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Baseball

Elden Auker

  • Born: September 21, 1910
  • Died: August 4, 2006
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Norcatur

Achievement:

Elden Auker was a star at Kansas State University and was called "the greatest all-around athlete in Kansas State history." He was a three sport star at K-State earning All-Conference honors in baseball, basketball, and football and All-American honors in baseball and football. He went on to play ten years of professional baseball as a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Browns. He helped the Tigers reach two World Series' winning one. He had a career record of 130-101 with 594 strikeouts and 128 complete games. The first batter he faced was Babe Ruth and stuck him out on four pitches. He is a member of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Elden Auker image
Elden Auker
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Aaron Crow

  • Born: November 10, 1986
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Aaron Crow was a two-time All-Conference pitcher, Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, and an All-American at the University of Missouri. He was drafted first round of the 2009 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft by the Kansas City Royals and has played four seasons with the Royals and Miami Marlins. He made his MLB debut in 2011 and represented the Royals in the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.

Aaron Crow image
Aaron Crow
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Darren Daulton

  • Born: January 3, 1962
  • Died: August 6, 2017
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Arkansas City

Achievement:

Nicknamed "Dutch," Darren Daulton was a catcher who was drafted in the 25th round of the 1980 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft by the Philadelphia Phillies and play 14 seasons with the Phillies and the Florida Marlins. He was a four-time National League (NL) All-Star, won the 1992 Silver Slugger Award, was named the 1997 NL Comeback Player of the Year, and played in two World Series, winning one. He is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Darren Daulton image
Darren Daulton
Photo courtesy of The Topps Company

Walter Johnson

  • Born: November 6, 1887
  • Died: December 10, 1946
  • Connection to Kansas: Born near Humboldt

Achievement:

Nicknamed "The Big Train," Walter Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his MLB debut in 1907 for the Washington Senators and played the next 21 seasons before retiring in 1927. He finished his career with a record of 417-279 (the second-most wins all-time), 110 shutous (most all-time), 531 complete games (fourth-most all-time), and 3,508 strikeouts (the most when he retired, now nineth-most all-time). He was named American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice, led the AL in wins six times, in strikeouts tweleve times, and in earned run average (ERA) five times. He won the pitching Triple Crown three times and led the Senators to World Series championship in 1924 and another World Series appearance in 1925. He was one of the first five players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 and is also a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Walter Johnson image
Walter Johnson
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Paul Lindblad

  • Born: August 9, 1941
  • Died: January 1, 2006
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Chanute

Achievement:

Paul Lindblad was one of the most effective left-handed middle-relief pitchers in Major League Baseball (MLB) from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. He signed with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics in 1963 and played 14 seasons with the Athletics, the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, and the New York Yankees. He was a member of three World Series teams, winning two, set an MLB record of 385 games without making an error, and in 1975 helped pitch a combined no-hitter against the California Angels. He is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Paul Lindblad image
Paul Lindblad
Photo courtesy of MLB Photos

Bill Russell

  • Born: October 21, 1948
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Pittsburg

Achievement:

Bill Russell played in more games than any player in Los Angeles Dodgers' history (2,181) and was a mainstay at the shortstop position during his 18 year career. He had a career batting average of .263, tallied nearly 2,000 hits, was a three-time National League All-Star, and played in four World Series' with the Dodgers, winning one. He would later win another World Series with the Dodgers as a coach. He is considered on of the all-time Dodger greats and is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Bill Russell image
Bill Russell
Photo courtesy of MLB Photos

Joe Tinker

  • Born: July 27, 1880
  • Died: July 27, 1948
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Muscotah

Achievement:

Joe Tinker was a shortstop and part of the greatest double-play combinations of the early 20th century. He played thirteen seasons in Major League Baseball with the Chicago Cubs and Cincinatti Reds and helped lead the Cubs to four National League (NL) pennants and two World Series championships. He led the NL in fielding five times and still holds the Cubs' record for assists (5,083) and putouts (3,248). He is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Joe Tinker image
Joe Tinker
Photo by Charles M. Conlon

Mike Torrez

  • Born: August 28, 1946
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Mike Torrez began his Major League Baseball (MLB) career as a pitcher in 1964 when he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and played 18 seasons with the Cardinals, Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and the New York Mets. He had a career record of 185-160 with a 3.96 earned run average (ERA) and 1,404 strikeouts. He helped the New York Yankees win the 1977 World Series where he won two games in the series. He is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Mike Torrez image
Mike Torrez
Photo courtesy of MLB Photos

Joe Wilhoit

  • Born: December 20, 1885
  • Died: September 25, 1930
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Hiawatha

Achievement:

Joe Wilhoit was a Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder who played from 1916 to 1919 with the Boston Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants, and Boston Red Sox. He is most noted for holding the record for most consecutive games with a hit (69) in Minor League Baseball history from June 14 to August 19, 1919 while he was a member of the Wichita Jobbers.

Joe Wilhoit image
Joe Wilhoit
Photo courtesy of wilhoitfamily.com

Bowling

Chris Barnes

  • Born: February 25, 1970
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Chris Barnes has been an accomplished bowler beginning at an early age. He bowled for Wichita State University where he was a two-time All-American and Collegiate Bowler of the Year. He joined the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour in 1998 went on the win the PBA Rookie of the Year Award. He has won 19 PBA Tour titles to date, has been named PBA Player of the Year, is one of six players to earn a career "triple crown," and has rolled 55 perfect 300 games. He is a member of the PBA Hall of Fame.

Chris Barnes image
Chris Barnes
Photo courtesy of the PBA Tour

Boxing

Victor Ortiz

  • Born: January 31, 1987
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Garden City

Achievement:

Victor Ortiz is a professional boxer who has compiled a 32-6-3 record since turning pro in 2005. Competing in the Light Welterweight (140 lbs) and the Welterweight (147 lbs) he was rated as one of the top welterweights in the world. He held the United State Boxing Association (USBA) and North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Light Welterweight titles in 2008 and 2009 and then held the World Boxing Council (WBC) Welterweight title in 2011.

Victor Ortiz image
Victor Ortiz
Photo by Tom Hogan Photos

Jess Willard

  • Born: December 29, 1881
  • Died: December 15, 1968
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Pottawatomie County

Achievement:

Nicknamed the "Pottawatomie Giant," Jess Willard was for a long time the largest man (6'6" tall and 235 pounds) ever to win the world heavyweight boxing championship. Using his size and stamina he was able to overpower his opponents and in 1915 he defeated Jack Johnson to win the world heavyweight championship and held the title until 1919. He had a career record of 26-6-1. He is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Jess Willard image
Jess Willard
Photo courtesy of boxing-cards.com

Football

Jack Christiansen

  • Born: December 20, 1928
  • Died: June 29, 1986
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Sublette

Achievement:

Jack Christiansen was a standout defensive back at Colorado State University and was selected in the sixth round of the 1951 National Football League (NFL) draft by the Detroit Lions and played eight seasons with the Lions. He helped lead the Lions to three NFL championships and ranks fourth all-time in interceptions (46) and first in punt return average (12.8 yards) and punt return touchdowns (8) in Lions' team history. He was a six-time All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl five times, and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jack Christiansen image
Jack Christiansen
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Lynn Dickey

  • Born: October 19, 1949
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Paola, raised in Osawatomie

Achievement:

Lynn Dickey was an All-State quarterback in high school who then became an All-Conference player at Kansas State University where he set numerous passing records. He was named All-Time Big 8 Conference quarterback and his #11 jersey was retired. He was drafted in the third round of the 1971 National Football League (NFL) draft by the Houston Oilers and played 13 seasons with the Oilers and Green Bay Packers. He led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 1983 and was selected as an All-Pro. He set several Packers' passing records, retiring as their second all- time leading passer (now fourth). He is a member of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, the K-State Football Ring of Honor, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Lynn Dickey image
Lynn Dickey
Photo by Dale Hofmann/Milwaukee Sentinel

Steve Grogan

  • Born: July 24, 1953
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Graduated high school in Ottawa

Achievement:

Steve Grogan was a standout high school player in football, basketball, and track and went on to play quarterback at Kansas State University. At K-State he ranked among the school's all-time passing and total offense leaders when he graduated and his #11 jersey was retired by the school. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1975 National Football League (NFL) draft by the New England Patriots and played 15 seasons with the Patriots. He led the Patriots to the NFL playoffs four times including playing in Super Bowl. He set an NFL record for most rushing touchdowns in a season (12), which stood for 35 years, and rank third all-time in passing yards and second all-time in touchdowns in Patriots history. He is a member of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, the K-State Football Ring of Honor, the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Steve Grogan image
Steve Grogan
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Brian Moorman

  • Born: February 5, 1976
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita

Achievement:

Brian Moorman was a All-State football player in high school who went to Pittsburg State University and was a four-time All-American punter and a ten-time All-American in track and field and won three straight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II championships in the 400 meter hurdles. He was signed as a free agent in 2001 by the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL) and played 14 seasons with the Bills and Dallas Cowboys. He holds the record for longest punt in Bills' history (84 yards), won American Football Conference (AFC) Special Teams Player of the Week five times, AFC Special Teams Player of the Month twice, was a two-time All-Pro, and selected to the Pro Bowl twice. He is a member of the Pittsburg State Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Brian Moorman image
Brian Moorman
Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills

Jordy Nelson

  • Born: May 31, 1985
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Manhattan

Achievement:

Jordy Nelson was an All-State athlete in three sports in high school who then went on to become an All-American wide receiver at Kansas State University. He holds the K-State record for most receptions (122) and most receiving yards (1,606) in a season and sits third in career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was drafted in the second round of the 2008 National Football League (NFL) draft by the Green Bay Packers and has played nine seasons with the Packers and Oakland Raiders to date. He sits third in receptions (550), fifth in receiving yards (7,848), and second in receiving touchdowns (69) in Packers' history. He helped the Packers win Super Bowl XLV, was named an All-Pro in 2014, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. He is a member of the K-State Football Ring of Honor.

Jordy Nelson image
Jordy Nelson
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Harold Patterson

  • Born: October 4, 1931
  • Died: November 21, 2011
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Garden City, raised in Rozel

Achievement:

Harold Patterson was a standout all-around athlete at Garden City Community College and the University of Kansas and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1954 National Football League (NFL) draft. He instead signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and played 14 season as a defensive back and wide receiver for the Alouettes and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He finished his career with 460 receptions for 9,473 yards and 64 touchdowns and still hold the CFL record for most receiving yards in a game (338). He was an 11-time CFL All-Star, was the 1956 CFL most valuable player, and played in nine Grey Cups winning three. His #75 jersey was retired by the Alouettes. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the KU Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Harold Patterson image
Harold Patterson
Photo courtesy of the Library and Archives of Canada

John Riggins

  • Born: August 4, 1949
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Seneca

Achievement:

John Riggins was a powerful running back who was a high school All-American who attended the University of Kansas where he was an All-American and finished his career as the Jayhawks' all-time leading rusher. He was drafted in the first round of the 1971 National Football League (NFL) draft by the New York Jets and played from 1971 to 1985 with the Jets and also with the Washington Redskins. During his career he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975, was named an All-Pro in 1983, helped the Redskins play in two Super Bowls, winning one, was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XVII, and is 17th in career rushing yards (11,352). He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Washington Redskins Hall of Fame, the KU Athletics Hall of Fame, the KU Football Ring of Honor, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

John Riggins image
John Riggins
Photo by Paul Spinelli/AP

Barry Sanders

  • Born: July 16, 1968
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita

Achievement:

One of the most prolific running backs in National Football League (NFL) history, Barry Sanders was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and played for the Lions from 1989 to 1998. He was the 1989 NFL Rookie of the Year, a ten-time All-Pro, selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his ten seasons, was the NFL rushing champion four times, was a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1997. He is third all-time in rushing yards (15,269), one of seven players to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and still holds three NFL records. His #20 was retired by the Lions. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Detroit Lions Hall of Fame, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

See also under College Athletes.

Barry Sanders image
Barry Sanders
Photo by David Stluka/AP

Gale Sayers

  • Born: May 30, 1943
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Wichita

Achievement:

Knicknamed "The Kansas Comet," Gale Sayers was a two-time consensus All-American running back at the University of Kansas who finished his college career as KUs all-time leading rusher. His #48 jersey was retired. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1965 National Football League (NFL) Draft and played for the Bears from 1965 to 1971. He was the 1965 NFL Rookie of the Year, a five-time All-Pro, selected to the Pro Bowl four times, was a two-time NFL rushing champion and still holds four NFL records. His #40 jersey was retired by the Bears and he was the youngest player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the KU Athletics Hall of Fame, the KU Football Ring of Honor, the Chicago Bears Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Gale Sayers image
Gale Sayers
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears

Steve Tasker

  • Born: April 10, 1962
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Smith Center, raised in Leoti

Achievement:

Steve Tasker is widely regarded as one of the greatest special teams players in the history of the National Football League (NFL) despite his small stature. He was a standout athlete in high school who attended Dodge City Community College before tranferring to Northwestern University. He was drafted in the nineth round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Houston Oilers and played 13 seasons with the Oilers and Buffalo Bills. He played in four Super Bowls, was a seven-time All-Pro, selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, and is the only special teams player to be named Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player. He currently works as an announcer for the NFL on CBS. He is a member of the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Steve Tasker image
Steve Tasker
Photo by Gene Puskar/AP

Golf

Jim Colbert

  • Born: March 9, 1941
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Raised in Roeland Park

Achievement:

Jim Colbert was a highly successfull college golfer at Kansas State University finishing runner-up in the 1964 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. He joined the Professional Golfer's Association (PGA) Tour in 1965 and won eight tournaments between 1969 and 1983. He joined the Champions Tour in 1991 and has compiled 20 tournament wins including one major championship (Senior Players Championship). He is a member of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Jim Colbert image
Jim Colbert
Photo courtesy of the PGA Tour

Deb Richard

  • Born: June 13, 1963
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Raised in Manhattan

Achievement:

Deb Richard was one of the best female golfers ever produced by the state of Kansas. In high school she one three consecutive state championships and then claimed the Kansas Women's Amateur title in 1982 and 1983. She attended the University of Florida where she won three consecutive conference championships and placed runner-up in the 1985 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Women's Golf Championship. She then played on the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) Tour for 20 years and had six tournament wins and 70 top-ten finishes. She is a member of the University of Florida Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Deb Richard image
Deb Richard
Photo courtesy of The Wichita Eagle

Marilynn Smith

  • Born:April 13, 1929
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

A pioneer in women's golf, Marilynn Smith won three straight Kansas Women's Amateur Championships and followed that up by winning the Women's Intercollegiate Golf Championship while playing for the Univesity of Kansas. In 1950 she was one of the co-founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and went on to record 21 wins on the LPGA Tour including two major championships. She is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Marilynn Smith image
Marilynn Smith
Photo courtesy of USAToday

Tom Watson

  • Born: September 4, 1949
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Lives in Stilwell

Achievement:

Considered one of the greatest and most successful golfers of all time, Tom Watson has played on the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Tour and Champions Tour since 1971. He has won 39 PGA Tour events including eight major championships (the Masters Tournament twice, the U.S. Open once, and the British Open five times) and has won 14 Champions Tour events including six senior major championships. He played on four United States Ryder Cup teams and was captain of the American team in 1993 and 2014. He was named PGA Player of the Year six times, was the PGA Tour leading money winner five times, and was ranked #1 in the world from 1978 to 1982. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, the Stanford University Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Tom Watson image
Tom Watson
Photo courtesy of tomwatson.com

Gary Woodland

  • Born: May 21, 1984
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Topeka

Achievement:

Gary Woodland currently plays golf on the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Tour after turning pro in 2007. To date he has won three PGA Tour tournaments, finished second four times, and has 16 top- ten finishes. He has one international win as a member of the U.S. National Team when he won the World Cup of Golf in 2011. His highest Official World Golf Ranking has been 36th to date.

Gary Woodland image
Gary Woodland
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Racing

Clint Bowyer

  • Born: May 30, 1979
  • Died:
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Emporia

Achievement:

Clint Bowyer is a professional race car driver who drives the #14 car in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Sprint Cup Series. He began racing at an early age and in 2002 began racing in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series where he was named Midwest Division champion and finished second in the national points standings. He made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in 2005 and became a full-time driver in 2006. His first Sprint Cup win came in 2007 at the Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire and to date he has ten wins, 190 top ten finishes and held a pole position twice. In 2008 he was the NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and in 2012 he finished second in the Sprint Cup Series.

Clint Bowyer image
Clint Bowyer
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Rodeo

Gerald Roberts

  • Born: October 5, 1919
  • Died: December 31, 2004
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Council Grove, raised in Strong City

Achievement:

Gerald Roberts was perhaps the greatest rodeo champion in Kansas history. His rodeo career began when he was 17 and he competed in all three roughstock events - saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, and bull riding. During his career he won 67 championship buckles, was crowned North American All-Around Champion in 1950 and was twice crowned the World Champion All-Around cowboy in 1942 and 1948. He is a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Gerald Roberts image
Gerald Roberts
Photo courtesy of The Wichita Eagle

Ken Roberts

  • Born: January 22, 1918
  • Died: September 12, 1975
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Council Grove, raised in Strong City

Achievement:

Once called the toughest bull rider of all time, Ken Roberts was a pioneer athlete and producer of bull riding and was instrumental in building the sport. His rodeo career began when he was 18 and spanned four decades. He is the only Kansan to date to be crowned as World Champion Bull Rider when he won the title three years in a row between 1943 and 1945. He is a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Ken Roberts image
Ken Roberts
Photo courtesy of Kansas Ag Network

Wrestling

Orville Brown

  • Born: March 10, 1908
  • Died: January 24, 1981
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Sharon

Achievement:

Orville Brown was a professional wrestler whose wrestling career spanned from 1929 to 1949. He had never wrestled before, but after some training he went undefeated in 71 matches and quickly won the Kansas Heavyweight Championship and later would win the Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA) World Heavyweight Championship 11 times from 1940 to 1948. He was recognized as the first World Heavyweight Champion of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He is a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Orville Brown image
Orville Brown
Photo courtesy of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame

Mildred Burke

  • Born: August 5, 1915
  • Died: February 18, 1989
  • Connection to Kansas: Born in Coffeyville

Achievement:

Mildred Burke was regarded as one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time and few have had a greater impact on women's professional wrestling. She began wrestling in 1934 on the carnival circuit where she wrestled men and never lost. In 1935 she won the World Women's Championship and held the title for nearly 20 years. In 1954 she established the World Women's Wrestling Association (WWWA) which was the first women's wrestling promotion and served as the starting point for several future greats. She is a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.

Mildred Burke image
Mildred Burke
Photo courtesy of GCWA History