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Johnny Mack Brown. With Mae West, on movie set. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111083).

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Brown, Johnny Mack (01 September 1904–14 November 1974), college football player and film actor, was born John Mack Brown in Dothan, Alabama, the son of John Henry Brown and Hattie McGillary. Brown’s father owned a small retail shoe store in Dothan that brought the family only a small income. Johnny had to go to work at an early age selling newspapers. He spent much of his youth fishing, hunting, and playing football and other sports with his five brothers. Brown attended Dothan High School, where he earned letters in track, baseball, and football and was an all-state football player. In 1923 Brown earned a scholarship to play football all four years at the University of Alabama....

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Caray, Harry (14 March 1914?–18 February 1998), baseball broadcaster, was born Harry Christopher Carabina in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Christopher Carabina and Daisy Argint. Although most sources claim 1 March, in either 1919 or 1920, as his birthdate, Caray's birth certificate, examined by the ...

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Buster Crabbe Second from left, with Duke P. Kahanamoku, far left , Harold "Stubby" Kruger, far right, and an unidentified Red Cross boy scout, at the Olympic tryouts, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Crabbe, Buster (07 February 1908–23 April 1983), athlete and motion picture actor, was born Clarence Linden Crabbe in Oakland, California, the son of Edward Crabbe and Agnes McNamara. When Crabbe was two, the family moved to Hawaii, where his father was overseer of a pineapple plantation. There Crabbe’s natural abilities in many sports brought him the lifelong nickname of “Buster.” He earned sixteen sports letters in high school, set thirty-five national and sixteen world swimming records during his years in sports competition, and was a member of the U.S. swimming team for the Olympics of 1928 (Amsterdam) and 1932 (Los Angeles). He received a B.A. from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1932. In the Olympics that same year he crowned his athletic career by winning the gold medal for the 400-meter freestyle event, coming in first by one-tenth of a second. “That one-tenth of a second changed my life,” he said ( ...

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Dizzy Dean Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-29523).

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Dean, Dizzy (16 January 1910–17 July 1974), baseball player, coach, and broadcaster, was born Jay Hanna Dean in Lucas, Arkansas, the son of Albert Dean and Alma Nelson, both migrant workers. “Dizzy,” a nickname he acquired from his zany antics, had a younger brother, Paul, who also pitched in the major leagues. There has been some uncertainty about Dean’s birthdate, birthplace, and baptismal name. According to Dean, the biographical confusion might stem from the fact that he liked to give every reporter a scoop. Dean said his other name, Jerome Herman, was adopted when he was seven years old. A playmate by that name died, and to console the boy’s father, Dean said that he would take the youth’s name as his own....

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Garagiola, Joe (12 Feb. 1926–23 March 2016), baseball player, broadcaster, and television personality, was born Joseph Henry Garagiola in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Giovanni Garagiola, a brickyard worker, and his wife, Angelica, both Italian immigrants from near Milan. He grew up in the Italian neighborhood known as “the Hill,” across the street from his lifelong friend and baseball Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra. As the quintessential storyteller Garagiola told it, “Not only was I not the best catcher in the major leagues, I was not the best catcher on my street!” (...

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Gifford, Frank (16 Aug. 1930–9 Aug. 2015), professional football player and broadcaster, was born Frank Newton Gifford in Santa Monica, California, the youngest of three children of Weldon Wayne Gifford, an oil and shipyards worker, and Lola Mae (Hawkins) Gifford.

Frank was a shy boy whose lisp made him self-conscious. His family moved through Depression-era trailer camps, hunting work. Football bolstered his confidence, and the sport became his lifelong identity. He was co-captain of the Bakersfield High School Drillers, who became San Joaquin Valley football champions in ...

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Red Grange. Red Grange [second from right], signing a movie contract, with his manager, Charles C. Pyle, standing alongside. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105233).

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Grange, Red (13 June 1903–28 January 1991), football player, coach, and broadcaster, was born Harold Edward Grange in Forksville, Pennsylvania, the son of Lyle Grange, a lumber camp foreman, and Sadie Sherman. When Grange’s mother died in 1908, his father moved the family, which included Red’s older sisters and his three-year-old brother, to Wheaton, Illinois, where the elder Grange had grown up. Years later, Red, as he was nicknamed because of his auburn hair, recalled that “at first I missed Forksville terribly,” but as time passed he realized that Wheaton “offered a more civilized way of life.”...

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Harmon, Tom (28 September 1919–15 March 1990), football player and sportscaster, was born Thomas Dudley Harmon in Rensselaer, Indiana, the son of Louis A. Harmon, a steel mill policeman, and Rose Marie Guinn. Harmon grew up in Gary, Indiana, where, under the coaching of Doug Kerr at Horace Mann High School, he earned fourteen varsity letters in four sports, started three years for the football team, was the leading national interscholastic football scorer with 150 points in a season, and won state track and field championships. Coach Kerr steered Harmon toward the University of Michigan, where Kerr had played, and where he took the high school’s backfield each spring for a clinic....

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Heilmann, Harry Edwin (03 August 1894–09 July 1951), baseball player and announcer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Richard Heilmann, a German-immigrant ironworker, and Mary McVeigh. Raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Heilmann attended parochial schools until 1911, when he dropped out of Sacred Heart College, the preparatory school for St. Mary’s College of California, after flunking mathematics and failing to make the varsity baseball team. While working as a bookkeeper for the National Biscuit Company, Heilmann started playing baseball for a semiprofessional club at Hanford, California. He was signed by a scout for Portland Oregon, in the Northwest League, where he showed a great deal of professional promise as an outfielder-first baseman. At the end of the 1913 season the Detroit Tigers of the American League (AL) purchased his contract. Paid $2,100 for the 1914 season, Heilmann appeared in 66 games and batted only .225. When he turned down the same amount in 1915, Detroit assigned him to San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League, where he batted a lusty .364....

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Sonja Henie At the Winter Olympics. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100744).

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Henie, Sonja (08 April 1912–12 October 1969), figure skater and film actress, was born in Oslo, Norway, the daughter of Hans Wilhelm Henie, a wealthy fur trader, and Selma Lochman-Nielsen. In her autobiography Henie described herself as sometimes feeling like a “lottery winner.” If by that she meant that she was born into circumstances allowing her the opportunity to develop into a world-class athlete, she was certainly correct. Her father was a champion sportsman himself and encouraged her to skate and ski from an early age. Once her talent for figure skating became apparent, her parents invested a portion of their wealth in her skating career, providing her with the coaching, dance lessons, costumes, and tutors that allowed her to quit school and concentrate on her sport....

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Hovey, Henrietta (06 April 1849–16 March 1918), Delsartean teacher, was born Henriette Knapp in Cooperstown, New York, the daughter of Edgar Knapp and Catharine Tyler. Hovey’s lifelong interest in clothing reform is traced to an early experience when a doctor, to combat her frailty and ill-health, prescribed loose-fitting garb that would allow easy breathing and free motion. By her early twenties, Hovey was designing her own unique uncorseted costumes—subtly colored flowing gowns that became her hallmark—and lecturing on the aesthetic and health aspects of dress. To improve her speech for such presentations, she entered the Boston School of Oratory in the early 1870s where she was introduced to the system of expression developed by François Delsarte (1811–1871), a French theorist and teacher of acting, voice, and aesthetics. Delsarte’s theory was an elaborate derivation of his personal interpretation of the Christian Trinity and featured particular attention to the relationship between body, mind, and spirit in the practical work of expression in any of the arts. Hovey’s interests expanded to include physical culture and expression, and she traveled to Paris where she met Delsarte’s widow and studied with his son Gustave before the latter’s death in February 1879. In the late 1860s or 1870s she married Edward B. Crane; their son was born on 21 April, probably in 1878—possibly in 1867....

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Annette Kellerman Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91616).

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Kellerman, Annette (06 July 1887–05 November 1975), swimming, vaudeville, and film star, was born in Sydney, Australia, the daughter of Frederick Kellerman, a musician, and Alice Charbonnet, a concert pianist. A weak child, Kellerman began swimming as physical therapy for a mild case of polio. Feeling more graceful in water than on land in her leg braces, swimming literally became her life. As the strength in her legs increased, she also learned to dive. In 1902 she won her first title as Swim Champion of New South Wales and set a world record of 78 seconds for 100 yards using the newly introduced racing technique of the double-over arm crawl and scissors kick. By her own admission, she also reigned as the champion girl diver of Australia the same year. The next year, she set a world record for the mile at 32:29 minutes, subsequently lowering it to 28:00 minutes. Her first of many record-setting distance swims covered 10 miles in Australia’s Yarrow River. She began professional swimming and diving exhibitions in Sydney, then toured Melbourne and Adelaide....

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Kiner, Ralph (27 Oct. 1922–6 Feb. 2014), baseball player and broadcaster, was born Ralph McPherran Kiner in Santa Rita, New Mexico, the son of Ralph Maclin Kiner, a baker, and Beatrice Grayson Kiner, a nurse. When his father died four years later, his mother moved the family to Alhambra, California, where Ralph played baseball at Alhambra High School and attracted attention from New York Yankee and Pittsburgh Pirate scouts. The Pirates convinced him he had a better chance of success with them than with the talented and deep Yankees and signed him with a $3,000 bonus, with which he paid off his mother’s mortgage....

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Canada Lee Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 687 P&P).