I AM IRON MAN!

Ozzy_osbourne4_2 Iron Man, the live-action film starring Robert Downey Jr. and based on the old Marvel Comics, opens Friday. So what better time for the Two Cents to look at our favorite iron men of all time.

Cal Ripken Jr.
His dogged pursuit to become baseball's king of consecutive games played is considered by many to be the sport's most inspiring story and made Ripken a larger-than-life figure. Deservedly so. We all know it, but need to remind ourselves just how incredible his streak was. It spanned 2,632 games and lasted 17 seasons. Think of those 17 years in terms of a child — being born, learning to walk and talk, going to preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, graduating. Think how long that takes. And then remember that during all those years, the Orioles infielder never, ever missed a game.

Lou Gehrig
Lou Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak became an American celebration in part because he broke the record of an American legend. Gehrig, called the Iron Horse, didn't miss a game over a 15-year span. The Yankees first baseman played 2,130 consecutive games and it ended tragically as he became disabled with the neuro­muscular disease that would take his life just two years later.

James J. Jeffries
The early days of boxing were full of what were called "iron men'' — bruisers who would fight 20, 30, 40 rounds in a match. Jeffries was the epitome of an iron man. In fact, he was called "The Iron Man of the Roped Square.'' He once beat Tom Sharkey in a 25-round match despite a shoulder injury that left him nearly defenseless. Another time, he survived and won against Bob Fitzsimmons in one of the most brutal boxing matches ever. Allegations were made that Fitzsimmons "loaded'' his gloves. Jeffries' nose was broken. His cheeks were cut to the bone. Both eyes were badly gashed. Yet Jeffries knocked out Fitzsimmons in the eighth round, solidifying his reputation as boxing’s greatest "iron man.''

Jeff Feagles
The current true iron man, though it pains me to refer to a punter as an "iron man.'' Still, the Giants punter's streak is at 320 consecutive games — an NFL record.

Jim Marshall
The Vikings defensive end played from 1960 to 1979 on the icy turf in Minnesota and once held the NFL record by playing in 282 consecutive games.

Brett Favre
Brett Favre's streak of starting 253 consecutive regular-season games seems more impressive than Jim Marshall and Jeff Feagles. While Marshall played on the line and Feagles punts, Favre played quarterback — a position that not only is the target of opposing players, but a job a player can lose with a few subpar performances. Just look how rare it is for one quarterback to start every game in one season. Yet the Green Bay QB played well enough, sturdy enough and long enough to set a QB record that is unlikely to be matched.

Ironhead Heyward
Heyward This former NFL running back has what we think might be the greatest nickname in the history of sports. Born Craig William Heyward, he became Ironhead, reportedly, by playing pickup football games in the street as a child and lowering his head into defenders. One kid told him his head must be made of iron. He played 11 NFL seasons and made the 1995 Pro Bowl. Sadly, he died in May of 2006 at the age of 39 from a brain tumor.

Barry Wagner
Wagner defined the iron man concept of Arena football, dominating on both sides of the ball as a wide receiver and linebacker for Orlando and San Jose during his 16-year career. He's the only player to win the Ironman of the Year award more than twice — he won it six straight years from 1992-97. Take almost 1,000 catches, more than 13,000 yards receiving and 265 touchdowns, mix in 825 tackles, and 47 interceptions, and you have an iron man legend.

A.C. Green
No NBA/ABA player played more consecutive games than the former Lakers forward, who played an amazing 1,192 games. Maybe someday, someone will break that record. But Green holds another impressive streak, one certainly never to be matched in NBA history. Green claimed he entered the league in 1985 and retired in 2001 as a virgin. That's having an iron will.

Ozzy Osbourne
I AM IRON MAN!
If you know your Black Sabbath, then no explanation needed here.

Jarvis Doug Jarvis
My vote for the second most-famous hockey player from Brantford, Ontario (First would be a guy named Gretzky.) Jarvis broke into the NHL on Oct. 8, 1975, and retired Oct. 10, 1987. In between, he never missed a game. He played 964 consecutive games to become hockey's iron man. What makes it truly impressive is Jarvis was a checking center who stood only 5 feet 9 and weighed a mere 170 pounds.

Grant Kenny
Did you know there is a sport called Ironman? And, no, I'm not talking about the famous triathlon. Ironman was developed in Australia in the 1960s and combines surf-life-saving skills — swimming, board paddling, ski paddling and running — into a race. Kenny is the legend, having won the 1980 Australian Junior Open and Australian Open within a span of half an hour. And he was only 16.

Paula Newby-Fraser
Newby_2 Who says an iron man has to be a man? Newby-Fraser holds the record by winning eight Ironman Hawaii triathlons — the Super Bowl of ironman triathlons.

Dave Scott and Mark Allen
These two legends share the record for most Ironman Hawaii triathlon championships for a man. Both won six.

Scar Jeremy Irons
Okay, so the English-born actor hardly seems to fit on a list with guys such as Ironhead Heyward and Jim Jeffries. But just thinking out loud: shouldn't a guy named Irons be in a movie called Iron Man? Plus, I dug him as the voice of Scar in The Lion King, so he makes the list.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 3:41pm]

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