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Left-handers make their mark in the sports world

By DAVID GRAVELY

SWT Sports Editor

 

It’s often been said that most people are right-handed, and then there are some people who are wrong-handed.  While the joke may be made in good fun, the actual joke may be on the right-handed sports fans who make that comment when you look at the left-handed athletes throughout history.

A few names that instantly stand out could end the argument quickly.  Babe Ruth, otherwise known as “Babe,” “the Bambino,” and “the Sultan of Swat” made his mark from 1914 to 1935.  Starting his career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, he later went on to be an outfielder for the New York Yankees.

During his career, Ruth set many Major League Baseball batting and pitching records including career home runs (714), slugging percentage (.690), RBIs (2,213), bases on balls (2,062), and on-base plus slugging (1.164).  While some of his records have since been broken, even those who don’t know much about baseball know Ruth’s name.  He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Other notable names from the world of baseball include Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Sandy Koufax, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Reggie Jackson and Tom Glavine.

Bill Russell, who played center for the Boston Celtics from 1956 to 1969, was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star.  Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty, winning 11 NBA Championships during his 13-year career.  He also helped the University of San Francisco win two consecutive NCAA championships and won a gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics as captain of the U.S. National Basketball team.

Other famous left-handed basketball players include Bob Lanier, Bill Walton, Billy Cunningham, Lenny Wilkens, David Robinson and Isaiah Thomas.

Ask anyone who “Smokin’ Joe” is, and most will know you’re referring to Joe Frazier.  Active as a boxer from1965 to 1976, Frazier also had a one-fight comeback in 1981.  He finished his professional career with a record of 32 wins (27 by knockout), four losses and one draw.  Some of his more notable fights included wins over Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Buster Mathis and Mohammad Ali.

Other famous left handed fighters include Pernell Whitaker, Oscar de la Hoya, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, and Manny Pacquiao.

In other sports, left-handers have made their contribution to history and the record books in a big way.

Edson Arantes doNascimento, better known to the world as Pelé, is quite possibly the most famous soccer player of all times.  Playing forward and attacking midfielder, Pelé first took the field in 1956 as a member of the Santos squad.  He stayed there until 1974, and then joined the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977.  He also played as a member of the Brazilian National Team from 1957 to 1971.  In 1999 he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.  He finished his career with 1,281 goals in 1,363 games, for which he was listed in the Guinness World Records for most carer goals scored in football.

Another name that will be recognized by most people is Wayne Gretsky.  Gretsky played hockey from 1978 to 1999, where he was dubbed “The Great One” by sports writers, players, and the NHL themselves.  He finished his career as the leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points, and he is the only NHL player  to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times.

Maybe being “wrong-handed” has some advantages after all.

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