President Trump will bestow the United States’s top civilian honor upon three legendary sports figures, the White House announced Saturday.
Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach and Alan Page will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 16. The award recognizes “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The trio joins a long and illustrious list of athletes to receive the honor, including Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan. Ruth will become the 12th professional baseball player to be honored the award, the first being another former Yankees legend, Joe DiMaggio, who was selected by Gerald Ford in 1977. Staubach and Page are the first pro football players recognized.
Ruth, born George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. in Baltimore in 1895, played 22 seasons in the major leagues during which he hit 714 home runs to become baseball’s “Sultan of Swat.” He entered majors as a pitcher in 1915, when the home run was not a standard part of the game. Stadiums were built to keep the ball in play and maximize attendance. He died of cancer in 1948 at age 53.
Staubach, 76, quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl victories in 1971 and 1977 and went to six Pro Bowls. Dallas never had a losing season in Staubach’s eight years as the full-time starter and went to the playoffs seven of those years. The sustained period of excellence under Coach Tom Landry helped the Cowboys develop the reputation as “America’s team.”
In college, he won the 1963 Heisman trophy and led Navy to a No. 2 national ranking and the 1964 Cotton Bowl, the de facto national championship game that season. The Midshipemen fell, 28-6, to No. 1 Texas.
Staubach clashed with Trump in 2016 after the president said the Army-Navy game was not “necessarily the best football.”
Staubach, who has historically campaigned for Republican political candidates, responded, “I don’t want to comment on any political stuff but, service football is extremely respectable and very competitive. They’ve won some big games. They are not in the top 10 this year or anything, but it’s still good football. I really enjoy watching service football.”
Page, 73, was one of the original members of the Minnesota Vikings' “Purple People Eaters” defensive line and later became an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He helped Notre Dame to the 1966 national championship. He was drafted by the Vikings in 1967 and was named NFL MVP in 1971. He played in four Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
During the final years of his football career, Page enrolled at the University of Minnesota’s law school and practiced law privately until winning a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. He served on the bench for 20 years.
Trump also will award the Medal of Freedom to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), physician, philanthropist and political donor Miriam Adelson, rock and roll star Elvis Presley and late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
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