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Fort Wayne Sports History: Time to vote for the all-time best

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Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

Three finalists to decide Fort Wayne's biggest sporting moment

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 12:18 pm

Part of the reason behind writing the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History'' is because I hoped to spark debates like ``Who was the most famous athlete ever to play in Fort Wayne?'' Who would you pick from among Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Nicklaus, Bill Russell or Gordie Howe?

That's not a bad list, and neither is the one for our three finalists for which was the most significant sporting event in Fort Wayne history. After Rod Woodson's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Komets sweep of the 1993 International Hockey League playoffs won in earlier rounds of voting, the final preliminary round of voting took place last week.

The NBA's formation in Carl Bennett's living room ran away with the voting with 59 percent. Lloy Ball winning an Olympic Gold Medal in men's volleyball was second with 17 percent followed by the TinCaps winning the Midwest League title during their first season in Parkview Field with 12 percent. Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees visiting in 1927 received 8 percent of the vote and Bill Wambsganss pulling off an unassisted triple play in the World Series drew 3 percent.

Here's a brief recap of the three finalists:

* A first-ballot selection, Woodson was inducted on Aug. 8, 2009 in Canton, Ohio.

During his 17-year NFL career, the Snider graduate played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders as a cornerback, safety and kick returner. He's the only player in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl at three positions. In fact, he was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. He's also one of only four players to play in three Super Bowls with three different teams.

In 1993, he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. He was named to the league's 75th anniversary team, and was ranked as the 30th-best player of all-time by Pro Football Weekly.

Among his classic achievements is holding NFL records for most career interceptions returned for touchdowns with 12, most career interception return yards with 1,482 and the third-highest career interceptions with 71.

* The Komets shocked the sporting world on May 21, 1993, stunning the San Diego Gulls 6-1 before 8,154 Memorial Coliseum fans.

This team's records will stand forever, a perfect 12-0 during the playoffs. Only two other teams - the 1988 Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and the 1984 Edmonton Oilers - ever won 12 straight playoff games. No team in any playoffs anywhere has given up only 18 goals in 12 games. Pokey Reddick stopped 95 percent of the shots against him in the playoffs, allowing only 1.49 goals against per game.

To make the feat even more amazing, the IHL is dominated by teams with National Hockey League affiliations, but the Komets are the first independent franchise in 10 years to win the Turner Cup.

* For more than 50 years, former Fort Wayne Pistons executive Carl Bennett had been saying Fort Wayne should be recognized as the birthplace of the National Basketball Association, and on September 8, 2007, the Basketball Hall of Fame debuted just such a presentation.

In the spring of 1948, Bennett, the Pistons' business manager and a member of the National Basketball League board of directors, met with Basketball Association of America President Maurice Podoloff. The meeting took place at Bennett's home, 2920 Alexander Street.

Podoloff and Bennett met Pistons' Owner Fred Zollner at his Zollner Pistons plant office the next morning in a day-long meeting. An official meeting for the press was held in Chicago on May 10, 1948, announcing the four NBL teams jumping to the BAA for the 1948-49 season.

The voting to pick Fort Wayne's all-time greatest sporting moment will last until Friday, and the winner will be announced Monday. We're asking you to go to www.news-sentinel.com to vote for your favorite event.

These selections are excerpted from the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History'' which is available at www.amauth.com or at www.blakesebring.com. It is also on sale in the Fort Wayne Newspapers lobby, The History Center, Fort Wayne Country Club's tennis facility, Wildwood Racquet Club and McMillen Park, Shoaff Park and Foster Park golf courses, the Fort Wayne Visitors Center, Komet Kuarters, Golden Oldies, The Sport Spot and The Bookmark.

You can review the excerpts we've run from the book at http://nscontent.news-sentinel.com/?q=page/fort-wayne-sports-history.