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Other Notable Comebacks

July 26, 1999|RANDY HARVEY

Ten athletes who had careers interrupted by injuries or illness and returned to achieve at the highest levels of their sports:

BEN HOGAN

When his car was hit head on by a bus on Feb. 2, 1949, the golfer known as "Bantam Ben" suffered broken ribs and a broken ankle. Yet, only 16 months later, he won the U.S. Open at Merion in Ardmore, Pa.

TONY CONIGLIARO

An errant fastball thrown by Angel pitcher Jack Hamilton on Aug. 18, 1967, left the Boston Red Sox outfielder with a broken cheekbone, dislocated jaw and a damaged retina in his left eye. He sat out the 1968 season but, in 1970, he was fourth in the American League in home runs with 36 and second in RBIs with 116.

TOMMY JOHN

On Sept. 25, 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe performed a tendon transplant so experimental on the Dodger pitcher's elbow that now, more than 500 such operations later, it has become known as "Tommy John surgery." John was out for the entire 1975 season but returned to pitch for 14 more years before retiring at age 46 in 1989. He won 21 games in 1979 and 22 in '80 for the New York Yankees.

SUGAR RAY LEONARD

Although doctors informed him that they had repaired the detached retina that he suffered during training in May of 1982, they cautioned against returning to the ring because a recurrence of the injury could cost him vision in his left eye. He at first took their advice before mounting his comeback, which culminated with an April 6, 1987, decision over Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

JEFF BLATNICK

Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in July of 1982, the wrestler had his spleen and appendix removed one month later and in October started radiation treatments. Less than two years later, in the 1984 Summer Olympics at the Anaheim Convention Center, he became the first American to win a Greco Roman gold medal.

GREG LeMOND

Nine months after becoming the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986, Lemond was accidentally shot by his brother-in-law during a hunting excursion north of Sacramento. Doctors removed shotgun pellets from his liver, small intestine, diaphragm, lung, kidney, foot, leg and shoulders. They left 30 pellets in his body, including two in his heart lining. He missed the next two Tours de France but returned to win in 1989 and '90.

MARIO LEMIEUX

Radiation treatments for Hodgkin's disease diagnosed during the 1992-93 NHL season caused the Pittsburgh Penguin star to sit out from Feb. 1 to March 2. On the day of his last treatment, he chartered a plane from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, played that night and had a goal and an assist. He had 30 goals and 26 assists in the final 20 games of the season, won his fourth scoring title and was named the league's MVP.

EVANDER HOLYFIELD

While hospitalized after an April 22, 1993 loss to Michael Moorer, Holyfield was diagnosed with a "stiff heart," the result of a non-compliant left ventricle. Claiming he was healed by evangelist Benny Hinn, Holyfield was cleared to box again in November of 1994 by the Mayo Clinic. Two years later, he regained the heavyweight title with an 11th-round TKO of Mike Tyson.

MONICA SELES

The winner of eight Grand Slam titles before her 20th birthday, she was stabbed in the back with a 9 1/2-inch kitchen knife by a deranged Steffi Graf fan in a tournament at Hamburg, Germany, on April 30, 1993. Recovering from physical and psychological wounds, she wouldn't play again for 27 months. In 1996, she won another Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

DAVID CONE

After the Yankee pitcher suffered an aneurysm on May 10, 1996, doctors saved his life--and his career--by grafting a vein from his leg to his armpit. Four months later, he returned to the mound and pitched seven no-hit innings. He also won a World Series game that season and was 2-0 in the 1998 playoffs. Eight days ago, he pitched a perfect game.

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