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slides: Greatest Athletes in Central Mass History: Hudson-Oakham

Thursday, July 26, 2012

 

This may be the most star-studded list on our countdown. There are Hall of Famers in baseball and football, a man who single-handedly became a national phenomenon in the 1970s (think Linsanity), and plenty of professional athletes who made their mark at the highest level.

This list also includes undoubtedly the worst human being who became a great athlete in Central Mass (you'll find out why), and his brother, who owns the dubious record of worst batting average in Major League history with over 2,000 at-bats. 

If there's one list you must read, this is it. 

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Hudson

#1: Wilbert Robinson, MLB.

"Uncle Robbie" is a Hall of Fame catcher who spent 17 seasons in the major leagues with the Philadelphia A's, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals.

He hit .353 in 1894 and is commonly credited as the first catcher to play directly behind the batter (most played farther back until there were two strikes). 

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Lancaster

#1: Chuck Hughes, ice hockey. 

Hughes was the starting goaltender on Harvard's first and only national championship-winning hockey team in 1989 and was drafted by the New Jersey Devils. 

 

(Image courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications)

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Leicester

#1: George Albro, basketball. 

Albro was a Worcester State co-captain and starter on the 1961-62 New England State College championship basketball team.

He also went on to coach Leicester High School to the Southern Worcester County championship in 1987.

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Leominster

#1: Prince Amukamara, NFL.

The All-American cornerback was born in Leominster but moved to Arizona before high school.

He established himself as one of the top defensive backs in the nation at the University of Nebraska, being chosen as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. 

Amukamara was chosen by the New York Giants with the No. 19 pick in the 2011 NFL draft and won the Super Bowl in his rookie season.

(Image courtesy of Scott Bruhn/ University of Nebraska Athletics)

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Leominster

Runner up:

Lew Brown, MLB.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest headcases in Central Mass baseball history (although there are far worse, as you're about to find out), Brown was blacklisted during the 1882 season for "confirmed dissipation and general insubordination."

He played seven seasons in the majors with six different teams as a catcher and first baseman and hit .248 with 10 home runs and 169 RBI. 

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Leominster

Runner up:

Mike Gordon, MLB.

Gordon was born in Leominster and went to high school in Brockton.

He received 28 at-bats in two seasons with the Chicago Cubs in 1977-78. 

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Lunenburg

#1: David Pelletier, figure skater. 

Along with his future and now ex-wife Jamie Sale, Pelletier captured the hearts of the nation when the pair were denied the Gold Medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 

French judge Marine-Reine Le Gounge said that she was pressured by the head of the French figure skating association into voting for the Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. 

Both pairs eventually received gold medals.

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Marlborough

#1: Mike Burns, MLS.

Burns played on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team and the 1998 World Cup team.

He was a two-time All-Star in seven years with the New England Revolution, San Jose Earthquakes, and Kansas City Wizards of the MLS.

He is the current G.M. of the Revolution.

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Marlborough

Runner up:

Bobby Butler, NHL.

Butler ranked second in the NCAA in goals scored in 2009-10 at the University of New Hampshire, and won the Hockey East Player of the Year award in 2010.

He is currently a member of the Ottawa Senators, having played 56 games for the team in 2011-12.

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Milford

#1: Howie Long, NFL.

The Hall of Fame defensive end was an eight-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with the Raiders.

Long played 13 seasons in the NFL and recorded 84 sacks. He was selected to the 1980s All-Decade team and was co-Defensive Player of the Year in 1985.

He played football, basketball and track at Milford High School and went on to star at Villanova.

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Millbury

#1: Ron Darling, MLB. 

Darling is a New York Mets legend and graduate of St. John's in Shrewsbury.

He pitched 13 seasons with the Mets, Expos, and A's, and won the World Series title in 1986, going 15-6 with a 2.81 ERA.

Darling won 136 games in his big league career and is a current analyst with for the Mets on Sportsnet New York.

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Millbury

Runner up:

Ray Roach Jr., basketball, football.

Roach was an incredible athlete at Millbury, becoming the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,285 points in 1970. 

He is one of five players in Central Mass history to score 50 points in a game when he did so against St. Mary's of Milford in 1970. 

He also quarterbacked the football team to a 16-1-1 record in his career and holds four school passing records, including 18 career touchdown passes. 

Roach went on to play quarterback at Boston University.

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Millville

#1: Gabby Hartnett, MLB.

The 1935 N.L. MVP and six-time All-Star is considered one of the greatest catchers in National League history.

Hartnett hit .297 with 1,179 RBI in a 20-year Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Cubs. 

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North Brookfield

#1: Bill Bergen, MLB.

Bergen has the unfortunate distinction of being the worst hitter in baseball history.

He somehow played 11 years in the majors despite hitting .170 for his career, the lowest average in Major League history for any player with more than 2,500 plate appearances. 

Bergen lasted in the bigs because he was a defensive specialist at catcher.

He played for the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Superbas/Dodgers. 

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North Brookfield

Runner up: 

Marty Bergen, MLB. 

Like his brother, Marty was considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He had the unique talent of being able to throw a runner out from the crouched position, without even moving his feet. 

Bergen hit .265 and helped lead the Boston Beaneaters to National League pennants in 1896 and 1897. 

Still, his teammates stayed away from him due to his incredibly volatile temperament. This would prove wise, as he killed himself and murdered his entire family in 1899.

(Now, that's a headcase.)

Remarkably, he still received a vote for the Hall of Fame in 1943. 

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North Brookfield

Runner up:

Ricky Wheeler, basketball.

The all-time leading scorer in Worcester Polytechnic Institute history put up 1,318 career points (21.6 ppg) and finished his career with several WPI records.

Wheeler once scored 31 points in one half of basketball against Wesleyan.

He was inducted into the WPI Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Northborough

#1: Mark Fidrych, MLB.

Fidrych started a national sensation along the lines of "Fernandomania" or "Linsanity" in 1976.

The Algonquin graduate took over the American League, winning 19 games and posting a league-leading 2.34 ERA en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.

But it was his personality on the mound that made him even more memorable. Fidrych would talk to himself, the baseball, and anyone else who would listen. Sometimes he would aim the ball like a dart, and throw back balls that he believed had "hits in them."

He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice that season, but a rotator cuff injury virtually ended his career in 1977.

Fidrych died in a terrible accident in 2009, when his car collapsed on him as he was working on it.

No athlete on this list was more unique. 

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Northbridge

#1: Glenn Adams, MLB. 

Adams is a former designated hitter and corner outfielder with the Giants, Twins, and Blue Jays.

He hit .280 over his big-league career (1975-82) with 34 HR and 225 RBI. 

Adams grew up in Northbridge and played at Springfield College.

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Northbridge

Runner up:

Phil Vandersea, NFL.

The three-time NFL champion played linebacker and defensive end for the Green Bay Packers in 1966, '68, and '69. 

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Oakham

#1: Bob Benoit, boxing.

With a career record of 37-8, the 5-11 Benoit was a legendary local boxer.

He fought in gymnasiums, auditoriums and arenas throughout the Northeast in the 1960s and '70s. 

Benoit competed in the light heavyweight division.

 
 

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