10 Stubby Clapp. Why the Memphis Redbirds havent retired this folk heros number yet is beyond me. Still the Redbirds career leader in games (425), hits (418), and runs (258), Stubby would be worth the honor for his moniker and pre-game back flips alone. He was the spark for the 2000 Pacific Coast League champions and made the inaugural season at AutoZone Park unforgettable. As for his number, it happens to match the one I wore as an outfielder for the Northfield (VT) High School Marauders (1985-87).
20 DeAngelo Williams. So hes the greatest player ever to wear shoulder pads at the University of Memphis. Sure, hes rushed for more yardage than any college player not named Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams, or Tony Dorsett. And yes, the 57 touchdowns are impressive. But its unlikely well see again this kind of talent combined with the humility and appreciation for team (and community) Williams displayed, and all with that prize-winning smile.
23 Anthony Rice. The Tiger basketball program has suited up some special players since John Caliparis arrival in 2000, and you could name a few with more skills than Rice. But you couldnt find a better example of a college player if you spent the next 200 weeks. Ive listened to countless post-game remarks from Calipari, and very seldom did Rices name come up, positive or negative. But when I talked to the coach near the end of Rices final season last winter, he said Rice is the example he uses when teaching newcomers to the program. Having played more games than any other Tiger (134), Rice remains quite an example.
7 Dayton OBrien. Yes, Ive covered some soccer. During my interview with OBrien last spring (for a story in Memphis magazine), I heard the word sir a record 37 times. The 2004 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year (and second-team All-America), OBrien practiced his craft way outside the local spotlight, but managed to lead Memphis to the 2004 NCAA tournament (only the second such appearance for the Tigers) and delivered more assists than any Tiger in history. At the Mike Rose Soccer Complex, OBrien is the one we should be calling sir.
18 Danny Wimprine. The hardest part of this gig is juggling a journalists objective standard with being a fan (which I remain and will as long as my editors share out this space). After Wimprines last home game at the Liberty Bowl (a dramatic win over Southern Miss in November 2004), I managed to shake the record-setting quarterbacks hand as he left the field, and thanked him for all he did to turn Tommy Wests program around. No, he wasnt DeAngelo Williams. But itll be some time before another Tiger passes for 10,000 yards.
41 Scott Seabol. Want to know the worst three words in the life of a pro baseball player? Career minor leaguer. Until the summer of 05, Seabol had spent nine years in professional baseball, all of them except one at-bat one at-bat! in the minors. He hit 31 homers for the 2004 Memphis Redbirds and has hit more over his three years at AutoZone Park (56) than any other player. Which made his promotion to St. Louis last May, on the heels of an 18-game hitting streak, all the sweeter. Seabol made his first big-league start on his 30th birthday (May 17th), then helped the Cardinals beat the fabled New York Yankees at Busch Stadium with a 7th-inning, pinch-hit, 2-run homer on June 12th. He hit .219 in 105 precious at-bats for St. Louis.
45 Wesley Smith. A three-time all-conference selection, Smith has started at safety in all 36 games hes dressed out for at the U of M. (Hes one of only three Tiger defenders to start every game this season alone.) Recent history has the Memphis offense carrying the program, and rightfully so. But Smith has been a consistently terrific player in a defensive secondary that desperately needs his sideline-to-sideline strength. When a big play comes up for the Memphis defensive unit, Smiths number is the one I find. Hell be the best returning player for the Tigers in 2006.
5 John Gall. Im behind anyone who played his college ball at Stanford (my sisters alma mater). Despite struggling to find a home with his glove (hes small for a first-baseman, slow for an outfielder), Gall has been a steady hitter at the Triple-A level and finally received his first big-league promotion last summer (his two-run double for St. Louis beat the Florida Marlins on August 2nd). Over his three years as a Memphis Redbird, Gall has moved near the top of the franchise record book for games (2nd), hits (2nd), homers (2nd), and RBIs (1st).
31 Shane Battier. He happens to wear my lucky number (ever since I received my seventh-grade football jersey). Battier seems to have become a stereotype of sorts. Good role player, but never an All-Star. Nice leader, but never a difference-maker. Well, horse feathers. For a city welcoming big-league sports for the first time, Battier was a flag-bearing godsend. Remember, he addressed a packed Pyramid before playing his first regular-season game. During his rookie campaign (2001-02), I asked Battier to name the three people living or dead hed like to invite to dinner. (Typical answers are God, Michael Jordan, and my mom, in no particular order.) Battiers response: Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and Napoleon. Dont ever let leadership become a stereotype.
Now for kicks, add up those numbers. And heres to the next 200.