Today we celebrate the birthdays of a fistful of notable athletes.
Gregory Foster was born in Chicago on this date in 1958. He attended Proviso East High School, alma mater of Ray Nitschke [Daily Dose, December 29] and Doc Rivers, where he was an All-American high school hurdler. Foster accepted a track scholarship to UCLA and was a two-time NCAA outdoor champion in the 110 meter hurdles. As a junior, he also claimed an NCAA title in the 200 meter dash. “Fabulous” Foster is the only person in the history of the IAAF World Championships to win three consecutive 110 meter hurdle titles, which he did in 1983, 1987 and 1991. In 1981, he won the World Cup and World Indoor Championships and claimed ten U.S. national titles during his career. Mr. Foster broke the world record for the 50 meter hurdles in 1985 and, two years later, set a world mark in the 60 meter indoor hurdles. He was ranked among the top ten hurdlers in the world from 1977 to 1992, an incredible stretch of excellence in a sport that rapidly turns over its top performers. Foster was ranked number one in five of those years. Greg Foster had the misfortune of competing at the same time as Renaldo Nehemiah [Daily Dose, March 24], perhaps the greatest 110 meter hurdler in history. Mr. Foster won the silver medal in the 110 meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, finishing behind fellow teammate Roger Kingdom.
Mary Teresa Decker was born in Bunnvale, New Jersey, on this date in 1958. Ten years later, she moved to Garden Grove, California, with her family. Decker completely immersed herself in training. At 12, she ran a marathon and four middle and long distance races and then had her appendix removed—all in one week. Decker accepted a track scholarship to the University of Colorado. She won a gold medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1979 Pan Am Games and had a breakout year in 1982, setting six world records at distances ranging from the mile run to 10,000 meters. At the end of that season, she won the Jesse Owens Award [USATF’s highest honor], the Sullivan Award as top amateur athlete in America, and was named “Sportsperson of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. Decker was the favorite to win gold in the 3,000 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games but famously tripped in the final and did not finish. She carried the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Games but never earned an Olympic medal. Mary Decker set 17 world and 36 U.S. records at distances from 800 to 10,000 meters during her career. She is the first woman to run the mile under 4:20 and her record in the 1,500 stood for 32 years.
Robert John Riggins was born in Seneca, Kansas, on this date in 1949. He grew up in Centralia, where he won state titles in track and football at Centralia High School. “Riggo” attended the University of Kansas and was an All-American and two-time All-Big Eight fullback. Riggins was drafted by the New York Jets with the sixth overall selection of the 1971 NFL Draft and was twice named the team’s MVP. In 1976, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins and was voted 1978 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The “Diesel” was a blend of speed and power who led the NFL in rushing in 1983 and 1984. He was league and Super Bowl MVP in 1983 and scored 116 touchdowns during his career. Mr. Riggins rushed for over 11,000 yards in his 14-year career and was elected to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Riggins is a member of the Redskins Ring of Honor and was elected to the University of Kansas and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
William Roger Clemens was born in Dayton, Ohio, on this date in 1962. As a teen, he moved with his family to Houston, where he played football, basketball and baseball at Spring Woods High School. Clemens attended the University of Texas, where he went 25-7, was a two-time All-American, and led the Longhorns to the 1983 College World Series title. He made his major league debut for the Boston Red Sox the following year. In 1986, he was named MVP of the American League as well as the All-Star Game. Clemons also earned the Cy Young Award [Daily Dose, July 6] in 1986, the first of a record seven he would win during his 24-year career. “Rocket” was one of the most dominant pitchers in big league history, winning 354 games with over 4,600 strikeouts [third most all-time] and 3.12 ERA. He played in eleven All-Star Games, two World Series, and is one of four pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues. Mr. Clemens was a fierce competitor and hard thrower, once striking out 20 batters in a single game. He won pitching’s Triple Crown [most wins, strikeouts, lowest ERA] with Toronto in 1997 and 1998. Roger Clemens reached his 300th win and 4,000 career strikeout in the same game in 2003 and retired following the 2007 season.
Jeffrey Michael Gordon was born in Vallejo, California, on this date in 1971. Read more about him in the Daily Dose feature from August 4, 2015.