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Have you heard of these Hawaiian Athletes?

December 7th, 2011 · No Comments

Aloha Folks… Otay, your humble scribe has been on a tropical vacation of late - having partaken in a most enjoyable two and one-half weeks of sun and surf on the B-I-G island of Hawaii, and hence, hasn’t recovered fully… Or spotted anything of significant Sporting News to make one feel compelled to scribble anything recently, with some Sandusky Dude hogging the headlines currently… Although I did read a very touching Human interest story about College Football standout Julian Paksi of tiny Albion College, who’s awaiting a liver transplant hopefully sometime, next year when he goes onto Michigan’s waiting list.

Thus, whilst frolicking in the soothing warm, clear blue aqua of the Pacific Ocean with green Sea Turtles zipping around us, one evening whilst enjoying an Adult beverage on our Condo’s deck overlooking said Pacific Ocean when enjoying another magnificent Sunset, for humour I thru out the question of who are Hawaii’s notable athletes? As myself being a fan of Open Wheel Racing, the only name I could entertain to this trivia question was The Flying Hawaiian, aka Danny Ongais.

Unfortunately, Ongais is best known in the racing world for his misfortune of when he crashed during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in 1987 as part of The Captain’s (Roger Penske) Three-car armada.

This practice crash therefore opened the door for sidelined Penske Racing stalwart ‘BIG AL (Al Unser Sr.) to find his way into a competitive ride as Ongais’s replacement and ultimately go onto take a year-old Show car to Victory lane and claim his fourth Indy 500 victory - then only the second driver to ever do so…

This innocent question led to the reading of a tiny newspaper blurb about an ex-surfer by the name of Eddie Aikau, who just so had a Restaurant & Museum on the Big Island, which was conveniently located at the Waikoloa Hilton Resort, where we’d planned on going before my departure to the FRIGID climes of the Pacific Northwest.

A further inquiry upon ze ‘Internetz revealed a bevy of home grown athletes covering at least two of our three major “Stick ‘N Ball” professional sports, i.e.; NFL, MLB and the NBA; which apparently has decided to play ball this year with a truncated season; but I digress…

Thus I was surprised to discover that 30-plus Hawaiian born Major League Baseball (MLB) players have competed over the past 97-years, with a trio of Hawaiian Boys of Summer donning their gloves prior to World War I & II.

The first Hawaiian player was Johnnie Williams who was born in Honolulu on July 16, 1889 and pitched four games for the Detroit Tigers in the summer of 1914.

The second Hawaiian was Tony Rego, born on Oct 31, 1897 - who played between 1924-25 for the St Louis Browns as their Catcher.

And batting “Clean-up” for this early Twentieth century trio of athletes was Prince Oana, born on Jan 22, 1910, and after starting six games in 1934 for the Philadelphia Phillies as an outfielder, was later converted into a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers - seeing sporadic duty as late as 1943 and ultimately 1945…

There was then a void following WWII until 1967 when Mike Lum broke into the Major Leagues and resumed the placement of Hawaiian natives, being followed by a slew of players during the 1970’s - while there are currently 11 MLB players active.

And as mentioned above, this whole curiosity towards notable Hawaiian athletes led me to the discovery of Eddie Aikau - who I’d never heard of before, with the name of Duke Kahanamoku also being thrown into the conversation; whose full name I cannot even remotely do justice too pronunciation-wise: Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku…

Eddie Aikau was an interesting personality, ultimately achieving stardom as a ‘Mega Surfer Dude… Yet also was Hawaii’s very first-ever hired (Lifeguard in1969 - who never lost a single life during his tenure before sadly being lost at sea upon leaving his stricken shipmates, whose double-hull canoe was badly floundering in the Pacific Ocean.

Apparently Eddie tossed his life jacket which he felt was hindering his paddling of his rescue surfboard as he set off to make for landfall. Yet while everyone else was eventually rescued - Aikau vanished in the ocean and was never to be seen again, perishing at the youthful age of 31 in 1978.

The Duke, which was his given name - and not royalty first garnered International fame by winning five Olympic medals; three gold and two silver’s in swimming before popularizing surfing around the globe. As Kahanamoku is credited with introducing the sport to Australia, along with bringing attention to surfing whilst residing in Southern California, all of which led to his moniker as The Father of Surfing…

As for the National Football League, (NFL) there have been a slew of players, some eighty-plus - beginning with a trio of Pigskin purveyors in 1927, when Walter T.K. Achiu was the first Asian to play in the National Football League - playing for the long defunct Dayton Triangles Franchise, primarily as a Running Back between 1927-28.

August Hermengilde Cabrinha played three games for you guessed it - duh Triangles. While Samuel Hipa, was an End also between 1927-28 - who also played for the defunct Triangles. Hmm? All three went to Dayton College and played in (for) the Bermuda Triangle, Err Dayton Triangles, a professional football squad circa 1913-29…

And it appears that the current holder for Most Games (as end of 2010 season) is Mark Pulemau Tuinei with 195 - an Offensive Tackle who played his entire NFL career for the Dallas Cowboys, (1983-97) notching three Superbowl rings during the Troy Aikman era. Sadly, Tuinei reputedly died in an accidental overdose of Heroine and Ecstasy at the age of 39 according to Plaino, Texas police.

Meanwhile, currently playing professional football are: Ikaika  Alama-Francis, a 6’ 5” 258lbs Linebacker on the Miami Dolphins; Aaron  Francisco, a Safety for the Detroit Lions; Chris  Kemoeatu, a 6’ 3” 344lbs Offensive Guard for the Pittsburg Steelers - having won two Superbowl rings.

Olin  Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl Center who played for the University of Washington - before being drafted in 1998 by the Chicago Bears, apparently walked away from the game this October after having signed a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, before injuring his knee and deciding he no longer wished to play the game…

Travis  LaBoy, a Linebacker for the San Diego Chargers; Shawn  Lauvao, a 6’ 3” 315lbs Guard for the Cleveland Browns in his second season…

The most interesting active players to Mwah are the Brothers Raiola. With older brother Dominic (32yrs old) currently playing for the Lions, having been drafted by Detroit in 2001; with younger brother Donovan (28) currently a Washington Redskins player

Even more interestingly, both Raiola brothers play Center, with Dominic having played his college career at Nebraska and is listed at: 6’1” 295lbs. Donovan did his college snapping for Wisconsin and is listed at: 6’2” 293lbs, and spent ’08 with the Seattle Seahawks.

Samson  Satele is another Center from Hawaii, currently playing for the Oakland Raiders and is listed at: 6’ 3” 300lbs; Guy  Whimper is an Offensive Tackle listed at; 6’ 5” 302lbs and currently plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He too like Kemoeatu (Pittsburg) also sports a Superbowl ring, which he earned with the New York Giants…

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