Sometimes legends are nearby/Paul Peterson
It’s a question I hear often in my travels around the Copper Country.
“How is it determined who qualifies as a sports legend?”
It’s a fair question, but the determination of who might qualify takes in a number of factors.
Take the subject of the latest legends story, Hubert Chopp of Swedetown. Chopp had been on the tentative list for a few months before further information was presented.
It turned out that Hubie, who’s still around at the age of 96, played in five decades for local baseball teams. But that’s the case for any number of former players.
But he also put together a sterling career while playing service baseball in the 1940s. And he played against a team of barnstorming big league players in 1949.
Some legends are what I would call slam dunks. Some of those names are familiar to anyone who has observed local sports over a number of years.
Calumet’s George Gipp – the Notre Game grid legend – was the ultimate slam dunk.
Late Michigan Tech hockey coaching legend John MacInnes fell into that category. So did late MTU hockey star Bruce Riutta of Hancock and All-American and NHL Hall of Famer Tony Esposito.
Ditto for late local high school hockey coaching icons Don and Rick Miller; Chassell High’s All-American basketball star Don Mattson; and prep coaching legends Ed Helakoski of Chassell, John Gaffney of Houghton, Ron Warner of Lake Linden-Hubbell and Roland Antila of White Pine just to name a few.
And then there are athletes who fall into a gray area, often meaning that not a great deal of information was known about them for one reason or another.
William Denton “Dolly” Gray of Houghton, Tauno Nurmela of Covington and Fred Barry of Calumet are good examples of that category.
Gray was a big league pitcher for the Washington Senators during the era of Walter Johnson in the early 1900s. Nurmela was a standout track and and field performer in the 1930s, while Barry was a standout in football and hockey in the northend.
The above trio have been recent inductions into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame, as was Holly McCullah of Calumet.
The late McCullah is an interesting case because most of her many sporting accomplishments came well before she got married and raised a family.
Before I eventually turn in my typewriter (make that computer keyboard) I hope to write about more athletes who are deserving of the term “legend.”
And while there is a fairly long list of tentative candidates, I’m always on the lookout for other deserving people.