Everybody loves lists! We all do. We have Top 10 lists for everything. A couple of times a year, I write up profiles for my Top 50 Twins prospects. Lists are everywhere!
Last week, I wrote about parents and coaches. I mentioned that less than 5% of parents are the ones that give a bad name to the other 95% of parents who do things the right way. One example of this from my coaching days back in Perham was Cory Hepola. I think I coached him in baseball from when he was eight years old to 13 years old. He was one of the good kids, and as you would expect, his parents were excellent as well. As you would also expect, Cory Hepola has become a success. He is current a sports anchor at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York.
What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Well, in addition to his regular duties, Cory maintains a blog at www.coryhepola.com. You can learn a lot more about his impressive resume, but today I would encourage you to click on his link to his Blog. Yesterday, he wrote an article on the Top 10 Famous Minnesotans. It is a very interesting list, and as with all lists, creates plenty of discussion. Be sure to leave some comments there.
So, as a Minnesotan, I thought it would be fun to blatantly steal Cory's great idea and research who else could or should be included in a list of great Minnesotans. "Great" is obvously a word that means a little something different to everyone. Baseball fans all have individual thoughts on what makes a great baseball player. Music lovers have varying opinions on what makes great music. What makes a great politician, a great American, a great writer, a great scientist? It's all up for debate and discussion. And what better place to do that than this blog where you can feel free to add your comments whether you agree or disagree, or if you think I missed names or now. Hopefully this topic can create a lot of debate.
For me, I tried to do a ranking of Great to include areas such as how famous the person was or is, how talented or noteworthy the person was or is, how influential the person was or is. Again, please feel free to add your thoughts.
Honorable Mention - broken out by disciplines:
Roger Maris - Baseball - Hibbing
Phil Housley - Hockey - St. Paul
The Broten Brothers (Aaron, Neal, Paul) - Hockey - Roseau
Chief Bender - Baseball - Crow Wing County
Paul Molitor - Baseball - St. Paul
Kevin McHale - Basketball - Hibbing
John Mariucci - Hockey - Eveleth
John Madden - Football - Austin
Herb Brooks - Hockey - St. Paul
Bob Johnson - Hockey - Minneapolis
Jessica Lange - Actress - Cloquet
Al Franken (?) - Actor/Politician - St. Louis Park
Peter Agre - Nobel Prize for Chemistry - Northfield
Melvin Calvin - Nobel Prize for Chemistry - St. Paul
Ann Bancroft - 1st woman to reach North Pole by foot - Mendota Heights
Heidemarie Stafanyshyn-Piper - Astronaut, 2 space flights - St. Paul
Richard Sears - Founder of Sears, Roebuck&Company - Stewartville
Not Yet - But these could show up in several years -
Joe Mauer - Baseball - St. Paul
Jessica Biel - Actress - Ely
Josh Hartnett - Actor - St. Paul
That is a pretty strong list of Honorable Mentions, and I'm sure you could add even more. But for now, here is my list of the Top 15 Greatest Minnesotans:
#15 - Eugene McCarthy - Watkins - Democrat was a Minnesota Representative from 1949 through 1959. He then became a US Senator from 1959 through 1971. He ran for President in 1968 on an anti-Vietnam campaign and in doing so, led to Lyndon Johnson taking himself out of the running. McCarthy ran for President (obviously unsuccessfully) five times.
#14 - The Coen Brothers - St. Louis Park - Ethan and Joel Coen are filmmakers who make some crazy films. Many, including Cory, have them ranked much higher than I do, because I really haven't particularly cared for many of their movies. They have been nominated for Academy Awards for Fargo (a horrible movie) and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, and won Best Picture and Best Director for No Country for Old Men.
#13 - Sid Hartman - Minneapolis - The 89 year old Star-Tribune legendary columnist has become a Minnesota icon. He has many 'close personal friends' which he has accumulated over the years. He didn't graduate from high school, and has been writing at the Star-Tribune since 1945. He has been a sports team owner and general manager, and has been a great sports representative for the state for years.
#12 - William Orville Douglas - Maine Township - In 1939, FDR nominated Douglas for a a Supreme Court Justice position. He was swoen in on April 17, 1939, and stayed on the Supreme Court for 36 years, 209 days, the longest tenure of any Supreme Court Justice.
#11 - Walter Mondale - Ceylon - After being the Minnesota Attorney General for four years, he became a US Senator from 1964 through 1976 when he became the 42nd Vice President of the United States, under Jimmy Carter. Although he served in the role, he is credited for expanding the role of the Vice President. Bill Clinton named him a US Ambassador to Japan in 1993.
#10 - Prince Rogers Nelson - Minneapolis - The 50 year old musician known as just "Prince" has been a music-making icon for over 30 years. He has been controversial for many reasons from his lyrics, to his dress, to his name changes. I personally think his music in the '80s, including that with Morris Day and The Time, was his best stuff.
#9 - F. Scott Fitzgerald - St. Paul - Clearly appreciated more now than he was while he was alive, Fitzgerald is one of the great American authors. Best known for his novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote a lot of commercial projects as well. He is somewhat back in the news as one of his short stories was one of last year's top movies, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
#8 - Judy Garland - Grand Rapids - Frances Ethel Gumm was one of the more successful actresses and singers of her era. Although most people likely only know of her because of The Wizard of Oz, she has won many acting and signing awards. She stayed busy, probably too busy right up until her death. She has to go down as one of the top entertainers of the century.
#7 - Sinclair Lewis - Sauk Centre - Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1930. He was a short story author who wrote about life in America. His first book, Main Street, expected to sell maybe 25,000 copies. It sold over 180,000 copies in the first six months and over 2 million altogether. He wrote nine more novels.
#6 - Dave Winfield - St. Paul - I needed to have at least one athlete on my list, right? And when it comes to amazing athletes, Winfield has to be at the top of the list. As Cory mentioned, in 2004, ESPN named him the #3 best athlete of all time. He was a fist ballot Hall of Fame baseball outfielder. In college, he was such a great pitcher that the Minnesota Gophers Pitcher of the Year Award is named on his behalf. He was drafted by two professional basketball leagues after playing for the Gophers. He even was drafted by the Vikings despite not playing football in college.
#5 - Charles Lindbergh - Little Falls - Although Lindbergh was born in Detroit, he spent most of his formative years in Little Falls. Lucky Lindy and his partner, The Spirit of St. Louis, became the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean successfully. He became a national hero overnight. Unfortunately, part of his fame now is tragic as his 20 month old son was kidnapped and killed. The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport includes the Lindbergh Terminal.
#4 - Garrison Keiller - Anoka - Over the past forty years, Garrison Keillor is both a writer and a radio personality. Thanks to his A Prairie Home Companion series on Minnesota Public Radio, Keillor is internationally known. During the second half of the show, Keillor speaks of his News from Lake Wobegon.
#3 - Bob Dylan (or maybe you prefer "Robert Allen Zimmerman") - Duluth/Hibbing - It isn't enough to call Bob Dylan a great musician. He is a great performer, an activist, a poet and more. He was, and still is, able to reach and influence a significant number of people through his music. Time Magazine called him one of the Top 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.
#2 - Charles Schulz - Minneapolis - Schulz was always a great drawer. He would draw pictures of his family dog and send them in. It turned into his livelihood, and he created the Peanuts comic strip. Peanuts was around for about 50 years and was syndicated in 75 countries in more than 2,600 newspapers. Charles Schulz made a lot of people laugh and smile.
#1 - Charles & William Mayo - Le Sueur - Along with their father, who after several attempts at a medical career around the region finally set up a clinic in Rochester, they founded what has become known as the Mayo Clinic. If you want to define 'Great' as finding an ability to help and serve others, then the founders of one of the world's most respected medical facilities should be included.
So there you have it, my Top 15 Greatest Minnesotans. What are your thoughts? Post some comments and give your rankings, or tell me who I missed.
Have a great week!