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The top 26
1. Rod Woodson
2. Johnny Bright
3. Everett Scott
4. Lloy Ball
5. Don Lash
6. Matt Vogel
7. Sharon (Wichman) Jones
8. DeDee Nathan
9. DaMarcus Beasley
10. Eugene “Bubbles” Hargrave
11. Brad Miller
12. Emil “Red” Sitko
13. Willie Long
14. Bob Cowan
15. Bill Kratzert
16. Cathy Gerring
17. Lamar Smith
18. Steve Hargan
19. James Hardy
20. Shanna Zolman-Crossley
21. Jason Fabini
22. Amy Yoder-Begley
23. Vaughn Dunbar
24. MaChelle Joseph
25. Roosevelt Barnes
26. Paul “Curly” Armstrong
More letters
•To read additional reader thoughts on the Top 26, click on sports at
letters to the editor

Readers sound off on Top 26 athletes

Bravo for Boedeker

Bill Boedeker played halfback on the 1947-49 world champion Cleveland Browns of the AAFC. He also played with the Packers, Eagles and the Chicago Rockets. His versatility was evident when he was recruited by the Chicago Stags of the NBA, although he decided to play football instead. A North Side graduate, Boedeker was the first NFL player to come out of Fort Wayne. He played with George Mikan at DePaul in college before going off to World War II and coming back to play professional football with shrapnel in a leg.


Master, Lederman deserve recognition

I think Harding graduate Jim Master and Leo graduate Michael Lederman should have made The Journal Gazette’s list of the area’s best 26 athletes of all time.

I believe Master is the finest shooting guard ever to play in Fort Wayne. In 1979-80, he averaged 27.8 points and set the city scoring record for one season. He scored 30 points in one half of a city tournament game. He was named All-SAC, Mr. Basketball and to the McDonald’s All-America basketball team. He received a full ride to the University of Kentucky where he started for four years and played in a Final Four (1984).

I never saw a greater competitor than Lederman. Leo was 23-2 in basketball in 1971 and 22-2 in 1972 and rated No. 13 in the state. The 1972 team averaged 80 points per game (still a record in Allen County), and he graduated as Allen County’s all-time leading scorer (1,300 points). He was a quarterback on the football team in 1971 and 1972. He led the baseball team to the regional championship game in 1971 and 1972. He received a full basketball scholarship to the University of Florida where he was a starter and a captain.


Spencer has the numbers

Anthony Spencer from Bishop Luers is my pick for best area athlete. Only three loses in three years at Luers, three state final appearances, two state championships, two-time all-state, three-time all-area/conference, fifth all time in tackles for loss at Purdue. He was selected 26th in the first round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys


Fort Wayne

Just call him ‘Air’ Jones

Toney Jones had a wonderful career at Northrop and played basketball at Purdue. He did have the opportunity to play at the pro level playing in the CBA; however, he chose to continue his life long dream being a pilot. He is currently a pilot for United Airlines.


Gongaware softball legend

I would like to nominate Dean Gongaware for a spot on your list. He graduated from Huntertown High and was a top amateur baseball prospect in the early 1960s. He was one of the first two amateur softball players to be signed by the Fort Wayne Scouts, the other being Lou Banks.


O’Donnell a powerful choice

Jessica (Watkins) O’Donnell should be considered as a Top 26 athlete. She graduated from New Haven and IPFW. She’s the 2008 world gold medalist in women’s powerlifting. She had the highest total lift ever by a female: 1,530 pounds. She won a gold, three silvers and a bronze. She was on the U.S. team at the World Games in 2005. She placed first at the national collegiate in 2000 and won gold at the 2003 Junior World’s and bronze in 2001.


Baack to the future

Thanks for the interesting list of area athletes who have graced your Top 26 these last couple of weeks, but I can’t imagine such a list without the name of Tom Baack on it.

Baack attended Concordia Lutheran from 1960-64 and broke Tom Bolyard’s city scoring mark in basketball in 1964. Bolyard had established that mark in 1959. Five years later Baack broke it and that record stood for 40 years before James Hardy, pick No. 19 on your list, raised the mark. What is so amazing is that Baack played at a time before the three-point shot. It still took 40 years to shatter that illustrious mark.

PHIL AMT Fort Wayne

Top five faves

1. Rod Woodson, Pro Football Hall of Fame: One of NFL’s greatest players in its first 75 years – and he had not even reached his prime when that all-time all-star team was named. World-class 400-meter hurdler.

2. Lloy Ball, four-time Olympian: Gold medalist in 2008 Beijing Games; four-time starting setter on U.S. Olympic team. Led IPFW to three NCAA Final Fours. Played professionally in Japan, Greece, Italy and Russia.

3. Johnny Bright, CFL Hall of Fame: Multi-MVP and rushing leader of Canadian Football League in era before black athletes played in U.S. Great football star and record-holder at Drake. Exceptional football and track star at Fort Wayne Central.

4. John Kelso, three-sport Fort Wayne high school star: Parade Magazine High School All-American basketball first team. Also participated in track and football. Because his athletic career was limited to four years of high school, cannot be considered as one of the top athletes to come from northeast Indiana.

5. Brad Miller, NBA veteran: Former Purdue standout became a two-time NBA All-Star.

LARRY LEE Fort Wayne

Bright was the best

Johnny Bright excelled in track and field, basketball and football. He could take off from the foul line and dunk. He would routinely pole vault over 12 feet in the days of the cane pole that did not bend and snap back. Twice his high school team went to the final four in basketball.


Stanczak is the man

My name is Robert (Bob) Heiny and I was a member of the CCHS championships of 1939 and ’40 (also played in 1941 for fourth place, and on the all-tourney team).

I think that Ed Stanczak should be on the list of the top 26 all-time best athletes in northeast Indiana.

He won consecutive state Catholic and national basketball titles at Central Catholic in 1939-40. Stanczak was voted MVP and selected to both all-tournament teams. He led Fort Wayne in scoring in 1939 and ’40.


‘Ham’ had it all

I suggest you consider Ralph Hamilton as a Fort Wayne top athlete. Ralph was born in either 1922 or 1923 and died in July 1983. “Ham,” as he was known, was a star basketball player at South Side in 1939-40. After graduation in 1940 he attended Indiana on a scholarship. After serving in the Army, Ham was selected as an All-American and graduated in 1947. Later he played with the Fort Wayne Pistons.