasburg
Two-time all-conference football player at Valley City State; coached five high schools, including Strasburg High, to combined 229-61-4 record.
37 Brooks Bollinger, Grand Forks
Four-time all-city QB at Central High; passed for 4,209 career yards and 40 touchdowns; won 10 letters in three sports; now playing at Wisconsin.
38 Jeff Panzer, Grand Forks
Junior forward on North Dakota hockey team had 21 goals and 26 assists in 1998-99.
39 Dick Tschider, Bismarck
All-state at St. Mary's High; two-time all-conference linebacker and center at North Dakota State in 1956 and '57.
40 Shane McMenamy, Grand Forks
U.S. Junior Amateur golf champion in 1996; first 16-year-old to win that title since Tiger Woods in '92.
41 Les Jepsen, Bowbells
Averaged 14.9 points and 10.0 rebounds at Iowa in 1990; played two years in the NBA.
42 Tanya Fischer, Rhame
North Dakota's alltime leading high school scorer (3,148 points) at Bowman High; state's 1993 Miss Basketball; two-time state cross-country champion.
43 Doug Beaudoin, Jamestown
All-America in football and basketball at Jamestown High; played in NFL from 1976 to '81.
44 Lynn Nelson, Sheldon
Was 33-42 in seven seasons with Cubs, A's and Tigers between 1930 and '40.
45 Sheri Kleinsasser, Carrington
Ended career as alltime leading scorer for North Dakota women's basketball team (1992 to '95); finished with 1,941 points.
46 Ron Green, Fargo
All-conference receiver at North Dakota; played with Browns in 1967 and '68.
47 George Rulon, Jamestown
National coordinator of American Legion Baseball from 1961 to '86; credited with popularizing American Legion World Series.
48 Julie Bosch, Bismarck
Has won five straight I Made the Hill 10K's and nine of the last 10; set course record in 1998.
49 Justin Fletschock, Munich
Two-time all-conference pitcher at North Dakota State (1996 and '97); school's career leader in wins, complete games and innings pitched.
50 Tony Satter, Fargo
North Dakota State running back from 1987 to '90 helped team win two Division II national titles; career average of 9.96 yards per touch.

Photograph by AP Photo


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