Almost 20 years have passed since Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis got fired for saying on national television (Ted Koppel’s Nightline in 1987) that blacks were not good swimmers because they lacked buoyancy. Cullen Jones was only three years old when Campanis made that statement. Twenty-two year old Jones has just received a seven year $2 million dollar endorsement deal from Nike, putting him in Tiger Woods and Serena Williams territory. Jones is the first African American to hold a swimming world record. He recently accomplished the feat in the 50-meter freestyle. Look for Jones in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He wants to duplicate the efforts of 2000 gold medal winning sprinter Anthony Ervin.
Golf Digest has profiled an amazing trailblazer, Charles Sifford, the first African American man to play on the Professional Golfers Association Tour (PGA). Forty years ago, for his own security, police escorted Sifford when he walked the fairways at professional tournaments. When he played in the 1961 Greater Greensboro Open, he was introduced on the tee as "Charlie Sifford ... the first black man to ever play golf in the South in a white tournament." The nickname "Charlie" stuck, however Sifford counters, "My name is Charles Sifford." Despite dealing with death threats, discrimination, and verbal abuse from fans and peers, he won two PGA Tour events as well as the 1975 Senior PGA Championship. In 2005 at age 82, Sifford was honored as the first African American man inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Among black history people, and golfers of every ethnicity, Charles Sifford made a name for himself through his talent and determination.
Seventy years ago on August 9, 1936, Jesse Owens made history in Berlin, Germany. A member of the U.S. Olympic team, Owens became the first American to win four gold medals. The outstanding track and field star excelled in the: 100 meter dash 200 meter sprint 400 meter race Broad jump Relay team From Oakville, Arkansas, Owens grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a stand-out on Ohio State's track team.
If you can't name the current heavyweight boxing champion, you are not alone. The golden era of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, George Forman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, and Mike Tyson has long faded away. These greats were the center of their universe, the newsmakers of their time, the kings of the squared circle. Old school boxing legends were worshiped in the popular culture: stars of the tabloids, heroes on the front pages, sports gods on the back pages. Though the glory days of boxing are gone, there are many other champions who gave the fight game lots of personality. Floyd Patterson is one of them. Born in the Big Apple, young Floyd battled his way from the tough mean streets of Brooklyn, New York, to his ultimate destiny - the boxing hall of fame… 1952: Olympic middleweight champion 1956: heavyweight champion at age 21 – defeats Archie Moore 1959: loses the heavyweight title to Ingemar Johansson 1960: reclaims the heavyweight title – beats Johannsson Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer ended Floyd Patterson’s life at the age of 71 in May, 2006. He’ll always be remembered for his courage as a great champion, who survived a career that spanned great fame, and humbling misfortune.
Saturday, May 6, is the first leg of horse racing's triple crown - The Kentucky Derby. The Derby, The Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes are the three biggest races of the year. A true pioneer, Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies (1884, 1890, 1891). An African American with an outstanding horse racing record of 628 wins in 1412 races.
Jackie Robinson was the first black 20th Century major league baseball player. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league Montreal Royals in 1945, before joining the big club in 1947. Here are some of Jackie's career highlights: First Major League Rookie of the Year, 1947. National League's Most Valuable Player, 1949. National League batting champion with a .342 average in 1949. Stolen base leader in 1947 and 1949. Six-time National League All-Star, 1949 - 1954. Jackie Robinson's playing career ended in 1956. He was voted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1962, and was out of the game by 1964. When baseball celebrated the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breakthrough in 1997, his number was retired by every major league team. Since 2004, every April 15th is celebrated in baseball as Jackie Robinson Day to acknowledge his social legacy to America and the world. The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides four-year college scholarships to minority students who have a demonstrated record of academic distinction, leadership capacity, and financial need. The foundation is currently supporting 266 Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars attending 93 colleges and universities in 33 different American states and the District of Columbia. March 31, 2006, is this year's application deadline for students to take advantage of the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship.