Saint Louis, MO

6 of the Most Famous Athletes From St. Louis, MO

James Logie
Photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

There is an extraordinary amount of talented people who come from St. Louis. Some were born here, and some would move here—but the city was a huge part of their lives.

But it's not just famous actors and celebrities who have called St. Louis home; it's also been home to some tremendous athletes.

It's impossible to cover everyone in a brief article, so this is just a quick snapshot of some of those top athletes. With so much talent, it can be easy to forget others, but is unintentional. And this list is in no particular order.

Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors grew up in East St. Louis. He took to tennis at a young age and his mother and even grandmother coached him. This unique coaching tandem worked, and in 1961, Connors won the U.S. boys under 11 championship. And he was only 9.

He then became only the 9th player to win two Junior Orange Bowls, which is based out of Florida. Connors turned pro in 1971 and dominated the pro tennis circuit.

He has won eight different Grand Slam championships including:

  • Two Wimbledons
  • One Australian Open
  • Five U.S Opens

Yogi Berra

The great Yogi Berra was born in St. Louis in 1925. He wasn't Yogi Berra quite yet, as his birth name was Lorenzo Pietro Berra.

Before serving in World War 2, Berra spent time in the minor leagues. He began his baseball career playing both infield and outfield before settling in as a catcher

Berra began his professional career with the New York Yankees. He played for 19 seasons where he achieved some incredible accomplishments including 10 World Series Championships (more than any player ever), 1,420 RBIs, 18 All-Star appearances, and three AL MVP awards.

He became even more iconic in his role as a manager and created several sayings that are still used to this day.

Ryan Howard

No, not the intern from The Office, but the Major League Baseball player. Born in Florissant--a suburb of St. Louis--"the Big Piece" was a standout major leaguer.

He played college baseball for Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State University) which ended up with his number being retired by the team.

Howard was drafted in the fifth round of the MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Right out of the gate, he became the fastest player in history to reach the 100 and 200 home run milestones. Here are a few more of his accomplishments:

  • NL Rookie of the Year in 2005
  • NL MVP in 2006
  • Three-time All-Star
  • Two-time NL home run champion
  • Hank Aaron Award, Silver Slugger, and NL Championship Series MVP all in 2009

Jacki Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born in East St. Louis in 1962. She became a standout athlete at a young age, and while attending East St. Louis Lincoln Senior High School, qualified for the long jump in the 1980 Olympic trials.

She would go on to attend UCLA where she not only focused on the grueling heptathlon but also played college basketball.

Joyner-Kersee went on to one of the best careers of any American athlete. She has won three golds, a silver, and two bronze over her Olympic career.

Her achievements still stand to this day and Sports Illustrated named her the greatest female athlete ever.

Pat LaFontaine

During the 1980s--with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux dominating the league--it was hard to stand out in the NHL. But Pat LaFontaine was able to carve out his own impressive career.

Born in St. Louis in 1965, it was a tougher time to crack the pros as an American. In the 1980-81 season, there were only 76 Americans in the NHL.

LaFontaine played his youth hockey between Michigan and in Quebec where he actually outscored Mario Lemieux during the 1982-83 season scoring over 100 goals.

LaFontaine was drafted by the New York Islanders where he played until 1991 before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

LaFontaine finished his career with over 1,000 points and had the highest points per game of any American ever. In 2017, he was named one of "The 100 Greatest NHL Players" in history.

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston is one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. However, there is no specific record of when he was born. It was in Arkansas and believed to be sometime in 1932.

Liston would move to St. Louis at a young age. He began a brief amateur career where he won the Chicago Golden Gloves in 1952. He then won the New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.

Liston turned pro in 1953. He would establish himself as a dominant boxer and won the World Heavyweight Championship in 1962 when knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round. Then, the next year, he did the same thing to retain his title.

Then came his famous bouts with the legendary Muhammad Ali. He lost the title to Ali in 1964 despite being the heavy favorite. The two would fight again just nine months later. The ending to this fight remains controversial to this day.

Ultimately, Sonny Liston is regarded as one of the best boxers ever and has been ranked as the tenth greatest heavyweight of all time. In 1991, Liston was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Also, shoutout to boxers Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and Corey Spinks, all also from St. Louis.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, brief articles like this make it impossible to cover all the athletic talent that comes from St. Louis.

This list just scratches the surface and you may have your own favorites who represent the city.

This list is to just give you a quick look at the wide range of talent who have called St. Louis home at some point.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.


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