June 04, 2006
Houston sports icons

I just have one question regarding this article that names and asks for feedback on "your favorite Houston-based athlete of all time": A.J. Foyt??

His uniform was his own, but is it even debatable that anybody was more identified with Houston than A.J. Foyt? Since winning his first midget race in 1953 at Playland Park in the city, nobody raced like SuperTex, winner of four Indianapolis 500 titles, the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Maybe it's just because I don't follow auto racing at all, but I didn't even know the dude was from Houston. Perhaps people of longer standing in H-Town might feel differently. Leave a comment if you do. And for what it's worth, the leaders in the accompanying " Which athlete has best represented Houston?" poll as I write this are Hakeem Olajuwon (my pick, 28%), Nolan Ryan (23%), Earl Campbell and Craig Biggio (13% each). Foyt comes in at 2%, tied with Carl Lewis and Clyde Drexler and ahead of Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 04, 2006 to Other sports | TrackBack

Chuck, if you don't watch at least some of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Sunday next year, then the terrorists have already won.

A.J. used to own a dealership -- Chevy, I think -- on the near SW side, where Borris Miles' parents met. He's bought and sold a few car dealerships scattered around town over the years. I worked with his son Jerry at Lexus of Clear Lake (before I went into business for myself in 2002).

I voted for Dream as well. That was a no-hesitation ballot.

Posted by: PDiddie on June 4, 2006 3:20 PM

As one who does date back to Foyt's later years in racing and has an appreciation for his high rank as a Houstonian, I think the poll has to be hands-down: Nolan Ryan. Anyone else is a very distant second and there's a lot of good choices on the list.

Re: Hakeem .... no axe to grind with any member of Phi Slamma Jamma, but last I checked, the guy spends most of his time overseas. He's not without roots here in town, but come on. I'm just saying that anyone representing their hometown ought to at least have it as a hometown base outside of one's sporting career. Personally, I'd rank Ricky Winslow higher as an athletic representative of Houston. But I won't claim that as any type of majority (or, in this case, plurality) position.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on June 4, 2006 3:21 PM

Not sure I'd think of A.J. Foyt first, these days, but yeah, he's on the list. I grew up not that far from his Chevy dealership.

I was thinking Ryan or Earl Campbell myself just based on your snippet, before I read the article.

Posted by: Ginger Stampley on June 4, 2006 5:05 PM

The Dream's entire career was here in Houston minus the final year in Toronto. He brought the town their first two pro sports titles (not counting the AFL titles of 1960 and 1961). How is he not the obvious pick here?

Posted by: Double B on June 4, 2006 6:16 PM

Not only did Dream give Houston its only two major sports titles, he also led the Rockets to the Finals in 1986, and took UH to the Final Four twice.

Nolan and Earl would get no argument from me as favorites, but I voted for Hakeem.

Posted by: RedScare on June 4, 2006 9:43 PM

As a longtime Houston sports observer (not a fan), this isn't even close -- Hakeem by a wide margin. He'd be followed by Clemens, Campbell, Lewis, Biggio and Bagwell in no particular order.
Ryan, while beloved by many, is the most overrated of the ones named above -- he had a blistering fastball and on certain nights, was damn near unhittable. But he wasn't terribly consistent, and he wasn't a lot better than average pitchers for many of his seasons. While he belongs in the Hall of Fame, he was nowhere near as good as Clemens, but then again, who is? Clemens is the best pitcher I've seen in my 45 years on the planet. I'm not crazy about his personality, but my goodness -- the man can pitch!
Let the barrage of insults begin! :)

Posted by: Roy on June 4, 2006 10:15 PM

I'm not a car racing fan either (at all), but I think it's fair that AJ Foyt be on this list. He was well known in Houston when I was growing up. I think his main claim to fame is that he was at the top of his sport and nationally known before other local teams/ individuals were.

That said, Hakeem's gotta be the guy. Nolan Ryan and Earl Campbell should be right behind him.

Posted by: E Cantona on June 5, 2006 8:19 AM