The Top 5 Under-Appreciated Athletes

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They compete under many names: the Sixth Man, the Journeyman Player, the Lady Who Was Pretty Good at Tennis but Wasn’t a Williams or Sharapova. And so on. We are so attuned to celebrating our biggest athletes more as celebrities than as sportspeople that we often forget there are other footballers on the team with Brady, or other other-kind of footballers on the squad with Beckham. We sometimes forget that every groundbreaking athlete stands on the shoulders of giants who came before them, elevating the game to a position where they could shine in the first place.

5 Old Man Strength

Here’s a tip: If you travel back to the year 1920, and you’re looking to pick on a 72-year-old man, don’t make the object of your time-travelling, ageist rage Oscar Swahn. At 72 years and 281 days of age, Swahn competed in the Olympic Games. His events involved shooting, by the way, which is another great reason not to mess with him.

4 The Great Dane, or the Energizer Bunny?

Morten Andersen was an NFL player who went by the nickname The Great Dane, but we’re thinking our moniker might be more accurate. Andersen played in 382 football games (more if you count the post-season), easily holding the record for the most games played. As he was a kicker, he also racked up a lot of points: 2,544, to be exact. And yes, that’s another record.

3 He Can’t Buy a Beer or Vote, but He Can Pitch

In June of 1944, a young man named Joe Nuxhall stepped onto the baseball diamond as a Major League pitcher playing for the Cincinnati Reds — “young” being the operative word; at two months shy of 16, Joe was the youngest player ever in MLB. He made but one appearance at the tender age of 15, before stepping back from Major League baseball until the age of 23, when he re-launched a career that would last longer than he had been alive during that first appearance.

2 Slamming Through the Glass Ceiling

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Four days before Christmas, in 1984, a young woman named Georgeann Wells became the first woman in American sports history to complete a slam dunk. Now, to be clear, Ms. Wells stood 6-foot-7-inches tall, so it’s not like she had a hell of a long way to reach the 10-foot basket, but still pretty damn cool that we can link this sports milestone to a specific person in a specific game.

1 Long Before #42

Long before Jackie Robinson crossed the color line and signed with a Major League baseball team in the 1940s, a black man named Moses Fleetwood Walker swung his bat in the Major Leagues. This was in the mid-1880s, and the league system was a fair amount different than that of today, but indeed the Toledo Blue Stockings were a member of the now-defunct American Association league, and Walker played one season for the team while it was considered a Major League franchise!

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