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Abbott, Cleveland (09 December 1892–14 April 1955), Tuskegee Institute educator, administrator, and athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, one of seven children of Mollie Brown and Elbert B. Abbott. The family moved to Watertown, South Dakota, during Abbott’s childhood. Early on he excelled at sports, earning sixteen varsity letters at Watertown High School in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball. His family was among a small percentage of black residents of South Dakota in the early twentieth century....

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Alexander, Grover Cleveland (26 February 1887–04 November 1950), professional baseball player, was born in Elba, Nebraska, the son of William Alexander and Margaret Cootey, farmers. Alexander seemed destined for baseball. Even as a youngster, Dode, as he was called, could bring down a wild turkey with a well-aimed rock. After graduating from high school at nearby St. Paul, he worked briefly as a telephone lineman and assiduously at pitching....

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Allen, George Herbert (29 April 1918–31 December 1990), college and professional football coach, was born in the Detroit, Michigan, suburb of Grosse Pointe Woods, the son of Earl Raymond Allen, an auto worker, and Loretta Hannigan. Allen attended the Lake Shore, Michigan, high school, where he earned varsity letters in football, basketball, and track. As an officer trainee in the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program during World War II, Allen attended Alma College and Marquette University. He played football at both schools. In 1947 Allen received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where he also served as a part-time assistant coach for the junior varsity football team. In 1949 he earned a master’s degree in physical education from Michigan. While at Michigan, the intelligent and hardworking Allen fell in love with coaching, the vocation to which he devoted his adult life....

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Allen, Phog (18 November 1885–16 September 1974), basketball coach, was born Forrest Clare Allen in Jamesport, Missouri, the son of William Perry Allen, a traveling salesman, and Alexine Perry. At an early age, Allen moved with his family to Independence, Missouri, where he grew up on the same block as future president ...

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Alston, Walter Emmons (01 December 1911–01 October 1984), baseball manager, was born on a farm near Venice, Ohio, the son of William Emmons Alston and Lenora Neanover. After losing his farm in bankruptcy in 1923, the elder Alston took a job at a Ford Motor Company plant, moving the family to Darrtown, Ohio. Alston’s interest in sports was encouraged by his father, with whom he played semipro baseball. Nicknamed “Smokey,” Alston enrolled at Miami University in Ohio in 1929, but he dropped out the following year to marry his high school sweetheart, Lela Vaughn Alexander. A daughter was born of this union. Returning to Miami University in 1932, Alston worked his way through college, starring in baseball and basketball, and graduated in 1935 with a degree in education....

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Anderson, Sparky (22 February 1934–04 November 2010), baseball manager, was born George Lee Anderson in Bridgewater, South Dakota, the son of Shirley and LeRoy Anderson, a barn and silo painter. His father told him to “be nice to people,” advice the lad followed all his life. When he was eight years old the family moved to Los Angeles and bought a home near the University of Southern California, where George served as a batboy for six years under the legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. George’s Dorsey High School baseball team was a powerhouse, and in 1951 his American Legion team won the national championship....

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Anderson, Willie (1878?–25 October 1910), golfer, was born William Anderson in North Berwick, Scotland, the son of Tom Anderson, a golf greenskeeper. (His mother’s name is unknown.) His birth year has appeared as 1878 and 1880; most obituaries list his age as 30 at his death. Anderson grew up in North Berwick, spending much of his youth on the golf course of the club where his father was employed. He never worked as a caddie but focused on playing golf and learning the required skills. He came to the United States in 1894 when golf was being introduced as a recreation and sport. In his first tournament, the U.S. Open in 1897, he finished one stroke behind the winner, Joe Lloyd. He also fared well in the 1898 and 1899 opens, finishing third and fifth....

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Anson, Cap (17 April 1852–14 April 1922), professional baseball player and manager, was born Adrian Constantine Anson in Marshalltown, Iowa, the son of Henry Anson, a land developer, town founder, and mayor, and Jeannette Rice. By his young adult years, Anson was tall and well built at 6′ and 227 pounds. He often was referred to as “the Swede” because of his square shoulders and wavy blonde hair, but, in fact, his parents were of English-Irish extraction. Anson was taught to play baseball and invited to join his father and older brother who formed the nucleus of the Marshalltown team, an amateur club of great repute. While in his teens, he attracted attention as an outstanding hitter and all-around athlete. Local residents dubbed him the “Marshalltown Infant.”...

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Cap Anson. "Goodwin Champions" baseball card, 1888. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 13163-08, no. 2).

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Appling, Luke (02 April 1907–03 January 1991), baseball player, was born Lucius Benjamin Appling, Jr., in High Point, North Carolina, the son of Lucius Benjamin Appling, a furniture maker, and Dola Sapperfield. While he was in elementary school, Luke's family moved to the Atlanta area. Luke eventually starred in football and baseball at Fulton High School and then for two years at Oglethorpe College. The Atlanta Crackers (a successful minor-league team in the Southern Association) signed him to a professional contract after his sophomore year, and right from the start Appling could hit. His .326 BA (batting average) tempted the Chicago Cubs to purchase his contract, but his 42 errors in 104 games at shortstop reportedly scared the team off. The Chicago White Sox, however, bought him for twenty thousand dollars and brought him to the major leagues for the tail end of the 1930 season. In six games he hit .308, but he also made 4 errors. During the next two years, when he batted only .232 and .274, Chicago fans booed him and dubbed him “Kid Boot,” and the Sox tried unsuccessfully to trade him. Things began to turn around in 1932, however, when he married Faye Nell Dodd on 13 February; the couple subsequently had two daughters and a son....

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Eddie Arcaro. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Arcaro, Eddie (19 February 1916–14 November 1997), jockey, was born George Edward Arcaro in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Pasquale Arcaro and Josephine Giancola Arcaro. (It is not known what his parents did for a living.) At birth he weighed barely three pounds, and though he was not a sickly child he remained small in stature throughout his life, growing to an adult height of only five feet two inches and weighing a maximum 114 pounds. From an early age he loved all sports, especially baseball, but because of his size he was never chosen to play on school teams. To make matters worse, a devastating sledding accident when he was twelve, following a move by the family to Southgate, Kentucky, almost cost him the use of his right leg, but the spunky youth began walking on his own even before the doctors allowed him to....

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Armour, Tommy (24 September 1895–11 September 1968), professional golfer, was born Thomas Dickson Armour in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of George Armour, a confectioner. His mother’s name is unknown. His father died when Armour was four. Armour’s older brother, Sandy, took the young child to a golf course adjacent to their house and introduced him to the game of golf. As an adolescent, Armour caddied for Sandy as he won the Scottish Amateur championship. After entering Stewart’s College in Edinburgh, Armour graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1914....

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Tom Armour. Defeating Harry Cooper to win the U.S. golf title. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108418).

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Henry Armstrong Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114433).

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Armstrong, Henry (12 December 1912–22 October 1988), boxer, was born Henry Jackson, Jr., near Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Henry Jackson. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a full-blooded Iroquois, and his father was of mixed Indian, Irish, and black ancestry. He was the eleventh child in a family of sharecroppers. When he was four years old his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father and oldest brothers worked in the food-processing industry. His mother died a few years later, after which he was reared by his paternal grandmother. He graduated from Toussaint L’Ouverture Grammar School and Vashon High School, working during his school years as a pinboy at a bowling alley and becoming interalley bowling champion in midtown St. Louis. He gained his first boxing experience by winning a competition among the pinboys....

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Ashburn, Richie (19 March 1927–09 September 1997), baseball player, was born Don Richie Ashburn in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of Neil Ashburn, a machine-shop owner, and Genevieve Ashburn (maiden name unknown). A natural athlete, he later claimed that as a child he chased rabbits through the cornfields outside his small hometown: “I'd run alongside them and catch the fat ones.” While attending high school, he was a star catcher for a local American Legion baseball team and set a Nebraska state sprinting record for the 100-yard dash; his mark of 9.6 seconds stood for 25 years. He attracted the active interest of several major league baseball scouts. In 1944 he signed with the Cleveland Indians, but baseball commissioner ...

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Ashe, Arthur (10 July 1943–06 February 1993), tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe, Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father from playing football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured Althea Gibson, who would become the first African American to win Wimbeldon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful....

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Atlas, Charles (30 October 1893–23 December 1972), physical culturist, was born Angelo Siciliano near Acri in the Calabria province of Italy, the son of farmers. (The parents’ names cannot be ascertained.) He emigrated to the United States with his mother in 1904 and settled in Brooklyn. After leaving school at fifteen, he worked in a women’s pocketbook factory; his future seemed unpromising. Like most “pedlars” from this era, Siciliano was psycho-asthenic and of foreign extraction. Anemic and lacking confidence, Siciliano was subjected to beatings from a neighborhood bully and from an uncle. These humiliations provided an impetus for his lifelong struggle to overcome weakness. Statues of Hercules and other mythological heroes he saw at the Brooklyn Museum inspired him to build his body. Realizing that such beautifully proportioned physiques came from exercise, young Siciliano began reading ...

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Charles Atlas Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117754).