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Beamon, Bob  

Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...


Bing, Dave  

Thomas Aiello

basketball player. David Bing was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended Spingarn High School. He starred on the Spingarn basketball team, earning All-Metro honors and in 1962 being named a Parade All-American. That success drew the attention of the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles, but Bing instead chose to attend Syracuse University, reasoning that he would be more successful at a basketball program with a lower profile. He was correct. In three of his four seasons at Syracuse, Bing led the team in scoring, averaging more than twenty points a game. In his senior year (1966) Bing averaged 28.4 points a game—fifth highest in the country—and was named an All-American. Meanwhile he turned the perennially struggling Syracuse into a winning program. Professional scouts noticed, and in 1966 the Detroit Pistons drafted Bing in the first round of ...


Blount, Mel  

Daniel A. Dalrymple

football player, was born Melvin Carnell Blount in Vidalia, Georgia. Blount was the youngest of eleven children who grew up in rural Georgia in extreme poverty, often going barefoot and living in a home with no indoor plumbing. Blount's father, a deeply religious man, instilled values in his children through hard work and high expectations, and Blount recalled that some of the most satisfying moments of his childhood came from doing chores for his father and earning his praise. Blount learned football from his seven older brothers, who played a rough brand of football in which Blount excelled at an early age. In high school Blount proved that he was a gifted athlete on the football field and beyond. He was a multiple‐sports star, running track as well as playing baseball, basketball, and football. Blount made such an impression in high school that by the time he graduated in 1966 ...


Bol, Manute  

Boyd Childress

professional basketball player and humanitarian activist, was born in Gogrial, Sudan. Born to Madut and Okwok Bol, his father was a herder in the Sudan. Legend has it that Bol, who shared this task, once killed a lion with a spear while tending the family's cattle. Members of the Dinka tribe, noteworthy for their height, Bol's parents were tall—his mother was 6 feet 10 inches. Bol grew to an extraordinary 7 feet 7 inches. When he was a teenager with such height, a cousin suggested he take up basketball. Playing for a team in the larger city of Wau and later in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Bol was discovered by Don Feeley, a coach from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He came to the United States in 1983 and although he weighed only 180 pounds and lacked athleticism Bol was drafted by the then ...


Bol, Manute  

Jeremy Rich

basketball player, was born on 16 October 1962 near Gogrial, South Sudan, at that time part of the Republic of Sudan. His family belonged to the Dinka ethnic community, of which his father, Madut Bol, was a local chief. Okwok Bol was his mother. Like many of his siblings, Bol grew up raising cattle for his family. Even though his parents were both well over six feet tall, Bol's height was impressive. By eighteen, he had reached 7 feet 7 inches. He first played soccer, the national sport in Sudan, but his height was such a disadvantage that he gave up the sport. In 1979 Bol began to play basketball This late start explains the limitations of his later career However the towering Bol soon proved himself to be a master at shot blocking and interior defense He moved to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and played ...


Brown, Jim  

Julian C. Madison

athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...


Hines, James  

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born James Ray Hines in Dumas, Arkansas, the ninth of twelve children of Charlie Hines and Minnie West Hines. In 1952 the Hines family moved to Oakland, California, where his father worked in construction and his mother in a cannery. At Oakland’s Lowell Junior High School, Hines played center field on the baseball team; his speed at that position impressed Jim Coleman, the McClymonds High School track and field coach, who asked him to join the track team. Once at McClymonds, Hines began specializing in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Undefeated throughout his high school career at both distances, he clocked 9.7 seconds in the 100 yards as a sophomore, and improved to 9.4 as a senior, to earn a share of the national high school record. Graduating high school in 1964, Hines ranked as the nation’s top high school sprinter.

Hines earned an athletic scholarship to run ...


Howell, Abner Leonard  

Laura M. Calkins

football player, was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, to Paul C. and Mary Howell. Little is known of their early lives, but in the late 1880s Howell's parents decided to leave Louisiana, seeking a new life in the American West. In 1888 the Howell family and their six children (Abner was the only boy) reached Dodge City, Kansas, and then traveled together to Trinidad, Colorado. Under unknown circumstances, the family split up; Paul Howell went ahead by train, reaching Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1888. Mary and the children remained in Colorado until 1890 when they were able to join Paul in Salt Lake City where he had been hired as the city s first black policeman Although Paul and Mary Howell did not join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints LDS which was based in Salt Lake City and commonly known as the ...


Jones, David “Deacon”  

Wayne L. Wilson

football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.

However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...


McGuire-Duvall, Edith  

Jamal Ratchford

track and field athlete, was born Edith McGuire in Rockdale, Georgia, one of four children of Alberta, a domestic worker, and Clifford McGuire, a railroad worker. As a child, McGuire first participated in track and field at her elementary school during its May Day celebration. She next attended Samuel Howard Archer High School and was coached by Georgia Sports Hall-of-Fame member Marian Morgan and Olympian Mildred McDaniel Gold. As a high school student-athlete McGuire excelled in the classroom and was selected to the honor roll. She also participated in cheerleading, basketball, and track and field. At the age of 15, McGuire defeated top-ranked local sprinter Fronnie Tucker, and Morgan recommended she attend Coach Ed Temple's summer camp at Texas Southern University. In the summer of 1960 between her junior and senior years of high school McGuire attended Coach Temple s track and field ...


Moon, Harold Warren  

Andrew James Kellett

professional football quarterback, was born in Los Angeles, California, the fourth of seven children (and only son) born to Harold Warren Moon, a janitor, and Pat Moon, a nurse. In 1963 the elder Harold Moon died suddenly of liver and heart ailments, leaving Pat to raise Warren and his six sisters. Warren played almost every sport growing up, but had decided by the age of fourteen that football offered his likeliest shot at a professional career. Thus he attended Los Angeles's Hamilton High School even though it was outside his school district, as much because of its reputation for football as for its academic strength.Moon was the varsity starting quarterback his junior and senior years at Hamilton overcoming Los Angeles s rising gang culture more than once his life was threatened by gang members at rival high schools and apparent racism though a prolific passer on ...


Moore, Lenny  

Michael Adams

professional football player, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Virginia Moore and George Moore, a steel-mill worker. At Reading High School Moore starred in track, but football would become his main focus: Moore scored twenty-two touchdowns during his senior season in 1951, earning a scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. Penn State coach Rip Engle would not allow players to wear the low-cut shoes Moore had worn in high school. Uncomfortable with high-top shoes, Moore learned from teammate Bob Pollard that he could use tape to eliminate the tightness of the upper part of the shoe. Because of this white tape, Moore became known as “Spats.”

Moore became the first Penn State running back to gain over one thousand yards in a season. After graduating in 1956, he was chosen by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1956 National ...


Murray, Eddie  

Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born Eddie Clarence Murray in Los Angeles to Charles Murray, a rug company mechanic, and Carrie Murray. The eighth of twelve children, Eddie was raised in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Watts, but was closely watched by his parents, who readily dispensed chores and discipline. Playing baseball in the backyard, he and his siblings used broomstick handles to hit tin foil balls and swerving Crisco can lids. Though he also played basketball at Locke High, Eddie was the star first baseman and pitcher on the diamond, where he played with the future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Scoring admirably on a psychological exam given to amateur players, the results of the exam showed that he had “tremendous emotional control. He had a lot of drive, but it was masked by his emotional control,” according to former Orioles scout Dave Ritterpusch (Christensen The ...


Puckett, Kirby  

Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of nine children of William Puckett, a department store and postal worker, and Catherine Puckett, a homemaker. Growing up in the crime-ridden Robert Taylor Homes projects, Puckett taught himself baseball fundamentals at an early age, throwing sock balls at a chalk strike zone on building walls. As a third baseman at Calumet High, he lifted weights to compensate for his diminutive (five-foot, eight-inch) stature.

After receiving little collegiate attention his senior year, Puckett worked on a Ford assembly line following graduation in 1979 at the age of 19 Noticed by a college coach at a free agent tryout Puckett was offered a scholarship to Bradley University Though small and round the atypical body for a centerfielder let alone leading base stealer the speedy Puckett moved to center field and led the ...


Renfro, Mel  

Michael C. Miller

football player, was born Melvin Lacy Elisha Renfro in Houston, Texas. When Mel was four his family moved to Portland, Oregon. He attended Jefferson High School, where he excelled as a football player, playing offense (quarterback and running back), defense (defensive back), and special teams (kick and punt returner). Renfro led Jefferson to thirty-four consecutive victories, including three state championships. The only loss he suffered was the state championship his senior year. He graduated high school in 1960.

Renfro attended Oregon University where he ran track and played football becoming one of the best players in the school s history As in high school he played offense defense and special teams For his career he amassed 1 540 rushing yards averaging 5 5 yards per carry and twenty three touchdowns On defense he played safety and once recorded an astounding twenty one tackles in a game against Ohio ...


Robinson, David  

SaFiya D. Hoskins

basketball player, was born David Maurice Robinson in Key West, Florida, the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson His father was a naval officer and his mother was a nurse Robinson s father was required to travel frequently The family moved to Virginia Beach Virginia when he was young and when his father retired from the navy they finally settled in Woodbridge Virginia Robinson was an excellent student and from the age of six attended schools for gifted children In junior high school he continued his exceptional scholarship and standing 5 feet 9 inches tall demonstrated extraordinary athleticism in many sports with the exception of basketball It was not until his senior year at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas Virginia that the then 6 foot 7 inch tall Robinson joined the basketball team He earned area and district honors in his first season Robinson achieved high ...


Sayers, Gale  

Michael Ezra

football player, was born in Wichita, Kansas, one of three children of Roger Winfield Sayers, a car polisher and mechanic for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Bernice Ross. In 1951 the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Roger Sayers's brother lived. But financial difficulties forced the family to move within the city nine times in eight years. By the time Gale entered high school, his parents were suffering from depression and alcohol abuse, and the family lived in poverty. Because they often had no coal for their furnace, Gale and his two brothers would turn on the kitchen's gas oven for nighttime heat, which often caused them to wake up feeling sick.Despite such adversity Sayers thrived while in Omaha because the city gave him opportunities to compete in sports At the Howard Kennedy grade school Sayers led his teams to city titles in baseball ...


Smith, Ozzie  

Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born Osborne Earl Smith in Mobile, Alabama, to Clovis Smith, a truck driver, and Marvella Smith, a homemaker. When Ozzie was six, his parents moved with their five children to the Watts section of Los Angeles. Smith took up baseball at a young age, and rarely went anywhere without a ball in his hands. Developing his hand-eye coordination by spending hours fielding a rubber ball thrown against his house, Smith eventually played shortstop at Locke High School, which he entered in the fall of 1969. His small frame kept him from being noticed by baseball scouts, many of whom were interested in Smith's teammate and future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray.

Graduating from high school in 1973 Smith enrolled that fall at California State Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo on a government grant and made the baseball team as a walk on ...


Staley, Dawn  

Thomas A. Mogan

professional basketball player, college coach, author, and foundation president, was born Dawn Michele Staley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Clarence and Estelle Staley. The youngest of five children, Staley grew up playing sports with neighborhood boys on the streets of North Philadelphia.

Staley enjoyed success at every level of athletic competition, beginning with her high school basketball career. She led Dobbins Tech to three Philadelphia Public League titles and was named USA Today Player of the Year during her senior season in 1988. Staley went on to the University of Virginia, where she led the Cavaliers to three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four tournaments in her four seasons in Charlottesville. Standing only five-feet six-inches tall, Staley relied on her quickness, intelligence, and unmatched intensity to succeed as a point guard. She was named National Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992 She ...


Unseld, Westley Sissel  

Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, executive, and coach, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles D. Unseld, a blue-collar worker, and Cornelia D. Unseld, a school cafeteria worker. The Unselds had seven children of their own and two adopted boys. In 1963 the National Conference of Christians and Jews honored the family with its brotherhood award for rebuilding a local recreation center damaged by a fire. The seed of community service was planted early in Wes Unseld's life and remained important to him. Athletic ability in the Unseld family was not limited to Wes. His brother George played basketball at the University of Kansas from 1962 to 1964. Wes credited Carl Wright, his freshman high school coach, with fueling his interest in basketball. Wright developed Wes's basketball skills in daily one-on-one contests.

At Seneca High in Louisville Unseld played football and won the state championship in ...