Today is July 4th, Independence Day. And nothings says freedom like Independence, Missouri. Don’t believe me? Ask the 33rd President of the U.S. of A Harry S. Truman, or Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Teresa Carpenter, or Academy Award winning actress Ginger Rogers, or The Beverly Hillbillies creator Paul Henning, or Tech N9ne rapper Aaron Yates, or profession gamer Fatal1ty (a.k.a. Johnathan Wendel).
So in honor of Independence Day, we honor the four greatest professional athletes who ever (at one time or another) lived in Independence, Missouri.
Forrest “Phog” Allen
Yes, KU basketball legend Phog Allen was born (Jamesport, Missouri) and raised (Independence, Missouri) in Missouri, so you can add yet another Missouri recruiting blunder to Mike Anderson‘s list.
Allen was a three-year letterman in basketball at Kansas while being coached by James Naismith, and also lettered twice in baseball. (Yes, KU does have other sports programs, Jayhawk fans.) He coached the KU football team in 1920 and went 5-2-1. So, yes, he had more wins in one season at KU than Turner Gil and Charlie Weis have combined.
Of course, he is known at Kansas for his time as the men’s basketball coach. Allen was 590-219 in his career at KU, winning a national title in 1951-52 and finishing as a runner-up twice (1939-40, 1952-53). He coached future Hall of Fame basketball coaches Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Ralph Miller, and Dutch Lonborg; Hall of Fame players Clyde Lovellette, Bill Johnson, and Paul Endacott; future U.S. Senator Bob Dole.
Allen is 25th all-time in wins (746) which is part of the reason why he named to the inaugural class for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
Albert Pujols was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic which is a lot like Independence, Missouri. His family moved to Independence from New York in 1996 where he attended For Osage High School.
He’s been an okay Major League player to date, batting .321 with 488 home runs and 1,483 RBI for his career. His career 1.009 OPS is pretty good. He’s won three MVP awards and finished in the top five of the voting 11 times in 12 full seasons.
But for the most part he was not worth selecting before the 7th round of the 1999 MLB draft so the Royals really dodged a bullet on that one.
Rick won 171 games in his 18 year career which saw time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals. He won a Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 1984 and finish second in the Cy Young voting three years later (some guy named Steve Bedrosian won it that seasons).
Sutcliffe is now a broadcaster for ESPN.
We could have gone with WNBA player Betty Lennox or NASCAR driver David Stover but neither of those individuals play a sport. Instead we go with former Royals great Jim Eisenreich.
Eisenreich famously suffers from Tourette syndrome which forced him to retire from baseball for two years while he sought treatment for the condition. The Royals signed him upon his return to the big leagues where he batted .277/.320/.390 with 23 home runs and 225 RBI over six seasons.
He won a World Series ring along with former Royal Jeff Conine with the Florida Marlins in 1997.