slides: Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: Blackstone Valley
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Of course, you might expect Woonsocket to have produced its share of hockey talent, with the legendary Mount St. Charles high school program sitting within city limits. Brian Boucher, Mathieu Schneider, and 1997 Rookie of the Year Bryan Berard highlight the list of NHL players from the town.
There are a few names you might not expect (Cookie Gilchrist, AFL MVP) and some you probably remember from their high school days (Rocco Baldelli). Either way, Blackstone Valley boasts an impressive list of big-time talent.
So, who's the best from your town? Click through and find out.
#1: Max Surkont, MLB.
Surkont pitched for five teams in nine years in the majors from 1949-57. He won 61 games and posted 7 shutouts in his career.
The highlight of Surkont's career came on May 25, 1953, when he struck out eight consecutive Cincinnati Reds batters, a baseball record at the time. (He finished the game with 13.)
Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver would eventually break the record, striking out ten in a row in 1970.
#1: Brian Lawton, NHL.
Lawton led Mount St. Charles hockey to four straight state titles and a 121-3-2 record in the late 70s and 80s.
He became the first American ever chosen with the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft when the Minnesota North Stars selected him in 1983.
Lawton spent time with the Rangers, Nordiques, Whalers, Bruins, and Sharks over a ten-year career. He retired with 110 goals and 266 points.
A smart hockey mind, Lawton went on to become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning after his playing career.
#1: Phil Paine, MLB.
Born in Glocester, Paine was a standout at nearby Burrillville High School.
He pitched six years from 1951-58 with the Braves and Cardinals and finished his career with a 3.36 ERA.
Paine saved his best for last, going 5-1 and recording a save with the Cardinals in 1958.
#1: Rob Gaudreau, NHL.
The Providence College defenseman led all players at his position with 55 points in 1992.
He played two seasons for the NHL's San Jose Sharks and scored a career-high 43 points as a rookie in 1992-93.
(Image courtesy of Providence College Athletic Communications)
#1: Jeff Jillson, NHL.
Another graduate of Mount St. Charles, Jillson was drafted 14th overall in the 1999 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks.
He spent parts of seven seasons in the NHL with the Bruins, Sabres, and Avalanche, but never quite lived up to his potential.
Jillson has scored nine career NHL goals and picked up 34 assists.
He now plays in the Russian KHL.
#1: Janet Moreau, Olympic runner.
Moreau won the gold medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki as part of a U.S. team that came in at a world-record time of 45.9 seconds.
She was a national champion in the 50-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the standing long jump, and the 4 x 100 meter relay.
If that weren't enough, Moreau also captured the junior national swimming championship in the 100-yard freestyle as a youth.
(Image courtesy of Boston University Department of Athletics)
Ernie Calverley, basketball.
The URI guard led the nation in scoring at 26.7 points per game in 1943-44, and helped lead the Rams to the NIT final in 1946 after hitting a 60-foot shot to shock heavily-favored Bowling Green. Sports Illustrated would later call that shot "The Greatest Hail Mary of All-Time."
After his career at URI, Calverley spent three seasons with the Providence Steam Rollers of the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the NBA, from 1946-49.
#1: Nap Lajoie, MLB.
The Woonsocket native is arguably the greatest athlete in Rhode Island history, and one of the best players ever to step onto a baseball diamond.
Lajoie ranks 12th on the all-time hits list and owns the American League record for highest batting average in a single season, hitting .422 in 1901.
He spent 21 years in the majors with the Philadelphia A's and Cleveland Indians, finishing with 3,242 hits and a .338 batting average.
Bryan Berard, NHL.
Following in Lawton's footsteps, Berard was the third American ever to be chosen No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft when the Ottawa Senators took him in 1995.
He won the Rookie of the Year award with the Islanders in 1996-97, and had a career year with the Maple Leafs in 1999.
Late in that season, however, Berard suffered one of the worst injuries in hockey history when a high stick left him blind in his left eye.
Berard returned to the NHL with the Rangers in 2001, and won the Masterson trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
He finished his career with 76 goals and 247 assists.
Clem Labine, MLB.
Labine won 77 games over 12 major league seasons from 1950 to 1962.
He peaked in 1955, going 13-5 with a 3.24 ERA and helping the Brooklyn Dodgers capture their a long-awaited first world championship.
Labine finished 96 saves with a 3.63 career ERA.
Rocco Baldelli, MLB. "The Woonsocket Rocket" was a three-sport star who finished third in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 2003.
The bright start to his career was quickly darkened by a rare metabolic cellular disorder that kept him on the disabled list constantly.
He spent the 2009 season with the Red Sox, appearing in 62 games and hitting .253.
Baldelli retired at the end of the 2010 season after attempting to make one more comeback with the Tampa Bay Rays.
He finished his career with a .278 batting average, 60 home runs and 262 RBI.
Brian Boucher, NHL.
Another Mount St. Charles star, Boucher backstopped the Philadelphia Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in his rookie year in 1999-00.
He led the NHL in goals against average that season, at 1.91.
While with Phoenix in 2002, Boucher broke the modern-day shutout streak, going unscored upon for over 332 minutes.
Since then, Boucher has played with the Sharks and Blue Jackets, and returned to Philadelphia in 2011.
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: Aquidneck
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: East Bay
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: Metro Prov
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: South County
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: West Bay