Our all-time top 10.by Tucson Citizen on May. 16, 2009, under Sports
Citizen Staff Report
THE FINAL EDITION
Even without a major professional sports team, Tucson can make the
case for being a sports town – thanks to success at the college and
high school levels and a climate that draws major events. Some
Athletic director Cedric Dempsey lured Lute Olson from Iowa in 1983 to rebuild Arizona basketball. Olson did much more, putting UA on the national radar before retiring. His legacy – 589 wins, 23 straight NCAA tourneys, a national title in 1997, 4 Final Fours, 11 Pac-10 titles, 33 NBA-drafted players – will be tough for new coach Sean Miller to follow.
In basketball, it’s UA’s 25 straight NCAA tourneys, but football fans won’t forget the Wildcats’ 8-0-1 mark over Arizona State from 1982-90, started by the late coach Larry Smith. “The Streak” took the sting out of UA being on probation for a slush fund by ex-coach Tony Mason, and it turned around a rivalry that saw ASU go 15-2 from 1965-81.
‘FOX’ WHO BUILT McKALE
The late Fred “The Fox” Snowden, the first African-American Division 1 basketball coach, ushered in McKale Center with the “Kiddie Corps” – Coniel Norman, Eric Money, Al Fleming, Jim Rappis and Bob Elliott. They took UA to its first NCAA tourney in 1976. Story, Page 6C
From Hi Corbett Field to Tucson Electric Park, spring training has boosted our economy and prepared three World Series champs: Cleveland (1948), Diamondbacks (2001) and White Sox (2005) and a runner-up, Colorado (2007). In 1975, the Indians’ Frank Robinson became the first African-American to manage a big-league team. But with the White Sox now in Glendale, the future is unclear.
HIGH SCHOOL DYNASTIES
In 1999, Tucson High became the nation’s first school to earn 500 victories in football and 1,000 wins each in baseball and boys basketball. Then there’s Sunnyside wrestling: 12 straight state team titles, 28 overall. Other dynasties: Amphi football, Canyon del Oro baseball/softball, Salpointe tennis and Catalina Foothills swimming/tennis.
Coach Dick Tomey unveiled his run-stopping defense in 1992, led by Tedy Bruschi, and the Wildcats went on to upset No. 1 Washington and beat Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and earn Sports Illustrated’s preseason No. 1 ranking in 1994. The success helped recruiting, which led to a 12-1 season in 1998 and a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
Ray Magnum edged Byron Nelson to win the first PGA Tour event here in 1945 at El Rio. His prize: $1,000. When Tiger Woods won the 2008 Accenture Match Play title in Marana, he took home $1.35 million! The Tucson Open rose to fame in the 1970s at Tucson National, thanks to three-time winner Johnny Miller and NBC.
RISE OF SOFTBALL
No UA team has dominated more than Mike Candrea’s softball squad: eight NCAA titles since 1991 and 21 College World Series in 22 years. From pitchers Susie Parra to Jennie Finch to Taryne Mowatt, the Wildcats have made Tucson a softball hub and energized the high school scene.
Coach Jerry Kindall guided UA to its first major NCAA team title in the 1976 College World Series. The Cats captured two more NCAA crowns in 1980 and 1986, led by Terry Francona and Chip Hale, respectively. Francona managed the Red Sox to two World Series titles, and ex-UA star Trevor Hoffman is baseball’s all-time saves leader.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE BASEBALL
From 1915 to 1958, Tucson boasted minor league teams like the Cowboys and Lizards. But it wasn’t until 1969, when the Triple-A Toros made their PCL debut, that fans got a chance to see future major league stars at Hi Corbett. The Toros won titles in ’91 and ’93 before the Sidewinders took over in 1997 at TEP and won the 2006 title. They left for Reno after 2008, but the independent Toros are back.