The Five Most Important Figures in Minnesota Sports History

07/16/2002
Harmon Killebrew's 573 homers stands as 7th on the all time list, the closest active player is Sosa with 539
The Scrambler
TK always kept his cool
Shaq has nothing on Mikan
Glaucoma sidelined a brilliant career years too early
Game 6 Heroics
5. Harmon Killebrew

When the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins before the 1961 season, Harmon Killebrew was there to give life to professional baseball in the region. He hit 475 of his 573 HRs with the Twins, leading them to an American League pennant in 1965 and was named the American League MVP in 1969. Killebrew had his number retired by the Twins in 1974, and was the first Twins player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

4. Fran Tarkenton

Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to appearances in Super Bowls VIII, IX, and XI, during his two stints as the Vikings quarterback (1961-'66, '72-'78). His ability to scramble while looking for receivers became his trademark and helped him to his four All-Pro selections.

At the end of the 1978 season Tarkenton retired as the NFL's all-time leader in: career passes attempted (6,467), career passes completed (3,686), career yards gained (47,003), career touchdown passes (342) and career rushing yards by a quarterback (2,548). His number 10 was retired by the Vikings, and in 1986 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. Tom Kelly

Manager of the Minnesota Twins from 1986 - 2001, Kelly led the team to World Series Championships in 1987 and 1991. His 1,140 wins are the most by any Twins skipper. He was considered one of the best "in-game" managers during his tenure, and his teaching of the fundamentals is a big reason for the recent success of the young Twins team. He now serves as a Special Assistant to the Twins GM Terry Ryan, and was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on April 20th, 2002.

2. George Mikan

The first dominant big man in basketball, Mikan was also the games first true superstar. He led the Minneapolis Lakers to a NBL championship in 1948, a BAA championship in 1949, and NBA championships in 1950, '52, '53, and '54. A member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, he was also voted the Best Player of the First Half of the Century. Mikan was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.

1. Kirby Puckett

Regarded by many as the greatest Minnesota Twin of all- time, Puckett is loved and respected throughout the baseball world, not only for his talents, but also for the love and enthusiasm with which he played the game day in and day out. Puckett played his entire major league career with the Twins, starting May 8, 1984 when he became only the 9th player in history to record 4 hits in the first full game of a career, by going 4 for 5 against the California Angels. He retired 12 years later on July 12, 1996 due to irreversible damage in his right eye. In between, he appeared in 10 straight All-Star Games including being named the MVP of the 1993 All- Star Game in Baltimore. He won 6 Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield and led the Twins to World Championships in 1987 and 1991. After earning the ALCS MVP in the '91 playoffs, Puckett had his most memorable game in Game 6 of the World Series. After making a leaping catch off the wall earlier in the game, Puckett sent the Series to the 7th game with his game winning home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. He retired as the Twins leader in hits (2,304), doubles (414), total bases (3,453), at bats (7,244), and runs (1,071). His number 34 was retired by the Twins on May 25, 1997 and he was inducted in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on August 5, 2001.

Honorable Mention (In no particular order)
  • Neal Broten
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Tony Oliva
  • Kent Hrbek
  • Rod Carew
  • Cris Carter
  • Dave Winfield
  • Alan Page
  • Jim Marshall
  • Randy Moss
  • Bud Grant
- Matthew Pehler was involved in The Great Softball Debacle of 2001.
question_mark.gifJason Kaltved (Guest)
12/25/2003 @ 04:21:59 AM
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I think that you should change the name of your article, to the 5 most important figures in Minnesota PRO Sports History. I say this because that is obviously all you looked at. You could also probably add the term "modern" to your title, as well. The list of your 11 honorable mentions does nothing but further this impression. Now, I am not necessarily criticizing your list, its just that I think you unintentionally do a disservice to the many important figures in Minnesota sports history, that preceded those 5 individuals and the 11 HMs. An alternative list could look like this?!


1. Henry L. Williams
2. John Mariucci
3. Cliff Thompson
4. John Kundla
5. Sid Hartman

HMs
Louis Cooke
Bernie Bierman
Herb Brooks
Dick Seibert
Kevin McHale
Flip Saunders
Vern Mikkelson
John Anderson
John Gagliardi
Murray Warmath
John Robinson
Don Lucia
Roy Griak
Les Bolstad


Henry Williams first brought BIG TIME winning sports to Minnesota. We sent Pudge Heffelfinger out to Yale, they sent us Williams in return. He coached great Minnesota products like Gil Dobie, legendary Wash/Navy/Cornell/BC Fb coach, Clark Shaughnessy & Bernie Bierman, who both helped turn Tulane Fb into a nationally elite power, and Shaughnessy helped transform the way football is played even to this day, and BB returned home to Minnesota to turn the Gophers into the GOLDEN Gophers. They named the 1941 Natl Title Trophy after him. It was formerly the Knute Rockne Memorial Award, and they retired that one, since the Gophers won it 3 times, and started a new one called the Henry L. Williams Trophy. He was the first to propose the forward pass be legalized, and along with Heffelfinger(at the time an asst on his staff), invented the 4 man defensive backfeild, and the Minnesota Shift, known and used nation wide by that name.

Mariucci and his mentor Cliff Thompson, did more to make Minnesota, the "State of Hockey" than anyone else. Herb Brooks and his band of unlikely natl heros may have done the most for US Hockey, but Brooks was a student of Mariucci first. So many of the US's greatest hockey players played for Thompson, and also Mariucci, and also Brooks, that its hard to imagine even. Mariucci's often referred to as the Grandfather of Minnesota Hockey, well that is true, but that would mean the Cliff Thompson was the Great Grandfather of it.

I list John Kundla and Sid Hartman, because without those two, we don't know for sure whether Pro BB or any pro sports, would ever have even made to Minnesota, or been successful when it got here. Both were, in different ways, very influential in pro bb landing in Minnesota, and then becoming successful. Mikan was a great player, and Kundla was very blessed to have had so much to work with, but many coaches throughout the decades have had lots to work with, and have done nothing with them. Kundla made it work, and did so when it counted, in the playoffs. I added Vern Mikkelson, too, because he helped Hamline to natl prominence, before helping the Mpls Lakers to it. He may not have been as vital as Mikan, but he was a vital part of that great team.


Louis Cooke brought basketball to Minnesota, and turned the Gophers into a midwestern dynasty, for bb's first two decades and had a short resurgence at the end of its 3rd decade, this all including 3 undefeated seasons and 2 Natl Titles.

Dick Siebert turned the Gophers Bb team into a Midwestern/Northern Dynasty, winning 3 Natl Titles with the Gophers, something no other Northern team has ever done, and putting out players like Dave Winfeild, Paul Molitor, Jerry Thomas & Jerry Kindall(who took Arizona to 3 Natl Titles), among others. All of those players would later help the Twins.

Kevin McHale & Flip Saunders, both first helped the Gophers bb team to natl prominence back in the 70's & early 80's. Since then, they have both returned to turn the Timberwolves from a horrible bb team, into a perennial NBA playoff team, and what is finally looking to be a team that may challenge for an NBA Title even?! These two have caught a lot of flack from the local media, despite pretty much continually giving the locals a good show year in and year out, while competing in the ONLY Conf that counts, the Western Conf. If the Timberwolves had been in the Eastern Conf the last decade, like geographically they probably should be, they'd have been to 5 NBA Finals so far, and would be dominating the Eastern Conf this year again. Instead they've always had to play the toughest teams in the league in their own conf, and in the 1st round of the playoffs, even when they get a #4 seed and homefeild advantage even?! Well, McKale and Saunders have brought in the horses to compete even in the Western Conf and just may get to the Finals this year, with San Antonia and the Lakers looking like the only 2 teams in the NBA would could beat them, unfortunately, they are both in the Western Conf?! But no matter, this is great bb, and one local kid, and one transplant have brought it to us.


John Gagliardi has shown us all that fb can be played, and WINNING football at that, without all the traditional trappings that have overtaken professional and college sports these days. Its become an obsession to many, and coaching staffs grow in size, and have huge budgets and sometimes work year round. Not Gagliardi. And he wins. And he just beat the guy with the best winning percentage and longest winning streak in cfb history, this after breaking the record for most wins ever, by any coach in cfb history. And its just a short drive for us to go see the great show he puts on in Collegeville.

John Anderson has quietly gotten to the point where he has the most wins in Big Ten Coaching history, passing up his old boss Dick Siebert even. He's continued to win Big Ten Titles and send kids, mostly Mn kids, to MLB. Minnesota's the only Northern School that ranks in the Top 10 at putting players into MLB, still. And he's still young.


Murray Warmath brought African American's to Minnesota to play football, and they helped bring back some of the old glory to the Gopher fb program, and many of those players, Carl Eller, etc., went on to help the Vikings get to the Super Bowl, and a few helped us lose in the Super Bowl(Bobby Bell at KC) even. Unfortunately there were no longer any legendary Mn products left out there, who could come home and continue where Warmath left off.

John Robinson brought Minnesotans a winning Wrestling program, where Minnesotans had only known Vern Gagne and All-Star Wrestling. Our neighbors to the south had always dominated the sport at the collegiate level, so we finally got smart and brought in an Iowa product, and he's got Minnesotans expecting wins over Iowa, now. I expect that if Title IX doesn't do them in first, Robinson shall bring Minnesotans many more Natl Titles.


Les Bolstad was a great teacher, and helped train Patty Berg, among others, and helped make Minnesota one of the top golf states in the nation, which is a big task seeing how its so cold up here for so much of the year.


Roy Griak helped make Minnesota a pretty good running state as well. Bolstad has a golf course named after him, and Griak got a race named after him, that was ran on the Bolstand Golf Course, it I remember correctly?!


And finally, Don Lucia wanted to play for the Gophers way back when. Well, that didn't happen, but he at least got to come back to Minnesota and lead the Gopher's resurgence in Mens Hockey, and with how he is recruiting, they should bring Minnesotans many more Natl Titles, in addition to the 2 they just finished winning.










Now, I am not saying that Puckett, Tarkenton, etc., weren't important sports figures, I am just questioning their relative importance, when compared to others, is all.

Of the 16 people you listed, you only had 2 coaches listed. I find that strange, in that players often come, and then go, and sometimes show up in bad shape, only to be transformed by their coach, into the stars that they are. The Coaches are often the ones who bring these players to Minnesota, and sometimes are the ones who bring the sport, or interest in it, to Minnesota.



Now I am not saying that my list is better than your list, its just different. And I left off all those you had on your list, to show the big contrast. If I were to write my own article, Grant, Kelly & Mikan could end up in my Top 5, but for sure as an HM, at the least, and Puckett, Tarketon & Killebrew would probably/possibly make my list of HMs. My list would probably just end up being a Top 10 or 20 list, so that I could fit everybody on the list, coaches and players, because guys like Bronko Nagurski, Neal Broten, Brock Lesnar, Tom Lehman I'd have a hard time not including as well. Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Carl Eller, etc..


But its just hard for me to single out a single player like that, when the coach seems to me so very much AS responsible. I've heard the arguments about coaches are only as good as their players, and I disagree. I might even argue that players are only as good as their coaches allow them to be. John Gagliardi COACHES SJU to victory over favored Mt Union. Mt Union probably had the more talented team, definitely the bigger team, but as fans that were at the game have expressed, and many who had never seen SJU's before, they were EXTREMELY impressed with his coaching, and they think THAT is what won him that game.



I don't know how into this article or site or whatever you are, but maybe expanding it, or making it into 2-3 sections, one for players, one for coaches, or maybe an old-timers section, and modern guys, I don't know?! If I knew half as much about computers and web design, etc., as I did sports, I'd do it myself, but I don't.
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - No one's gay for Moleman
12/30/2003 @ 05:46:51 PM
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Wow, that is quite the post. It's longer that the original article.
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - 8428 Posts
06/02/2005 @ 05:26:27 PM
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George Mikan died today at the age of 80. I saw that exact picture on the front page of ESPN.com and it reminded me of this article.
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scott.jpgScott - 6091 Posts
01/14/2006 @ 02:52:58 PM
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This is a really old article, I know, but Herb Brooks belongs on the list
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question_mark.gifMatt (Guest)
03/22/2007 @ 05:14:11 PM
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Kirby Puckett is number one on this list. He has not only impacted Minnesota in many ways but he impacted guys like me when I was growing up.
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face.bmpCarlos44ec - 2077 Posts
03/22/2007 @ 07:11:11 PM
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Never saw this until Matt revived it. Good work

I typed this before I saw Moss on here. What the hell?
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Carlos44ec screwed with this at 03/22/2007 7:11:46 pm
thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - 2916 Posts
03/22/2007 @ 08:48:37 PM
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Just so everyone knows... the Matt two comments above is not me (the author of this article and your MBL).
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Matt perfected this 2 times, last at 03/22/2007 8:52:42 pm
fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - 8428 Posts
03/22/2007 @ 09:00:01 PM
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Not only is Kirby indeed number one, I'm not sure you could make a case for anyone else there via a sane argument. I mean, it isn't even close. 2-infinity are debatable, but I don't know of anyone you could even argue is anywhere near there. Infact, I'm not sure it does him justice by even having a #2. Of a top 5 most important he should be 1-3.

emoticon
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thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - Nutcan.com's MBL
03/22/2007 @ 09:16:17 PM
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Well there is Henry L. Williams

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question_mark.gifspecial_eddie (Guest)
04/02/2007 @ 02:48:07 AM
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Herb Carneal passed today. I grew up listening to him. I live far from home now but my home will forever MN .
Herb is in the hall of fame but I thought some should honorable mention here he was the the voice of the twins since they got to MN (45 seasons).I think Dan Gladden is doing his job now.Dan has some big shoe to fill if thats the case.
I still follow the Minnesota Twins as well as other MN sports and I am very proud of my heritage but articles like this just remind me of lucky I am.
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vignette.bmpCarlos44ec - Knuckle Sammich
04/02/2007 @ 10:26:28 AM
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They will definately have a moment of silence at tonight's game, they will do him proud.
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question_mark.gifAnon. Nut Can Fan (Guest)
05/16/2007 @ 02:57:58 PM
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I,m glad that you included Kirby Puckett in this list. I am only 13 years old, but I know that he was an incredible player. I really miss him.
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question_mark.gifMr. Ragulski (Guest)
05/10/2009 @ 03:38:39 PM
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I couldn't agree more with this list. The first comment from Jason has included some very important individuals, but I still think you got it right, definitely with Mikan, Tarkenton, and Kirby! I like this list, very nice.
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question_mark.gifralph (Guest)
07/31/2010 @ 07:17:45 AM
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Please consider deanna farve's husband, BRETT, the best quarterback to ever play the game.
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sarah.jpgSarah - 3569 Posts
07/31/2010 @ 10:30:18 AM
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ralph Wrote - Today @ 07:17:45 AM
Please consider deanna farve's husband, BRETT, the best quarterback to ever play the game.


On Facebook, as most of you know, it recommends different pages that you might like. One that keeps popping up is brett farve. Like 70000 + people have joined it, and it irks me to no end. Same complaint as usual, if you think the guy's so great, spell his freakingly easy last name right!
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question_mark.gifJake (Guest)
01/23/2013 @ 04:13:46 PM
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That's a really bad list. Here's a good one: Calvin Griffith. Bernie Bierman. Bud Grant. Tom Kelly. Kirby Puckett.
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sarah.jpgSarah - 3569 Posts
01/23/2013 @ 07:17:33 PM
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Jake Wrote - Today @ 04:13:46 PM
That's a really bad list. Here's a good one: Calvin Griffith. Bernie Bierman. Bud Grant. Tom Kelly. Kirby Puckett.

So terrible that 2 of the people you chose are on the list and one is included as an honorable mention.

Side note - what was the great softball debacle of 2001? I don't remember....emoticon
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matt.jpgMatt - 2916 Posts
01/25/2013 @ 10:22:21 AM
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I stand by the list I hastily made off the top of my head 10 years ago.

As for The Great Softball Debacle of 2001, I'm assuming I was referring to something that happened when I was playing on the Kohl's team. It's too long and too boring to get into here.
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question_mark.gifJake (Guest)
01/26/2013 @ 10:16:26 PM
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(1) Honorable mentions? We're talking Top Five, we're not talking honorable mentions. At least I'm not. (2) Why would anyone publish something for all the world to see, that will be permanent for as long as there's an Internet, that they did "hastily off the top of their head?" It just ain't worthy of Minnesota sports history. It's disrespectful. (3) I realize I'm being grumpy about all of this. Grumpy, and not interested in publishing something "off the top of my head."
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jon.jpgJon - 2411 Posts
01/26/2013 @ 11:48:55 PM
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Jake Wrote - Yesterday @ 10:16:26 PM
... It's disrespectful. ...


Agreed. I, for one, am totally outraged.

Then again, on second thought, maybe the ranking isn't quite as disrespectful as finding a harmless list on the internet and leading off your rebuttal with, "that's a really bad list."

But, hey, maybe that's just me.
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Jon screwed with this at 01/27/2013 12:08:48 am
scott.jpgScott - Get Up! Get outta here! Gone!
01/28/2013 @ 09:24:50 AM
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No one hates my response to this article. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
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Scott perfected this 2 times, last at 01/28/2013 10:33:13 am
thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - 2916 Posts
01/28/2013 @ 10:33:50 AM
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It might be a bad thing, because, frankly, I forgot your article even existed, and I even commented on it at the time. I guess no one really cares enough about Wisconsin sports.emoticon
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jon.jpgJon - 2411 Posts
01/29/2013 @ 09:08:24 PM
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I think Gordon Bombay should have been on this list.
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scott.jpgScott - You're going to have to call your hardware guy. It's not a software issue.
01/30/2013 @ 10:29:37 AM
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Jon Wrote - Yesterday @ 09:08:24 PM
I think Gordon Bombay should have been on this list.


If Herb Brooks, a real hockey coach, didn't make the list, I'm not sure a fictional hockey coach is breaking through any time soon. Although only one of these guys had a shoe named after him. #itwasaloafer
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thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - 2916 Posts
01/30/2013 @ 11:54:27 AM
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Um... I pretty sure Herb Brooks wasn't real either. That was the name of the character Kurt Russell played in the movie "Miracle" a few years ago.
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scott.jpgScott - 6091 Posts
01/30/2013 @ 12:45:38 PM
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Matt Wrote - Today @ 11:54:27 AM
Um... I pretty sure Herb Brooks wasn't real either. That was the name of the character Kurt Russell played in the movie "Miracle" a few years ago.

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