You may know ‘em as Slingin’ Sammy, Bantam Ben, Lord Byron, The Rajah, Mr. Cowboy, Slingshot Davey, L.T. and The Ryan Express. These legendary names in sports all have something in common—Cowtown.
While the list of outstanding athletes with ties to Fort Worth is extensive, these are arguably the most iconic figures in the city’s history.
- Sammy Baugh (Football) – A charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sammy Baugh was a two-time collegiate All-American (1935, 1936) for national power TCU. Nicknamed “Slingin’ Sammy,” he played quarterback, punter and defensive back in the NFL and was twice named the league’s Player of the Year (1947, 1948).
- Ben Hogan (Golf) – Regarded as one of the premier ball strikers ever to play golf, Ben Hogan won 64 times on the PGA TOUR, claiming nine Major Championships and Colonial a record five times. Known as “Bantam Ben,” the World Golf Hall of Fame member was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1953.
- Rogers Hornsby (Baseball) – Second baseman Rogers Hornsby owns the second highest career batting average (.358) of all time. “The Rajah” was a two-time Triple Crown winner (1922, 1925) who collected seven batting titles during his National Baseball Hall of Fame career, spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals.
- Bob Lilly (Football) – After a College Football Hall of Fame resume at TCU, Bob Lilly went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. The first player inducted into Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, “Mr. Cowboy” made 11 Pro Bowl appearances and was a seven-time All-Pro.
- Byron Nelson (Golf) – In 1945, Byron Nelson, commonly called “Lord Byron,” enjoyed the greatest season in golf history, winning 11 consecutive tournaments and 18 overall. He completed his career with five Major Championships among his 52 PGA TOUR wins en route to World Golf Hall of Fame membership.
- Davey O’Brien (Football) – TCU’s 1938 undefeated national championship football squad was led by Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback Davey O’Brien. “Slingshot Davey,” the first player to win the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp trophies in the same year, was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
- Nolan Ryan (Baseball) – Major League Baseball’s strikeout king (5,714), Nolan Ryan played for the Texas Rangers and later served as an assistant coach at TCU. His seven no-hitters stand as an all-time record, and helped “The Ryan Express” receive the second highest percentage of votes ever for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- LaDainian Tomlinson (Football) – Former TCU running back LaDainian “L.T.” Tomlinson owns the NCAA FBS single-game rushing record with a 406-yard outburst in 1999. The 2000 Doak Walker Award winner later became the 2006 NFL MVP. He ranks among the top 10 in NFL history (fifth) and NCAA history (eighth) in career rushing yards.
- Sandora Irvin (Basketball) – Sandora Irvin, the niece of Dallas Cowboy great Michael Irvin, became the TCU women’s basketball program’s first-ever first-team All-American in 2005. When she graduated, Irvin, the third overall pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft, was the all-time NCAA leader in career blocked shots (480).
- Sandra Palmer (Golf) – Fort Worth native Sandra Palmer won 19 LPGA Tour events, highlighted by a Major Championship win at the 1975 U.S. Women’s Open. She topped the LPGA money list in 1975 and earned Player of the Year honors. Palmer played college golf at North Texas and is a member of the National Collegiate Hall of Fame.
- Johnny Rutherford (Racing) – Also known as “Lone Star JR” Johnny Rutherford is best known for winning the Indy 500 three times. One of the youngest drivers ever to win in NASCAR history, Rutherford was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996.
- NIKE Golf’s research and development facility, “The Oven,” is located in west Fort Worth. “The Oven” is where NIKE Golf designs, prototypes, tests and builds the golf clubs and balls that their PGA TOUR players, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, use. It also makes the final versions that are sold to consumers. One of the finest teaching and practicing facilities in the area, Leonard Golf Links, houses the private NIKE facility.
- One of the most unique trophies presented to any football team is awarded to the winning team at the annual Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Using metal from a tank shell casing and part of a Bell helicopter, the steel was recast, forged, milled and polished to a spectacular glossy black. The trophy is on display each December at the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau downtown Visitor Information Center.
- Dutch’s Hamburgers on University Drive is named after TCU football coach Leo “Dutch” Meyer, who led the Horned Frogs to national championships in 1935 and 1938 and is famous for saying: “Fight ‘em until hell freezes over. Then fight ‘em on the ice!”
- The Ben Hogan Award is presented annually at Colonial Country Club to the collegiate amateur golfer of the year, while the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award is given out at The Fort Worth Club to the college football’s top quarterback.
- A legendary Fort Worth businessman, Marvin Leonard was known as the “Texas Merchant.” A lover of the game of golf, Leonard built Colonial Country Club, helped secure the 1941 U.S. Open at the course and is the founder of Shady Oaks, another private Fort Worth club. The Leonard Museum is a tribute to the Fort Worth icon.