By Alan Sorensen
Who did Sports Illustrated talk to to compile its list of Montana's top 50 athletes of the 1900s? It wasn't me. I would never have included Ryan Leaf, because he really hasn't done much yet. He may be an athlete of the 2000s, but not the 1900s. I'd have qualms about including Dave Dickinson, Rod Lyman and several others, too, for that and other reasons.
Havre rustler Long George Francis and Hill County Sheriff Doc Timmons had the physical attributes to be considered top athletes, but I'd probably save them for another category.
But there are several others (about 50 or more if you include all the top members of the teams listed below) whom I think are extremely deserving of being among Montana's elite jocks.
The three NFL Lazetichs of Billings, Notre Dame great Ray Kuka, Stanford All-American Mac Wiley, Missoula's decathlete Dave Johnson and Whitefish's downhiller Tommy Moe failed to garner mention among Montana's top 50 athletes of the 1900s.
And what about the running Browns: Doug and Julie, not related. Doug is a Montana legend and Julie was the fastest woman 26.2 miler in the world leading into 1984's first women's Olympic marathon.
Weight man Bob Hawke of Butte, Billings swimmer Chad Chadwick, basketballer Eric Hayes of Missoula, the Fort Shaw girls basketball team from early in the century, Northwestern All-American Julie Callahan from Havre, Washington Redskin Shane Collins of Bozeman, world-record javelin thrower Craig Stiles of Malta, Turk Lords of Belt and numerous other wrestlers, barrel racer Rachael Myllymaki, hurdler/sprinters Roy Robinson of Glasgow and Paul Schafer of Great Falls, Kalispell girls track team from the '70s and '80s, Browning cross country team of '60s, '70s and '80s, Butte wrestling team for the same years, javelin thrower (Herman's little brother) Tusshaus, (I don't remember his first name) Warwick from Bozeman who made Tai Kwon Do an Olympic sport, decathlete Mike Ramos of Missoula, speed skater Judy Martz of Butte, Anaconda boxer Roger Roush, Indian basketball greats (I don't remember his first name) Pretty Weasel of Hardin, Willie Weeks of Wolf Point and Don Wetzel of Cut Bank.
I'd also like to nominate some high school greats who chose academics over sports in college: Havre's Glenn Havskjold, who none-the-less was on a record setting mile relay team at Stanford; Havre's Skip Grodahl, who did everything for Stanford his freshman year and then opted for a prosperity; and Cascade's Harry Clark who, like Grodahl, flew in every direction.
And let's not forget Havre's second superintendent of schools T.J. Troy who reportedly won the shot put competition at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1906. We should also consider Steve Reeves, born north of Glasgow, raised south of Havre, and graduated from Fort Benton High, who was the first person inducted into the World Body Building Hall of Fame. For good or bad, body building is considered today a sport and its most famous practitioner, Arnold Schwartznegger, said he was inspired to build his body by watching Reeves' Hercules movies of the 1950s and '60s.
And how about John Elway and Phil Jackson. I heard they each spent a goodly portion of their formative years in the state -- Elway in Missoula and Jackson in Choteau. There are those who believe, rightly or wrongly, that I'm hallucinating about the Jackson thing. Hammer thrower Tom Gage of Billings is a likely candidate, too, if he's a native Montanan.
Let's not forget that Salish-Kootenai horseman (I forget his name) who is widely considered to have single-handedly saved America's bison from extinction. I'm thinking he had to do some pretty fancy riding.
Well, time's up. I'd like to continue this and other discussions, but it's time to head out to Rocky Boy. I'll bet they've got a whole bunch of ideas in the Bear Paws about who should and shouldn't be on Montana's listed.