(Long Island, NY) If you haven’t seen the movie ‘Invincible’ starring Mark Wahlberg as Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale, you’re doing yourself a disservice. A great ‘feel-good’ true sports tale was well done. It conjures up memories of a few local athletes that have similar underdog stories.
Probably the most similar would be Wayne Chrebet of the Jets. The diminutive wide receiver was a local guy, such as Papale was for his team. The ‘Green Lantern’ was an undrafted free agent out of Hofstra University, the Long Island school where the Jets hold training camp and practice.
No one expected Chrebet to make the team. He even was named as an ‘On the bubble’ player in a recurring Daily News column on who may be the next cut during camp. But the Jets were coming off a 6-10 season and had a new coaching staff in place. The infamous Rich Kotite was the new man in charge and the team was low on receivers. Chrebet made the squad and played in all 16 games, catching 66 passes for 726 yards. It wasn’t like the Jets had much competition for his spot, with forgotten names such as Ryan Yarborough and Charles Wilson lining up as wide outs.
Chrebet played for 11 seasons for Gang Green and only retired recently due to post-concussion syndrome. He was an inspiration to everyone, fans and players alike.
One of the more obscure names of an underdog that had a few moments in the sun was infielder Brian Doyle of the Yankees, who was from Glasgow, Kentucky, about a different a place as the Bronx as you can get. He was 23 when he broke into the big leagues in 1978, hitting a paltry .192 in just 39 games. But in the post-season, he took over for an injured Willie Randolph and promptly hit .286 in the American League Championship Series versus the Kansas City Royals and .500 in the World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Shortstop Bucky Dent won MVP honors while batting .458 for the series. Many folks felt that Doyle was just as deserving. He played sparingly for three more seasons, the last being for Oakland, and had a career batting average of .161. But no one can take away that October from him.
How many more Papales, Chrebets and Doyles have there been? They are just some of the reasons why sports are more than just that. And material that movies are made from.