Throughout this week, we will unveil the 50 most important people to sports in Tampa Bay.
So far this week, we have unveiled:
The names you will see were all suggested by listeners to The Commish Justin Pawlowski and sent in during his show. Over this past weekend, Justin, along with his producer “The Drake” and Jim Lighthall, spent hours trying to set the official ranking.
Here are names 11-20 of Tampa Bay’s most important people to this area’s sports:
11. Andrew Friedman – Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations – Rays (2005-present) – The only reason Friedman does not make the top 10 is because of the lack of a championship and because of the incredible names that made our top 10. What Andrew has done with such limited resources has been nothing less than a miracle. His approach to building the Rays is trying to be copied by many teams around baseball. However, most of those teams fail. Andrew Friedman is referred to as one of the brightest minds in baseball today.
12. Warren Sapp – player – Buccaneers (1995-2003) – Warren Sapp is one of the most dominating athletes this area has ever seen. His attitude and persona was just what the Buccaneers needed to transform from a notorious loser to a Super Bowl Champion.
13. George Steinbrenner – owner – New York Yankees (1973-2010) – Steinbrenner was much more than just the Yankees owner to the city of Tampa. This from the Tampa Bay Times after Steinbrenner’s death in 2010: Look around, and his fingerprints are all over the Tampa Bay area: the Florida State Fair, the Port of Tampa, Steinbrenner Field, where the Yankees train in spring. The Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Downs, middle school sports programs, Boys and Girls Clubs. Lights at Little League fields, a pediatric emergency center at St. Joseph’s Hospital, children’s concerts by the Florida Orchestra. I could never write enough here to justify everything that George Steinbrenner did for Tampa Bay and the sports in Tampa Bay.
14. Stu Sternberg – owner – Rays (2005-present) – Stu Sternberg is the principal shareholder of the ownership group that bought the Rays in 2005. On the verge of possible extinction, Sternberg immediately put the Rays “under construction.” With the help of Matt Silverman as the team’s President and Andrew Friedman in charge of baseball operations, the trio has built the Rays into a “more than respectable” franchise in the world of sports.
15. Derrick Brooks – player – Buccaneers (1995-2008) – Showing you how significant Rich McKay’s drafting was in 1995, Brooks was the Buccaneers 2nd of two 1st round selections that year behind Warren Sapp. Brooks has been one of the iconic players in the history of Tampa Bay. Brooks has been involved in as many great moments in Tampa Bay sports history as any player could. Brooks does a lot in the community and is now the President of the Tampa Bay Storm.
16. Rob Higgins – Executive Director – Tampa Bay Sports Commission (2004-present) – Rob Higgins importance to Tampa Bay sports is no debate. From TampaBaySports.org: In the six years Higgins has held his position, Tampa has successfully hosted and/or been awarded the following events: 2007 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball First and Second Rounds, 2008 NCAA Women’s Final Four, 2008 and 2009 ACC Football Championships, 2009 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, 2009 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship, 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Second and Third Rounds, 2012 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, and 2015 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
17. Marty St. Louis – player – Lightning (2000-2013) – St. Louis is currently the greatest player to ever play for the Tampa Bay Lightning and was involved in one of Tampa Bay’s greatest moments when he scored the game winning goal in Calgary in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals to send the series to a game 7 in Tampa Bay.
18. John Tortorella – coach – Lightning (2000-2008) – John Tortorella led the Lightning to their only Stanley Cup Championship. Shut your yap!
19. Jim Leavitt – coach – University of South Florida (1997-2009) – Jim Leavitt took a program that was non-existent in 1996 into existence, thru division 1AA, past Conference USA, and into a competitor in the Big East within a matter of a few years. Leavitt led USF to the biggest football wins in their history with victories over Florida State, Auburn, and West Virginia. Jim Leavitt was continually pursued by other programs for his services, but remained loyal to USF and Tampa Bay during his tenure with the Bulls.
20. Wade Boggs – player – Rays (1998-1999) – Boggs is a legendary hall of famer in baseball and provided Tampa Bay one of its greatest baseball moments when he hit a home run for his 3000th hit. Boggs was a graduate and standout at Plant High School and still calls Tampa his home.
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