A Game of First: The Indomitable Athletes That Proved They Belong

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A Game of First: The Indomitable Athletes That Proved They Belong

There’s nothing better in sports then an athlete obliterating a barrier that once held back entire group from participating, or becoming a first at setting a mark amongst a particular sector never thought capable of achieving a notable mark.

Just about everyone knows about Jackie Robinson’s plight, as he crossed MLB’s color divide on April 15, 1947.

However, there are many more indomitable athletes who haven’t garnered nearly the attention Robinson has, but have made monumental contributions to sports nonetheless.

For instance, on January 18, 1958, in Montreal, Willie O’Ree made his debut in the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins.photo O'ree

His first NHL stint lasted only two games. What made it more spectacular, a puck struck O’Ree in the right eye during a game in the 1955-56 hockey season while playing for the Kitchener-Waterloo Canucks, a junior league team.

The injury caused a 95% loss of vision in that eye, but O’Ree found ways to continue his career, switching from left wing to right wing in order to see the puck better. He also used his natural athletic ability to outmaneuver the competition.

Moreover, he endured the taunting and racist remarks from fans and other players who purposely picked fights with him, just to see if he would retaliate.

Given the violent nature of the sport, he fought back in order to protect himself. He wound up returning to the NHL for the 1960-61 campaign, registering four goals and 14 assists in 43 contests.

Who can forget Mo’Ne Davis, who pitched her way into Americans’ hearts last year? Davis became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history, allowing only two hits, striking out eight batters and walking none against Tennessee last season.

What’s next for her, aside from fanning hitters at a steady clip? Davis said she hopes to play basketball at the University Connecticut someday. I wouldn’t bet against her. 20140815_moneside_3_1024

Goaltender Manon Rheaume became the only woman to appear in an NHL exhibition game with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992.

But she’s not the only woman to appear in the pros. During the 2013-14 season, Shannon Szabados trail blazed a new path by becoming the first female to both sign and play in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The two-time gold medal winning netminder for team Canada skated in two games for the Columbus Cottonmouths and 24 this season, posting a 15-8-1 record through 24 tilts.

And yes, they do belong.




About the author

Jerry Del Priore is a veteran freelance sports writer from Brooklyn, New York, who covers a variety of professional, college and high school sports for a number of print and digital publications. In addition, Del Priore is the author of Running Through Roadblocks: Inspirational Stories of Twenty Courageous Athletic Warriors, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

View all articles by Jerry Del Priore

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