Is Roger Staubach the best NFL player from Cincinnati?
Its the off-season, so why not step (partially) away from football and review top 10 greatest athletes in each of our beloved AFC North cities, even though most of us don’t live close to the hometowns in which our teams reside. When our cities do produce someone famous, it gives us all a sense of pride, regardless.
I thought this list would be fairly easy to compile, minus the actual ranking. However, I discovered Ohio writers had not attacked this subject very well, at least according to Google searches. My list was compiled in just a couple of hours from various databases, so please feel free to disagree. Baltimore and Pittsburgh writers did attempt a few lists, but some athletes were questionable at best for a variety of reasons. For instance, Carmelo Anthony might be from the Baltimore area, but his body of work as it stands now is not list-worthy, at least his accomplishments after he left college to play in the NBA. Tony Dorsett made Pittsburgh hometown lists, but he grew up two hours from the city. Yes, Pittsburgh is the closest major city (although almost equidistant to Baltimore), but with that same logic, Denver could claim someone six hours away near the New Mexico border. Limits had to be set.
Players listed in this ranking were raised in the same state as the corresponding AFC North team, which hurts each city, but none more than Cincinnati which is stuck in the lower left corner of Ohio. Baltimore is limited with PA and farmland to the north and west, a body of water to the east, and Washington DC 35 miles to the south; Cleveland is stuck below a very big lake; and Pittsburgh is nestled in close to Ohio and West Virginia. In terms of area, I gave the most leeway to Cincinnati (~50 miles + 1 exception) and Cleveland (~50 miles), Baltimore was limited to ~30 miles due to DC, and Pittsburgh was given a ~40 mile radius. In terms of population, Cleveland had by far the biggest pool in their metro area, 50% larger than Cincinnati, with Baltimore and Pittsburgh planted between the two.
With that said, cities of the AFC North are the home of spectacular athletes across the sporting spectrum from boxing and Olympic legends, to all-time greats in football, baseball, basketball, and golf.
Cincinnati is first up in this 4 part series.
10. Russell Wilson (NFL)- Has already played in two Super Bowls (1-1). He could be replaced if I used a larger radius for Cincy-born star athlete (or if I was a Cincinnati based historian). Given time, however, Russel might be deserving.
9. Rich Franklin (UFC) – An early star of the UFC after taking out the legend Ken Shamrock and became middleweight champion. He was the only famous UFC fighter between the four AFC North cities, which was the main reason he made the list.
8. Barry Larkin (MLB) – 1 MVP, 1 World Series, 3 Gold Gloves. This hometown hero helped Cincinnati win a World Series and has to be on the list.
7. Roger Staubach (NFL) – 1 MVP, 2 Super Bowl wins. Excellent player, but not greatest of all-time. He falls into the category of famous quarterbacks on great teams or in large media markets (in my opinion), but should be on the list regardless.
6. Jerry Lucas (NBA) – NBA’s 50th anniversary team, 2x Player of the Year in college, NBA and NCAA champion.
5. Edwin Moses (Track and field) – The best 400M hurdler of all-time, winning 107 straight finals. Yes, that’s one hundred and seven including two Olympic golds and six other international golds. He is the only athlete in history that had people tuning in just to see the 400M hurdles.
4. Pete Rose (MLB) – 3 World Series, 1 MVP, 3x batting championships, 4,256 hits (almost 500 more than the next highest over the past 100 years). Averaged 200 hits a year FOR 17 STRAIGHT YEARS, yet only managed 3 batting titles. His longevity and consistency makes him an all-time great (on the field).
3. Roger Clemens (MLB) – 7 SEVEN Cy Youngs (two more than anyone else), 2 pitching triple crowns (ERA, Strikeouts, Wins), 1 MVP (extremely rare for a pitcher). No telling what steroids did or didn’t do but he would have been a top pitcher in any era. They certainly didn’t help his temper. He’d throw at his own son in a father son game.
2. Mike Schmidt (MLB) – 3 MVPs, World Series MVP, 8 home run titles, and 10 gold gloves. Schmidt might be the most underrated slugger in MLB history. He played during an era where pitchers dominated, and some would argue the baseballs weren’t wound as tightly, backed by the HR numbers in the mid 1970s through 1980s. Despite this, he ranked 7th all-time in home runs when he retired.
1. Jack Nicklaus (Golf) – 18 majors, 46 major top-3 finishes. Yes, Jack grew up a little outside of Cincy’s 50 mile radius (Columbus), but that’s close enough for arguably the greatest golfer of all-time.