GERRY STALEY – Baseball
Gerry Staley reached the Major Leagues at 26 and pitched until he was 40, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. Staley was a three-time All-Star selection who won 134 games in his career with a 3.70 earned-run average over 1,981 2/3 innings.
He won 77 games over five seasons for the Cardinals from 1949-1953. He pitched in four games of the 1959 World Series that the White Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Staley was born in Brush Prairie, Washington and attended Battle Ground High School. More about his life and career can be found in his Society of American Baseball Research bio.
VIC MARKOV – Football
University of Washington All-American tackle, he captained the 1938 Collegiate All-Stars after starring in the Rose Bowl. Former NFL pro player with Cleveland, he is a member of the all-time UW team and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
From his bio for the NFF Hall of Fame: “Victor Markov was born in 1916 in Chicago of Croatian immigrant parents. He played football at Lindblom High School. Dr. Alfred Strauss, a Washington alumnus in Chicago, had recruited Vic’s brother, Ted, for the school, and he recuited Vic. Ted lettered at Washington 1933-35, Vic lettered 1935-37, and made All-American tackle his last two years. He also was on the Washington wrestling team and the track team as a shot putter and discus thrower. He played with the Cleveland Rams 1938-39. He served with a tank batallion in World War II, and was decorated after the Battle of the Bulge with the bronze star and purple heart. He returned home to Seattle, set up a tire business and was a leader in Washington alumni affairs. He founded the Vic Markov Scholarship Fund. This awarded scholarships to University of Washington applicants. Markov died December 7, 1998 at the age of 82.”
ERNIE STEELE – Football
One of the University of Washington’s all-time football stars. He further distinguished himself as a pro standout with the Philadelphia Eagles. He averaged over 20 yards on punt returns and still holds the NFL single-season record of 26.4 yards per return.
In 69 career games for the NFL Eagles from 1942 through 1948, Steele carried the ball 258 times for 1,337 yards and caught 31 passes for another 520 yards. He also had 24 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries on defense for Philadelphia.
Steele graduated from Highline High in Burien. For years after his career, he owned a prominent Seattle sports bar.
HARLOND CLIFT – Baseball
Growing up on an apple orchard near Yakima, Harlond Clift developed a good throwing arm by chucking apples. He went on to play 12 seasons of Major League Baseball. He was a solid performer, a third baseman with power, but all two seasons were played with losing teams (the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators) causing him to be overlooked.
After hitting a grand slam off of New York Giants would-be Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell in spring training, Clift joined the Browns in 1934.
As a Major Leaguer, Clift had 1,558 hits, 178 home runs, 829 RBI and batted 2.72. He scored 100 or more runs in seven seasons, drew 100 or more walks six times, and hit 20 or more home runs in four seasons. He was selected to the All-Star team in 1937 and received votes for American League MVP in both 1937 and 1938.
More details are available in his Society of Baseball Research bio.
SAM BAKER – Football
Sam Baker grew up in Tacoma and attended Stadium High School before moving to Corvallis his junior year. He was a basketball and baseball standout but became a professional as a punter and kicker.
He played collegiately at Oregon State and was voted the team’s most valuable player by teammates three consecutive seasons (1950-52). He was the school record holder in rushing yards and carries when he left OSU.
Baker was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams (133rd overall) in 1952 but his rights were sold to the Washington Redskins. Two years of military service delayed the start of his career. While drafted as a running back, the Redskins needed a kicker so he volunteered. He led the NFL in field goals in 1956, points in 1957 and punting average in 1958.
He went on to play for the Browns, Cowboys and Eagles. Upon retiring in 1970, he was the second-leading scorer in NFL history and held the record for scoring in 110 straight games. He played in the 1964 and 1968 Pro Bowls.
He died in Tacoma June 5, 2007.
JOE GOTTSTEIN – Horse racing
Joe Gottstein played right guard on the football field and won a heavyweight wrestling championship before moving back to Seattle and making his mark in horse racing. In 1914, upon his mother’s death, he joined his father in business owning real estate and several saloons. After a stint in the military during World War I, Gottstein’s real estate and finance career developed.
Gottstein’s father had been a shareholder in Seattle’s Meadows racetrack, now the south end of Boeing Field. Upon the Great Depression, horse tracks disappeared. Gottstein was later involved in the creation of Longacres, bringing racing back to prominence in Seattle in 1933. In 1935, Gottstein started the Longacres mile with a $10,000 purse.
Much more detail about Gottstein is available in this article on the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association website.
VINCE O’KEEFE – Media
From his Seattle Times obituary on Feb. 12, 2006:
Vince O’Keefe, who began his journalism career in 1930 as a Seattle Times copy boy and retired in 1982 as executive sports editor of the newspaper, died Saturday at age 91.
O’Keefe, who was voted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, had weakened and contracted pneumonia in recent days. He died at a Queen Anne nursing home where he and his wife, Margaret, had lived for the past year and a half.
“Vince saw decades of Seattle sports history,” said local sports historian David Eskenazi. “He always had that gleam in his eye and a tremendous mind and memory for local sports history and events, many of which he witnessed personally and covered professionally. One of his daughters told me that he watched the Super Bowl last Sunday, and I think that’s fitting for someone who saw and played a part in so much of this city’s sports history.
“Vince saw the entire tenure of the Seattle Rainiers from 1938 to 1964. He saw all the big fights, including the Al Hostak-Freddie Steele fight in 1937 that Jack Dempsey refereed to the 1957 fight between Floyd Patterson and Pete Rademacher.
“He saw the first hydroplane races here. He saw the birth of the Sonics, Pilots, Seahawks and Mariners. During his career, he also cared about events that were out of the limelight, such as high-school sports and amateur soccer. He was a complete sports journalist and aficionado.”
O’Keefe was born in San Francisco and was taught by his mother to read and write by age 3. He breezed through Cleveland High School, graduating before his 15th birthday. He dropped out of college to become a copy boy and three years later became a “cub reporter” and eventually a sportswriter.