slides: Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: West Bay
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Whether it's boxing legend Vinny Pazienza knocking opponents' lights out, Super Bowl champion Mark van Eeghen bruising his way into the end zone, or Baseball Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy pounding balls off the fences en route to hitting for the highest average in baseball history in 1894, West Bay athletes know how to pack a punch.
This list is full of hard-hitters. From NHL stars to NASCAR record-holders, and former No. 1 picks--even a women's baseball legend--the West Bay owns a fearsome group of great former athletes.
So buckle up, and brace yourself---this list ain't for the faint of heart.
#1: Vinny Pazienza, boxing.
The "Pazmmanian Devil" captured the IBF welterweight title in 1987 and the junior middleweight title in 1991.
He's probably best known for making one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history after a horrific car crash left him in a neck brace in 1991.
Three months after the wreck, Paz went against his doctor's orders and returned to the ring, defeating future junior middleweight champ Luis Santana in a 10-round decision. He finished his career with a 39-5 record.
Mark van Eeghen, NFL.
The Cranston native rushed for 6,651 yards over a 10-year career from 1974-83.
Van Eeghen won two Super Bowls with the Raiders in the '70s and '80s, and spent his final season with the New England Patriots in 1983.
He was also a Pro Bowl selection in 1977, and was voted fourth on Sports Illustrated's list of Top 50 greatest athletes, from Rhode Island, in 1999.
Tom Garrick, basketball.
The former Rhode Island star averaged 20.5 points per game in 1988 and helped lead the 11-seed Rams to upsets over Missouri and Syracuse en route to a Sweet 16 berth.
He spent four seasons in the NBA with the Clippers, Spurs, Timberwolves, and Mavericks.
#1: Sara DeCosta, women's hockey.
DeCosta won the gold medal with Team USA in 1998 and started on the silver medal-winning team in 2002.
The PC net minder was named the 2000 and 2002 Hockey East Women's Player of the Year.
She was also a second-team All-American in 1999, and was named a Jewish Sports Heroine by Brandeis University.
Will Blackmon, NFL.
The speedster and now Super Bowl champion grew up in Warwick and played at Bishop Hendricken.
He starred at both cornerback and wide receiver at Boston College, and was one of the great kickoff return men of all time, coming within 119 yards of the NCAA record.
Blackmon played four seasons with the Green Bay Packers before signing with the New York Giants in 2010.
#1: Wilma Briggs, women's baseball.
Briggs is the Babe Ruth of women's baseball. (Well, kind of).
The 5-4 left fielder ranked second all-time in home runs in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, smacking 43 in six seasons with the Fort Wayne Daisies and the South Bend Blue Sox.
She also led the league in home runs in 1953, and helped Fort Wayne win pennants in 1952 and '53.
Jimmy Baron, basketball.
Baron is the all-time three-point shooter in Atlantic 10 history, finishing his career with 345 threes. The URI star averaged 14 points per game and shot 43 percent from beyond the arc in his career (2005-09).
Baron now plays professionally in Turkey.
#1: Siobhan Breagy, track and field.
Breagy ran track and field at the University of Rhode Island, and was the top collegian in the 1,000 meters in 2012 at the Sorian Invitational.
She ranks second all-time in URI history in the 1,000 meters for fastest time, and broke a 32-year old record in the event in her first-place finish in the 1,000 meter prelims at the ECAC Indoor championships.
#1: Mike Stefanik, NASCAR driver.
One of the greatest racers in Wheelen Modified Tour history, Stefanik is the only non-Sprint Cup driver to post 70 career wins.
The Modified Tour is a NASCAR open-wheel division which features cars powered by a small-block V-8 engine.
Stefanik's nine total championships tie him with Richie Evans for the most in NASCAR history, and he was named the second-greatest modified driver of all time by NASCAR in 2003.
- Greatest Athletes In Rhode Island History: Blackstone Valley
- 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: Aquidneck