Thursday, December 16, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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1 Years In Seattle Sports

Starting today, with Nos. 11 through 25, The Times counts down Seattle's top athletic figures of the century.


Claim to fame: Before there was Dr. J, there was Elgin Baylor, a 6-foot-5 forward who played the game above the rim and, really, anywhere else he pleased. In 1958, Baylor led Seattle U. to the Final Four, where the Chieftains fell to Kentucky in the championship game. Baylor was a unanimous All-American in '58, averaging 32.5 points and 19.3 rebounds. In '57 he averaged 29.7 points and led the nation in rebounding (20.3). Baylor, born and raised in Washington, D.C., played only two seasons at Seattle U., after transferring from the College of Idaho. He was the No. 1 pick in the 1958 NBA draft, and averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds in 14 seasons with the Lakers, the first two in Minneapolis. He was selected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1976, and was named to the 50th anniversary NBA team in 1996. Where is he now: Baylor, 65, has been vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers since 1986. This reader's vote: "He was the best overall athlete who played before a Seattle audience, and the one who contributed the most to his team's success. His off-court demeanor as a gentleman and businessman complements his athletic achievements." - Ron Taylor, Seattle


Claim to fame: A Shorecrest High school grad, Michelle Akers has been a member of the U.S. women's soccer team since 1985, and is the all-time leading scorer in World Cup competition, which the U.S. won in 1999. She was also on the 1996 Olympic gold-medal team and was the USOC athlete of the year in 1991. Her No. 10 jersey was retired by the University of Central Florida, after she was named first team All-American four years straight. She's had 12 knee surgeries and a five-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome. In 1998, she founded Soccer Outreach International. Where is she now: The World Cup victory tour has ended, but you can follow Akers on her Web site: The reader's vote: "Michelle Akers has not only helped to put Seattle on the map as a U.S. soccer mecca but she has become a hero to millions of little girls across the world. Fighting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and numerous injuries, Michelle has proved she is tough as they come, male or female. She she has shown physical and emotional strength. In a day and age where Americans fear for their daughters, Michelle has become a heroine who shows all people that it is cool to be athletic and active. "

- Colleen Davis, Seattle


Claim to fame: The English-born boat builder perfected the design and building of crew racing shells. In the 1920s, George Pocock's University of Washington crews challenged the Eastern school's dominance in the sport and dominated rowing around the world. His Husky boat won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and his shells won virtually every other important race. He was brought to Seattle in 1912 by Hiram Conibear, the legendary coach of the UW crews, who promised money and a well-equipped shop. Instead, Pocock stayed to build shells in a rickety structure nicknamed the Tokyo Tea Room. He studied the canoes of Northwest Indians and began building boats out of cedar without ribs to reduce drag, perfecting the lightest, fastest shells in the world. His influence turned Seattle into a center for rowing, and as UW rowers became coaches elsewhere, his shells - and his philosophy - spread. Where is he now: He died in 1976 at the age of 85. The reader's vote: "Through his leadership, rowing has become the sport for all ages as a singular or group activity. The blending of rowing and life - in his words, "harmony, balance, rhythm. There you have it. That's what life is all about.' " - Georgia Oistad, Interlochen Rowing Club


Claim to fame: Fred Couples was the best golfer in the world in 1991 and '92, winning the Masters in 1992. He's won 14 tournaments and more than $11 million since joining the PGA Tour in 1981. His biggest victory was the Masters, which completed a streak of three victories and two second-place finishes in six tournaments. Couples grew up on Beacon Hill, and was taught the game by his father, Tom, who worked for the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. He played as a youngster at Jefferson Park, often jumping the fence when he didn't have $3.50 for greens fees. Couples graduated from O'Dea High School, then went to the University of Houston. Since 1994, Couples has hosted the Fred Couples Invitational, a two-day charity event in Seattle that has drawn some of the best players in the world. Where is he now: Couples, 40, is currently 20th in the world rankings. He won $769,192 this year on the PGA Tour. He lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., with his wife, Thais. This reader's vote: "Fred put Seattle on the golfing map internationally with his natural ability and winning personality. His annual tournament is a boon to the area and its charities." - Lois Matthews, Mercer Island


Claim to fame: Jim Owens brought life back to the University of Washington football, and some would say he did the same thing for West Coast football in general. When Owens arrived in 1957, the Huskies had just three winning seasons in 10 years. Owens, who had been an assistant to Bear Bryant at Texas A&M, brought a tough, hardnosed attitude to Seattle. Players called Owens' favorite conditioning drill "the death march." By his third year, though, it was paying off. In 1959, the Huskies won the conference title and demolished Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, 44-8, a victory that ended the Big Ten's domination of the game. The Huskies were 10-1 and Rose Bowl winners again the following season. The Huskies made one more trip to Pasadena under Owens, losing to Minnesota in 1964. After the 1974 Apple Cup, a 24-17 Husky win at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Owens decided he'd had enough, and retired at the age of 47. In 18 years, Owens coached the Huskies to a 99-82-6 record. Where is he now: Owens, 72, lives in Montana. This reader's vote: "Jim Owens revived UW athletics and Seattle's big-time pretensions. You might even say that the Mariners and Ken Griffey Jr. wouldn't have occurred but for the Owens' era." - Mert Marrs, Bainbridge Island


Claim to fame: At 6 feet 10, the "Big Unit" was an intimidating presence on the pitcher's mound even before he released his 98-mph fastball or nearly unhittable slider. In 10 seasons in Seattle, Randy Johnson developed into not only its greatest pitcher, but one of the most dominating in baseball history. Besides pitching the team's first no-hitter and becoming its only 20-game winner, Johnson is the career leader in wins, shutouts and strikeouts. In 1995, he earned the American League Cy Young Award and led the Mariners to their remarkable playoff run with an 18-2 record, 2.48 earned-run average and 294 strikeouts. He helped Seattle to the '97 AL West pennant with a 20-4 record and 2.28 ERA. He was traded in 1998 to Houston and helped the Astros to the playoffs, then signed with Arizona for $52.4 million over four years. With the Diamondbacks last season, Johnson was 17-9 with a a career-high 364 strikeouts to become one of only three pitchers to win a Cy Young in each league.

Where is he now: Johnson, 36, lives in Glendale, Ariz., with his wife Lisa, daughter Samantha and son Tanner.

The reader's vote: "He is awesome, the most exciting pitcher to watch since Nolan Ryan. His pitching brings the crowd to a peak. "

- Barbara Chris, Seattle


Claim to fame: In the 1932 Olympics, 19-year-old Helene Madison, who learned to swim in Green Lake at age 12, won three swimming gold medals - the 100-meter freestyle, the 400-meter freestyle and the 400-freestyle relay, anchor lap. "Queen Helene" held all 16 women's world freestyle records and 56 U.S. records at the time. When she returned to Seattle after the Olympics, the city presented her with an car, then gave her a tickertape parade. Two weeks later, she turned professional. She dyed her hair platinum, signed a movie contract but was miscast in a comedy. She also tried to be a nightclub entertainer, then finally worked in a sporting-goods store. She was denied a job as a Parks Department swimming teacher in 1936 because of a rule against women instructors. Where is she now: She died of cancer in 1970 at 57 Near the end, she lived in a basement apartment across from Green Lake, with her parakeet and Siamese cat. And on her wall, the gold medals were displayed on a square of purple velvet. Today, a swimming pool in Seattle's North end bears her name. This reader's vote: "Helene was such a thrill for Seattle - she was admired around the world and was Seattle's first famous woman athlete. Loved her!"

- Helen Ruff, Federal Way


Claim to fame: For three decades, starting in 1931, Leo Lassen was "Mr. Baseball," the voice of the Seattle Rainiers. When the team went on the road, Lassen recreated play by play from tickertape reports and when the wire broke down, he had to stage fantasy dust-ups between umps and managers to fill the dead air. His signature calls - "It's in the well," or "Hang on to those rocking chairs" - became "Lassenisms." A lifelong bachelor, he quit broadcasting in 1960 after a contract dispute and left the business. He retired to his second love, tending his rose garden. Where is he now: Lassen died in 1975 at the age of 76. This reader's vote: "I didn't have a car in those days. Wherever we walked, we could always hear Leo's voice coming out the screen door of any house. But the one that took the cake happened in LaConner. During their Fourth of July celebration, there was a dance at the ballroom. As we were approaching the dance, we noticed a huge throng outside the dance hall. We thought: `a fist fight!' and hurried over. When we got within range, coming out of a radio, which was hung high on a telephone pole, was Leo Lassen's high-pitched voice "The bases are full...Paul Gregory pitching." Only Leo could get people out of the ballroom."

- Tony Pirak, Seattle


Claim to fame: Phil Mahre, a White Pass native, dominated ski-racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a seven-year victory run equalled by few skiers before - or since. Mahre's ascent to the World Cup throne began in 1978, when he finished second in the overall standings behind Sweden's legendary Ingemar Stenmark. He finished third in 1979 and 1980, then dominated the slalom and giant slalom circuit to win the prized Overall World Cup crown in 1981, 1982 and 1983. Mahre's total record: 27 World Cup victories, an Olympic slalom silver medal in 1980 and an Olympic slalom gold in 1984, where twin brother Steve, took the silver. Phil

remains the only U.S. male skier to have medaled in two Olympics. Where is he now: Mahre, 42, lives in the Yakima area and spends his time racing autos and conducting ski training camps in Colorado with brother Steve. The first week of March every year, he can be found indefatigably racing all-comers in a Children's Hospital fundraiser on a slalom course at the mountain where he grew up, White Pass. The reader's vote: "By far, his is the greatest accomplishment in world sports: his World Cup titles and Olympic medals in a sport dominated by Europeans is unparalleled."

- Pete Weaver, Edmonds


Claim to fame: "Downtown" Freddie Brown played 13 seasons in the NBA, all for the Sonics, from 1971 through 1984. He was a brilliant shooter who averaged 23 points in 1975-76. In 1979, he was the sixth man and captain of the Sonics' only NBA title team. He averaged 14.6 points during his career, and was an 86 percent free-throw shooter. He still holds the team's all-time scoring record (14,018) and has the most games played (963). His 58-point game against Golden State on March 23, 1974 remains the best single-game scoring total in franchise history. His jersey, No. 32, has been retired, and he was the only Sonic to ever wear the number. For years, Brown also purchased as many as 200 season tickets, which he would distribute to disadvantaged youth. Where is he now: Brown, 51, lives in Mercer Island and is a vice president with Bank of America. This reader's vote: "Fred has given back tenfold to the community after his playing years. He has dedicated his life to helping others get a better chance. He has always been pro-Seattle, never me, always we. He does more for his community in a year than most of us do in a lifetime." - Vance Jacobson, Bainbridge Island


Claim to fame: As a lanky kid growing up in West Seattle, Jim and twin brother Lou took to the hills of the Cascades and Olympics and never looked back. By the time they reached adulthood, they had established guiding and search and rescue services on Mount Rainier that continue today. Because of that extensive alpine experience, Jim Whittaker was a natural choice for a 1963 expedition aiming to put the first Americans atop Mount Everest. He quickly emerged as a star in the group and on May 1, 1963, summited the world's highest peak with Sherpa climbing partner Nawang Gombu. How did he feel? "Like a frail human being," he would remark later. In 1979, Whittaker led the expedition that made Lou Reichardt and Jim Wickwire the first two Americans atop perilous K2. Through the middle years of his life, Whittaker guided a young, hole-in-the-wall climber's gear shop named Recreational Equipment Inc. into what today is the nation's largest consumer cooperative - and a part of the Northwest identity. Where is he now: Whittaker, 70, wife Dianne Roberts and their two sons split their time between a home in Port Townsend and their sailboat, the Impossible. Whittaker's memoir, "A Life on the Edge," was published this fall. The reader's vote: For the skill and courage required, coupled with its effect on the nation and Seattle (back when it was a village), I vote for Jim Whittaker.

- Ron Riedasch, Bellevue


Claim to fame: Before coaches stopped teaching and began signing fat shoe contracts, Marv Harshman was a Northwest coaching legend. He ranks fourth all-time among Division I coaches in games (1,090) and 16th in victories (654) in a remarkable career that spanned 40 years. Beginning at Pacific Lutheran in 1945-46, then moving to Washington State in 1958-'59 and Washington in 1971-'72, Harshman won more than 150 games at each school. His 246-146 (.628) record with the Huskies ranks second in school history. His UW teams had four 20-win seasons, five postseason appearances and won back-to-back Pac-10 titles in 1984 and '85. Harshman, a graduate of Lake Stevens High, was a Little All-America in football and basketball at PLU. Where is he now: Harshman, 82, has retired in Bothell, where he lives with his wife Dorothy. He was a Bothell city councilman for four years, and he now travels, fishes and helps with basketball camps.

The reader's vote: "For six decades, from the 1930s to the 1980s, Marv was recognized as a player and a coach for his integrity, class and excellence as a teacher. No one has had a longer or more significant impact on sports in the state of Washington." - Robert Downing, Mountlake Terrace


Claim to fame: The original owner of the SuperSonics brought the city its first pro franchise in 1967-68 and its only world championship in 1979. Schulman was an outspoken innovator who wasn't afraid to take a gamble. He helped end the NBA's policy against drafting college underclassmen by signing Spencer Haywood, hired Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens as coaches and hired a former vaudeville promoter, Zollie Volchok, as general manager. The team made back-to-back appearances in the NBA finals in '78 and '79, and set NBA records for attendance. He sold the Sonics to Barry Ackerley in 1983 for $21 million, then apologized to Seattle because he said Ackerley mismanaged the team. Schulman also co-founded New Century-SLM, the production company that financed "Revenge of the Nerds," "Romancing the Stone," "Cocoon" and "To Live and Die in L.A."

Where is he now: Schulman, 89, is retired and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sylvia. Though he suffered a mild stroke in 1997, he still plays golf and wears his championship ring.

The reader's vote: "Schulman aggressively tried to improve our team, from signing Spencer Haywood, John Brisker and Jim McDaniels from the ABA, to firing Bob Hopkins, which led to Lenny Wilkens."

- Marty Corey, North Bend


Claim to fame: "The Glove," so nicknamed for his intense defensive game, was only a second-round pick for the Sonics in 1990 but has developed into one of the best players in the game. He took the Sonics to the NBA Finals in 1996 and intends to spend his entire career with Seattle. He was on Dream Team II in the Atlanta Olympics, where he helped the U.S. to gold, and will be on the 2000 squad as well. His number has been retired at Oregon State, his alma mater, and chances are, his Sonic No. 20 will be retired as well, joining Fred Brown (32), Lenny Wilkens (19), Nate McMillan (10) and Jack Sikma (43).

Where is he now: Married with three children, Gary lives in Bellevue and is in his 10th season with the Sonics.

The reader's vote: "Without Gary, the Sonics would be nothing. He is one of the best basketball players ever."

- John Williamson, Snohomish


Claim to fame: For more than 50 years, Royal Brougham wrote a column called "The Morning After" for the Seattle P-I. A devoted Baptist, he didn't drink, smoke, or stay late for Saturday night events because he had to teach Sunday school the next morning. Mayors, governors, University of Washington officials, athletes, coaches and even bookies called him for advice. He was a promoter more than a journalist. His column was anchored in the same place six days a week, ending with "Chitter Chatter," corny rhymes he called "pomes." He referred to himself as "Your Old Neighbor." In the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst named him managing editor but afterBrougham threw out the canned Hearst editorials, he was removed from the job by Hearst, then wrote sports columns the rest of his career. Over the years, Brougham raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities, and Seattle named a street after him. Where is he now: He died in 1978 at the age of 84. The reader's vote: "Nearly everyone read the Ol' Neighbor's column. Nobody since has had near the impact as Royal - and what an ending - to die at a Seahawks game."

- Michael Crutcher, formerly of Seattle

Published Correction Date: 12/17/1999 - Gary Payton was the second pick overall in the 1990 NBA draft. In this story, his draft pick was listed incorrectly.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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