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D.C. and rookies of the year

By Dan Steinberg

(By Jose L. Argueta - El Tiempo Latino)


Maybe you heard how D.C. United's Andy Najar, at the tender age of 17, was named MLS's rookie of the year last week. That made him the youngest pro athlete in a major North American sport to be so honored. It also put him on a short list of D.C. rookie of the years. Over the past 55 years, D.C. has produced just six rookies of the year in the major pro sports: Alex Ovechkin (2006), Ben Olsen (1998), Mike Thomas (1975) Bob Allison (1959) and Albie Pearson (1958).

Since I can't think of how the heck else I could make my D.C. United PR friends happy while also bringing something new to the rookie of the year table, here are Post highlights from the previous honors. Maybe we'll be adding another name to this list in six months. No, not Hamady N'diaye's name.

Albie Pearson, 1958, Shirley Povich column

It is wonderful the way the Nats are collecting celebrities. A couple of weeks ago, they discovered they had the American League's Rookie of the Year, or at least the Sporting News's version of him, when Albie Pearson was singled out for the honor. This week they are officially credited with the Sophomore of the Year. He turned out to be Pitcher Dick Hyde.

These are significant honors, honest, and not won easily. The pollsters were levelling when they made their selections. The Nats had a couple of other boasts last season. They had Roy Sievers in solid contention for the home run and runs-batted-in titles. And they beat the Yankees 10 times, a record excelled only by Detroit.

Add up all these feats and the Nats' last-place finish may seem a bit mysterious. Something evidently was wrong somewhere. Maybe it calls for direct action, as they do in football, like firing the coach.

(Pearson also received a TV set from the Rucker Electronics Corp., which also named him its Rookie of the Year.)

Bob Allison, 1959, Bob Addie report

Bob Allison, big centerfielder, became Washington's second straight rookie of the year last night. He was voted the American League's outstanding freshman for 1959.

The votes of the baseball writers from eight major league cities revealed a whopping margin for the 25-year old former University of Kansas fullback. He was named on 18 ballots to five for Cleveland pitcher Jim Perry and one for Kansas City outfielder Russ Snyder.

Allison, who wasn't even considered a regular in spring training, oddly succeeded little Albie Pearson, who was named for the 1958 award. Pearson lost his centerfield job to Allison and was traded to Baltimore in May for Lennie Green.

Allison, a big boy who stands 6-3 and weighs 215 pounds, hit 30 homers, drove in 85 runs, and stole 13 bases. Bob was fifth in the American League in homers, fifth in stolen bases, and fourth in total bases.

Mike Thomas, 1975, news story

Redskins outside linebacker Chris Hanburger and strong safety Ken Houston were named yesterday to the Associated Press all-pro team and running back Mike Thomas was selected as the NFC rookie of the year by United Press International....

The selection of Thomas came as somewhat of a surprise because Steve Bartkowski, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had been the favorite for the award. Thomas received 20 of 39 votes from the UPI's selection panel of three sports writers in every conference city. Bartkowski was the runner-up, with 16 votes, followed by Willard Harrell, a Green Bay running back, with two and Detroit guard Lyn Boden with one.

Thomas, a fifth-round draft pick from Las Vegas - Nevada, led the Redskins' rushing attack last season. He gained 919 yards on the ground, had 40 pass receptions and scored 42 points.

(The formal ROY honor comes from the AP, but The Post only ran two paragraphs about that one.)

Ben Olsen, 1998, Steven Goff story

D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen, who left the University of Virginia a year early to join Major League Soccer's developmental program, yesterday was named the league's rookie of the year. In a vote of MLS's coaches and general managers, Olsen was chosen over two other finalists -- Chicago forward Josh Wolff (South Carolina) and Columbus midfielder Andrew Williams (Rhode Island).

Olsen, 21, played in 31 of 32 regular season games, starting 24. He would have been the only D.C. player to appear in every game, but a red card in the next-to-last match resulted in a one-game suspension. His four goals and eight assists weren't as impressive as some of the other rookies' statistics, but his speed, crossing ability and steady influence on the right side of midfield were dazzling at times for the two-time defending champions.

"It's a nice honor," Olsen said. "These kinds of awards are great looking back after you have a championship ring, which is my main goal right now."

Alex Ovechkin, 2006, Tarik El-Bashir story

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin was named the NHL's rookie of the year last night in Vancouver, B.C., beating out Pittsburgh Penguins phenom Sidney Crosby and putting to rest one of this season's hottest debates. Ovechkin, who finished third in the league in scoring with 52 goals and 106 points, is the first Capital to earn the Calder Trophy. He also became the first Capital forward to be named an NHL first-team all-star.

"I'm very happy right now," Ovechkin said. "I'm glad it's over. It means a lot. I think a lot about if I could win the Calder Trophy after the season."...

The 20-year-old Moscow native scored two goals on opening night. Four months later, he captured the sporting world's attention by whacking the puck into the net while sliding on his back -- a play that has come to be known simply as "The Goal." By season's end, Ovechkin had solidified his place in league history by joining Teemu Selanne as the only rookies to record 50 goals and 100 points.

But Ovechkin wasn't always the favorite to win the Calder. Before the season, the trophy had all but been handed to Crosby, the Penguins' first overall pick last year, by the Canadian media, which had chronicled his career since he was in juniors. Ovechkin was a near-unanimous selection, receiving 124 of 129 first-place votes and five second-place votes for 1,275 points.

(Of course, the best part of this research was accidentally coming across this line in a Bob Addie column:

"Apparently, there is a hard core of hockey fans in Washington who are always complaining their beloved sport doesn't get enough prominence in the sports pages." This is literally a half-century ago, and nothing has changed. We're born, we grow up, we get married, we complain about the hockey coverage in the newspaper, and then we die. What a life.)

By Dan Steinberg  | November 8, 2010; 3:49 PM ET
Categories:  Caps, D.C. United, Media, Nats, Redskins, Wizards  
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Comments

"Apparently, there is a hard core of hockey fans in Washington who are always complaining their beloved sport doesn't get enough prominence in the sports pages."

That is pretty hilarious. Great find.

Posted by: ThisGuy | November 8, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

And because I don't mind looking like self-parody...Isn't it ironic, Dan, that you dug up that quote on a day when the Post sports section couldn't even send one of their five superstar sports columnists to cover a game between the Caps and the top team in the Eastern Conference--and one of their biggest traditional rivals? It was a Redskins bye week....

And while I'm on the topic, and so I don't sounds like just a Caps fan complaining, that ACC "preview" on Saturday was incredibly weak. An article on the lack of big men in the conference that barely mentions the overwhelming league favorite and about 8 more sentences previewing the league as a whole (split into "storylines to watch," "Players to watch," etc.)? That's it?

Posted by: TheFingerman | November 8, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

WES UNSELD!

He was the rookie of the year AND the MVP! come on steiny

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | November 8, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

@Petey, but that was in Baltimore, right? Never quite sure how to deal with that segment of D.C. sports history, but I wasn't counting Orioles, so....

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | November 8, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Chamique Holdsclaw and Temeka Johnson both claimed rookie-of-the-year honors when they played for the Mystics, too.

Posted by: stwasm | November 9, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Cal Ripken, Jr. won ROY his first year and MVP AND the World Series the very next year, the only player ever to start an MLB career in such a badass way.

He did it in Baltimore, but it was all WaPo news.

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | November 9, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

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