In sports, you can only train so hard. Athletes spend entire summers in the gym, hoping that they’ll be faster, stronger and all-around better the next time they step on the field or strap on their skates. However, there are some things that separate the good from the great in sports, and eyesight is one of them. Whether it helps people see plays develop on the field or spot teammates to zip a pass to across the playing surface, vision has played a large part in the careers of several legends – no wonder more athletes today are getting LASIK than ever before. Check out these four famous athletes whose vision sets them apart from their peers.
1. Ted Williams
One of the greatest left-handed hitters in baseball history, Teddy Ballgame’s physical skills were apparent from his first game in 1939. His vision took a little longer to gain the appropriate recognition. A 1996 article from USA Today’s Baseball Weekly explained that it wasn’t until 1942 when Williams joined the Navy to fight in World War II that a routine medical examination found his eyesight to be 20/10.
Williams related one anecdote where his team was practicing before a game in Kansas City. Williams stepped up to the plate for batting practice and immediately felt that something was off.
”I felt as if I were hitting uphill,” Williams told the news source. ”I told the groundskeeper about it, and the next time we came into Kansas City, it was level. I hit two home runs that day, and when the Kansas City manager learned what had happened, he almost fired the groundskeeper.”
2. Wayne Gretzky
Gretzky was such a prolific passer that if he never scored a single goal in his entire career, he would still be the National Hockey League’s all-time leader in points by nearly 100. While Gretzky may have benefited from playing with competent linemates his entire career, teammates noticed how special No. 99′s eyesight was during games.
“He sees the ice probably better than anyone who plays the game,” long-time NHL goaltender Ed Belfour told the Chicago Tribune in 1994. “He knows where everyone’s at. He’s always in the opening planning holes in the ice where no one’s at.”
3. Larry Bird
Basketball highlight videos on YouTube exist for Bird’s impressive portfolio of passes. One of the premier three-point shooters in National Basketball Association history, Bird also elevated the play of his Boston Celtic teammates with a talent for seeing openings and players out of the corner of his eye. Bird’s peripheral vision was noted by Bill Fitch, Bird’s coach for his first four years in the league.
“After about two weeks, all of a sudden here comes this kid throwing it behind his back, making blind passes, hitting teammates in spots and really bringing it out,” Fitch told NBA.com. “Through his whole career, he was a player who made all the players around him better, and he had some All-Star players playing with him that were good without him, but he made them even better.”
4. Sidney Crosby
A few years ago, hockey fans couldn’t determine if they would rather have Alex Ovechkin or Sid the Kid. Now that the dust has settled over the two players’ first few years in the league, Crosby’s playmaking abilities have set him apart from nearly every other player in the league.
“You can’t really go right at him,” Ladislav Smid, a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers, told the Calgary Herald about playing against Crosby. “He’s strong and uses his vision well, good hands. You have to try to contain him if you can.”
In only nine seasons in the NHL, Crosby has tallied 769 assists – good for 169th all-time.
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