The second part of our blog to unearth some of the greatest Italian-American sporting personalities focuses on more great athletes who have shook America with their sporting prowess. In part one we touched on some famous names from the past; Joe DiMaggio, Joe Montana and the great Rocky Marciano. In this blog we start with the world of motor racing and Mario Andretti.
One of the greatest Italian-born Americans to ever take to the racing circuit has to be Mario Andretti. His first claim to fame is that he is one of only two drivers that has ever won races in Nascar, World Sporscar Championship, IndyCar and Formula One. To this very date, Andretti is the only American since 1978 to have won a F1 race, when he won the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix. Over his illustrious career this amazing driver won 109 races on major racing circuits around the world.
Andretti is also the only Italian-American to be named the USA Driver of the Year in three different decades. Namely, 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. And when Mario won his final IndyCar race, he became the only driver to have won the championship in four different decades.
Our second Grid Iron personality, Dan Marino must be the best ever football player never to have won the Super Bowl. Marino is most often associated with the Miami Dolphins who he played for in the NFL for an incredible seventeen years. This prolific quarterback holds dozens of records but has never being on a winning Super Bowl team. Mostly associated for his powerful arm and his quick release, he was instrumental in the success of the Miami Dolphins leading them to the playoffs a record ten times. In 2005 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Willie Pep might not be the most recognizable name in world boxing, but this amazing Italian-American has a quite unbelievable record in the sport. Out of 241 fights he won 65 with straight KO’s, won 229 and lost only eleven. He was mostly known for his lightning speed and elusiveness and won the World Featherweight championship on two separate occasions. A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Willie Pep was ranked as the number one featherweight of all-time by IBRO (International Boxing Research Organization).
The first hockey player on our list is Phil Esposito, and as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame he has made a whole career out of the sport as a leading player, coach then broadcaster. During his playing days he played an incredible eighteen seasons in the National Hockey League. Phil Esposito is widely regarded as one of the best ever players that played in the NHL, along with his brother Tony. When he retired Phil served as head coach for the New York Rangers before he actually founded the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Then in 2017, Phil Esposito was named as one of the hundred best players that ever played in the NHL. In our concluding part of this blog of the greatest every Italian-American sporting heroes we look at the careers of, Tony Esposito, Mike Piazza and Lou Ferrigno.