6. Bob Uecker
While he has never been known for his athletic achievements, Bob Uecker is as engrained in Wisconsin's sports tradition as any figure could possibly be. Born in Milwaukee, Mr. Baseball played for the Milwaukee Braves during the 1962 and 1963 seasons as a backup catcher. When his playing career ended, arguably one of the worst playing careers in major league history, he joined the broadcasting crew for Milwaukee Brewers in 1970 and has been the voice of the Brewers ever since. He starred in the baseball flick, Major League, playing an often inebriated Harry Doyle, the announcer for the Cleveland Indians, which debuted in 1989. He was elected to the baseball hall of fame in 2003, receiving the Ford C. Frick Award which is awarded annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball". There were no summer days too hot for listening to Ueck make the calls for the Crew. "Juuuust a bit outside, he shot the corner and missed." And his signature home call has become so legendary, that it now lights up in Miller Park when a Brewer hits a home run. "Get up, get outta here, gone!". Since 1992, the Brewers have not posted a winning season, and since 1982 the Brewers have not been to the playoffs. But throughout these trying times, Bob Uecker has brought a glimmer of sunshine into many Brewer fans who just won't give in.
5. Robin Yount
Rockin' Robin was a gem of a player. In a era currently dominated by free agency in all sports where you're lucky to find a guy who stays with any particular team more than a handful of seasons, Robin Yount was as steady as they come. He spent every one of his 20 seasons wearing a Brewer Uniform, and did he ever wear it well. He won the American League MVP twice, once as a short stop in 1982, and once as a centerfielder in 1989. He is the only player to ever win the MVP at two different positions. Along with his MVP honors in 1982, he combined that with a Gold Glove and he lead the league in Slugging percentage, OPS, hits, doubles, and total bases. 1982 culminated with the Brewers reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history, resulting in the Brewers losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Upon returning to Milwaukee, the Brewers were expecting a meager crowd to greet them back. As the players were being introduced at County Stadium, Robin Yount rode in on a dirt bike, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The act turned into legend, and Brewer fans everywhere still remember this memorable act of rebellion. As legend has it, Yount was introduced, rode in from the bullpen, approached the microphone, and announced to the 20,000 fans in attendance, "I don't know if you realized this, but we lost." He topped off his brilliant career by becoming just the 17th player to record 3,000 hits, recording the feat on September 9, 1992. Yount was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1999, retiring with 3,142 career hits and a .285 career batting average. He retired having helped the Brewers become a legitimate baseball franchise.
4. Barry Alvarez
"Don't flinch." Those were the words the newly signed Wisconsin Badger's football coach told the press in his first press conference since being signed prior to the 1990 season. To say that Alvarez turned the Badger football program around would be a gross mischaracterization of the prior program. In order to turn a program around, there has to be a legitimate program there to begin with. The Badgers were inconsistent at best over prior to 1990. Between the years 1989 and 1990, the Badgers put together a total of four wins. In the 10 years prior to Alvarez, the Badgers put together a 50-67 record. The Badgers had failed to win a conference title since 1962, and they had been to six total Bowl games, with a 1-5 record to boot. Enter Barry Alvarez, who had left Notre Dame as an assistant to coach the seemingly hapless Badgers. While his first year was rough, his confidence and bold warning to those listening, his famous "Don't flinch" prophecy came true. In 1993, Alvarez led the Badgers to their first Rose Bowl win in school history. Alvarez would lead his Badgers to 10 more bowl games, winning a total of three Rose Bowls, and becoming one of the winningest coaches in Bowl history with a record of 8-3. He also led the Badgers to Big Ten titles in 1993, 1998, and 1999. Among other things, he is responsible for the Badgers logo, appropriately nicknamed the "Forward W," because of his vision that Wisconsin football was going to be run right now that he was in charge. Alvarez retired in 2005 and is currently the Athletic Director for the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers are now a perennial powerhouse, always contending for post season competition. And despite Alvarez no longer being at the helms, most Badger fans are confident that their beloved football team will forever be a contender thanks to the legacy of the great Barry Alvarez.
3. Hank Aaron
Here's a man that needs no introduction. And while many will claim that he don't belong on a list of Wisconsin sports figures, he definitely carved his mark as one of the greatest and most important figures in Wisconsin sports history. Hammerin' Hank Aaron spent 14 of his 23 years in a Milwaukee uniform, 12 with the Milwaukee Braves and his final two years with the Milwaukee Brewers. He started his playing career in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, playing for the Eau Claire Bears at legendary Carson Park. He helped the Milwaukee Braves win their first World Series in 1957. Oh yeah, he cracked 755 career homeruns unassisted by any artificial enhancements. While his homerun record is definitely the most hallowed record in all of sports, he was not a one-dimensional player. The right-fielder won three Gold Glove awards, won two batting titles, while only leading the league in homeruns four times. His career high for homeruns was 44 ('57, '63, '66), a meager mark by today's standards, but he only ever hit less than 30 in a season three times. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982, retiring with 755 homeruns and 3771 career hits, first and third all-time, respectively.
2. Brett Favre
Is he a legitimate figure in the realm of most important Wisconsin figures even though he is still playing? The answer is an astounding yes. Despite the fact that he is still playing, there are very few players for any team in any sport that have the respect and admiration around the sports world as Brett Favre does. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers from the Atlanta Falcons in 1992, and helped a franchise in misery since the late 1960s gain its former glory. He brought excitement to the state of Wisconsin that it had not seen since the days of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, and Paul Horning, legends in their own right. And he did all this by becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks and greatest football players of all time. His stats speak for themselves; three straight MVP awards; over 5000 career completions; over 400 career touchdown passes; and over 57,000 passing yards. His legendary playing ability helped Packers become one of the league's winningest franchises over the course of his career. He was a master of comeback victories, leading the Pack to 35 4th quarter or overtime victories. He also has proven to be one of the most durable players in NFL history, putting together 237 consecutive starts from the 1992 season through the end of the 2006 season. His performance on the field as well as his character off the field has forever cemented him as one of the most important figures in Wisconsin sports history.
1. Vince Lombardi
"Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly pursue perfection knowing full well that we will never achieve it. But in that relentless pursuit we will achieve excellence. I am not even remotely interested in being good." Bart Starr recalled this about his first encounter with his new coach, Vince Lombardi, at the first team meeting in 1959. He was as serious a man as you could have met. He was meticulous in his ways, and there was method to all of his madness. What did was take a team that was as bad in the 1950s (having a record of 22-66-2) as the Cincinnati Bengals were in the 90s, and turned them into a team that compiled more championships in an eight year span than any other football franchise has ever done before or since, winning five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. He commanded respect from all of his players, and the hard work and performance on the field is a credit to his demand for perfection. "Leaders are made, they are not born." He was honored as NFL Man of the Decade for the 1960s, had the Super Bowl trophy named after him, inducted into the pro football hall of fame in 1971, and was named ESPN Coach of the Century in the year 2000, ever cementing him as one of the greatest figures in all of sports. In Wisconsin today, Vince Lombardi is revered, perhaps to an extreme, where and whenever his name or the Packers are brought up. In fact, prior to Brett Favre, Vince Lombardi was the name that virtually anyone thought of when they thought about the Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi may very well be the most important figure in Wisconsin Sports History.
Curly Lambeau--founder of the Green Bay Packer
Paul Molitor--Milwaukee Brewers 3rd baseman from 1978-1992. Inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2004
Mike Holmgren--Coach of Green Bay Packers from 1992-1998. Won Super Bowl XXXI.
Jeff Sauer--Wisconsin Badger Hockey Coach 1982-2002; 655 career wins, 2 national titles
Lew Alcinder--Milwaukee Bucks 1969-1975. Helped Milwaukee Bucks win 1971 NBA Championship
Eddie Mathews--Milwaukee Braves 1953-65; 3rd baseman, 512 career homeruns; inducted to hall of fame in 1978
Dick Bennett--Badger basketball coach 1995-2000; led Badgers to first and only final four appearance, led Badgers to 3 NCAA tournaments (school had only played in 3 tournaments in the previous 97 years)
Al McGuire--Marquette Basketball coach 1964-1977; 295-80 record, 1977 NCAA Championship, 1970 NIT Championship,
Eric Heiden--Born in Madison; 1980 Olymics, won 5 gold medals for speed skating. Set the world record in the 500m race, and Olympic records in the 1000m, 1500, and 5000m races. Elected to US Olympic hall of fame in 1983.