SI Vault
December 27, 1999
There's a difference between loyalty to the home team—athletes imported to play for our local colleges and pro franchises—and the deep emotional bond we share with hometown heroes, the local legends we knew back when. They are the boys and girls from next door, or the next town. We watched them grow up, watched them play when it was still play. Unfortunately, these luminaries are almost inevitably dispersed because of sport's mercenary nature, lured away by scholarships or contracts. Well, we're bringing 'em all back home for the millennium—not necessarily to where they were born, but to where they first showed flashes of the greatness to come. Thus, Broadway Joe is in Pennsylvania, not Alabama or New York; and the Mailman is in Louisiana, not Utah. The result: the top 50 from your state and, on the following pages, a list of those from all 50 states. In short, the ultimate home teams.
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December 27, 1999

The 50 Greatest Sports Figures From Illinois

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Ray Schalk
Top defensive catcher of 1910s and '20s; first receiver to back up plays at first and third base.

Bill Veeck
Colorful owner of Indians, St. Louis Browns and White Sox; had a midget bat and exploded scoreboard to promote teams.

Red Kerr
Slick-passing center led Illinois to 1952 Final Four; played 844 straight NBA games, a record that stood for 17 years.

Quinn Buckner
Guard won two state titles at Thornridge High, NCAA championship with undefeated Indiana in 1976 and NBA ring with Celtics in '84.

Frederick (Fritz) Pollard
Second black All-America, as back at Brown in 1916; first black NFL coach, with Akron and Hammond Pros.

Phil Cavarretta
Cubs first baseman at 18, hit pennant-clinching homer as 19-year-old in 1935; was MVP and batting champion in '45.

Cazzie Russell
Won city title at Carver High; Michigan All-America guard; NBA All-Rookie team in 1966-67.

Ralph Metcalfe
Set or equaled world records in three sprint events between 1932 and '36; won two individual silvers, a bronze and a relay gold in two Olympics.

John (Paddy) Driscoll
Multithreat player—runner, passer, defender and master punter and dropkicker—at Northwestern from 1915 to '16 and with Cardinals and Bears.

Jim Bottomley
First baseman for Cardinals, Reds and Browns was NL MVP in 1928 and hit .371 in '23.

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