In the world of sports, the names on our list of five famous athletes from the 1920s are legendary. In fact, the following five were arguably the most dominant performers ever to compete in their particular sports and 90 years later their names are synonymous with athletic greatness.
- Babe Ruth. Perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time, there is little doubt Babe Ruth was the most revered and popular athlete of the Roaring Twenties. Eight times during the decade, “The Bambino” finished first in the American League in home runs while leading the Yankees to six World Series. Known as much for his enormous apatite for food, booze, and women as he was for home runs, the Babe is number one on our list of 5 famous athletes of the 1920s.
- Red Grange. In an era when college football ruled the fall season over its professional counterpart, Red Grange was one of the most famous athletes of the 1920s. In one of the greatest individual performances in college football history, the University of Illinois halfback ran for 402 yards, scored 5 touchdowns and passed for another as the Illini crushed Michigan 39-14. The following fall, Grange, later credited with saving the struggling NFL, was signed by the Chicago Bears and for the first time, the pros were drawing nearly as many fans on Sunday afternoons as college stadiums were on Saturdays.
- Jack Dempsey. The 1920s was a golden era for boxing—a sport which at that time was as popular as baseball—and its biggest name was Jack Dempsey. After beating Jess Willard in 1919 for the World Heavyweight Championship, the “Manassa Mauler” retained his title until losing to Gene Tunney in a 1926 bout in Chicago. One year later, Dempsey lost to Tunney again and retired from professional boxing at age 32 as one of the most famous athletes of the ‘20s.
- Bill Tilden. No player in the history of tennis has ever been more dominant than “Big Bill” Tilden who ruled the ‘20s with seven U.S. Open championships and two Wimbledon titles. A homosexual playing during an era of intolerance, Tilden’s accomplishments while bearing the constant pressure of having to hide his sexual preference are all the more impressive and earn him a spot on our list of 5 famous athletes of the 1920s.
- Man O’ War. Who says you have to be human to be a great athlete? Considered the greatest thoroughbred horse of all time, Man O’ War won 11 of 11 races in 1920 for a final career total of 20 wins in 21 starts. After retiring, the horse was rewarded for his success by being put out to stud, eventually producing 200 champions and earning his place as one of the most famous athletes of the 1920s.