Thursday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. ET

Washington D.C. Sports Lists

Leonard Shapiro Special Contributor
Thursday, December 18, 2008; 11:00 AM

In "The Great Book of Washington, D.C. Sports Lists" special contributor Leonard Shapiro and co-author Andy Pollin of ESPN 980, along with many other area sports observers, ranked the best and worst of Washington sports.

This week, we've been giving readers the opportunity to review and reorder the lists: Washington D.C. Sports Lists

Shapiro was online Thursday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. to take your questions, comments and objections about the rankings.


Olney, Md.: Len,

I was sorry to read about the passing of Sammy Baugh, possibly the greatest Redskin of all time. Don't you think its sad that a player like Sean Taylor is glorified for some hits he made in games, but the respect and historical reverence that Sammy Baugh deserves did not come to him in until after his passing?

Leonard Shapiro: I would disagree on the premise that his historic revelance came after Baugh's death. He was a charter member of the pro Football Hall of Fame, always revered as the greatest Redskins player of all time still known to all the team's fans. By the way, in our book, we listed him No. 2 on our list of all-time great Washington athletes, right behind pitcher Walter Johnson. Probably should have been a tie.


Washington, D.C.: I'm not sure where Alex Ovechkin ranks in your lists as best athlete in DC, but I think there is no doubt that he is the best athlete not only in all of the NHL but also the best in D.C. currently among all our sports. Just think how many more years he will be here too!

Leonard Shapiro: We knew we'd taqke a few hits on ovechkin when we listed him as No. 71 on the all-time 100. But our feeling was that he's only been doing this now for a couple of years, and while we obviously know he's a superstar, a little longevity with the same sort of production I'm certain would vault him into the top ten, maybe by 2015.


Laurel, Md.: Do you have a category like "dumbest non-playing ideas ever" in which to rank the creation of Raljon, Md.?

Leonard Shapiro: We didn't have that category, but if they decide to do a sequel, raljohn would rank right up there, along with having a washington darts soccer game I covered back in the 70s orchestrated to music provided by murray the K, a then famous New York deejay. Good news was, it rained and they couldn't protect the sound system from the water, so they never did it.


Falls Church, Va.: Len:

I doubt that this list is in your book, but if you made a list of Redskins who are not in the Hall of Fame, but deserve to be, Chris Hanburger would clearly have to be at the top of this list. We've had this discussion before, and I know you're a big advocate for Pat Fischer, but in all fairness, there is no eligible player from ANY team more worthy of selection to the HOF than Chris Hanburger. His credentials are overwhelming: 9 Pro Bowls, 5-time All-Pro, 1972 Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive play caller for George Allen's great Redskins defenses of the 1970's.

There is no eligible player with a combined 14 or more Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections who is not in the HOF other than Hanburger. Please stop telling people he was media unfriendly. Players with criminal records have been voted into the HOF, and being media unfriendly is not a crime. He was a model citizen and one of the best outside linebackers in NFL history, and deserves to be recognized for this. It would be nice to see him get this recognition while he is still able to stand at the podium to accept this honor in person. You helped George Allen get into the HOF, and he was not media friendly, either. Please do the same thing now for Chris Hanburger. Endorse him for selection by the Senior Committee next year. Thank you.

Leonard Shapiro: You need to go buy this book. Chris Hanburger leads the list on page 189, and I've been one of his advocates on the senior committee of the Hall, his only path to canton. I suspect it will happen sooner than later, even if he was extrremely media unfriendly.


Annandale, Va.: Mr. Shapiro,

Where does the Washington media rank on your list? As a native of Northern Virginia, I am sick and tired of all Redskins all the time. There are three other major sports teams in DC, with two more in Baltimore, and a number of minor league teams in the area. All the other sports combined, get half the coverage the Redskins do. Go Caps!

Leonard Shapiro: Are you trying to get me in trouble here? As a former Redskins beat guy in the 1970s, I don't think you can give readers in this area enough Redskins coverage, and I suspect our readership surveys will tell you the same thing.


Bowie, Md.: I hope the 83/84 Washington (USFL) Federals made your list of "worst teams". Wow that was some stinky football: 7-29 in 2 years (before moving to Orlando), including 0-7 in 1984 against expansion USFL teams.

Leonard Shapiro: we actually didn't include such a list, but the old "gerbils" as their team owner once called them would certainly qualify.


Washington, D.C.: Ironic that this comes out at the same time as Sammy Baugh's death. Definitely one of the "Best." I believe one of the reasons the NFL game (anc college) is so boring to watch is that the specialization has removed most fo the personality from the game ... the quarterbacks don't really quarterback because someone else is calling the plays ... individual specialists don't get into the game because all they do is punt, or hold, or go in on 3rd down plays, etc. Imagine a modern team with 53 jack-of-all-trades, all reporting in and out on D, O and teams. What fun, again.!

Leonard Shapiro: I'm a huge fan of old-time football, when qbs like jurgy and Unitas drew plays in the dirt and, before that, guysa played offense and defense. You can make the argument that the modern athlete is bigger, faster, stronger, but I'm not sure the modern game, especially at the pro level, is better. I love free agency for allowing players to make the money most deserve, but hate it for the lack of continuity in teams and fans ability to identify all the guys who keep coming and going.


Kensington, Md.: Len, I'm sure your book doesn't get into lowlife individual sports, but if you ever do a sequel that includes pool, the names of Melvin Brooks (better known as "Strawberry") and Steve Gumphrey should be at the top of the list, as the best one pocket and nine ball players that Washington has produced in your lifetime and mine. These guys were the Sugar Ray Leonards of the green felt, with heart as their defining attribute.

Leonard Shapiro: I wouldn't qualify pool or billiards as a lowlife sport. Then again, I'm not sure I'd even call it a sport. No, we had no pool guys in the book, though I'm sure the guys you mentioned, and others, probably would make fascinating stories. Maybe next time.


Arlington Agrees With Annandale: I also want to beg The Washington Post to spend less time on the Redskins and more time on the area's other teams. Why have multiple reporters covering Redskins Park in the OFFSEASON, when you've only assigned one reporter and you're even sending interns to cover the Nationals and the other major league teams that also call this area home. It's not fair and, frankly, I'm not reading any stories about football in June.

Leonard Shapiro: I'll just agree to disagree on this one, but you're certainly not the first to complain.


Dumbtown, Maryland: Raljon wasn't a bad idea, it just "looks" bad. The music orchestrated to the game is actually a forerunner to what we have now in the NBA where the music never ceases. They play music to get the crowd going instead of using music as a nice little addition to enhance the atmosphere.

I say the dumbest idea in sports was putting, "Make Noise" on video and message screens. I'm smart enough to know when to make noise, I don't need some moron in a basement room telling me when to make noise. That should make the top of your dumbest list. Have you ever had someone walk up to you and tell you when to talk on the phone, eat, watch TV, etc. I mean, how dumb have sports viewers gotten that they need a video board to tell people to make noise?

1. Make Noise 2. Gus Ferrotte vs. End Zone Boards 3. Pretty much any David Poile draft pick 4. The new ballpark (heck, you could have a list here of the dumb things they did) 5. Pretty much any David Poile trade 6. Numerous attempts at box lacrosse at Capital Centre 7. Michael Westbrook taking his helmet off on the field vs. the Giants in overtime that cost the Skins field position and a shot at a game-winning field goal that would have put them in the playoffs 8. Pretty much any move made by the Wizards to destroy the team 9. Jim Bowden

Leonard Shapiro: You are obviously an astutue and long-time observer on the washington sports scene, and love your list. Maybe next printing, we'll expound on it.


Alexandria, Va. : My vote for worst of DC Sports -- the way that the media -- print, radio, TV -- falls all over themselves to cover the mediocre Skins at the expense of all other sports in the region.

Leonard Shapiro: Another anti-redskins coverage complaint. See previous answers.


Arlington, Va.: Does Georgetown make any of the lists?

Leonard Shapiro: Absolutely. we've got sevceral liasts on the hoyas, including one from John Thompson, the elder. We've even got a top 11 list of all-time great Hoyas. No. 11 was Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commish who held the school's rebounding record until our No. 1 all-time Hoya, Patrick Ewing, showed up. By the way, I once wrote an unauthorized biography on Thompson, Big Man on Campus, now available at most rare book stores.


Arlington, Va.: In sports disappointments, I would list Michael Jordan for his Wizards career and the old ABL basketball team that got Rick Barry and had sit out the season with an injury.

Leonard Shapiro: No argument with either one of those choices. We do have a list on big-time local sports busts, with Heath Shuler highly ranked.


Another voter: Too much on the Redskins! Before and after the games. I read the headline, a few paragraphs and I'm done. And I read the entire sports section otherwise.

Leonard Shapiro: These are issues better addressed to the Post's sports editor, emilio garcia-ruiz. Again, I have no problem with the coverage, but as a guy who covered the team in every decade since the early 1970s, I've got no problem with it. If you don't think there's no interest, go read jason lacanfora's very smart redskins blog on and see how many comments accompany even the most seemingly harmless entry.

On that note, it's time to say goodbye. Many thanks for all your questions, and feel free to use The Great Book of Washington Sports List as the perfect stocking stuffer. One more shameless plug. Andy Pollin and I will be on WAMU 88.5 FM today at 12:30 to discuss the book. Hope you call in, and happy holidays to one and all.


Rockville, Md.: On the Post, this book is said to be written by Len Shapiro and Andy Pollin. On ESPN980, during Andy and Steve's show, the book is said to be written by Andy Pollin and Len Shapiro. In all honesty, whose name should go first? Which one of you was the major force behind this book?

Leonard Shapiro: wait, this just in. Yes, Andy and I are co-authors. We split the lists in half and both did 70 each. P goes before S alphabetically, so there you have it.


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