This Sports Illustrated photo and caption shows George Mikan's influence on basketball. But did he play a role in Edina history? Sports Illustrated: 'Led by dominant big man George Mikan, the Lakers won five titles in six years in Minneapolis (1949-50; 1952-54). They also reached the 1959 Finals behind Rookie of the Year Elgin Baylor but lost to the Celtics, who launched their run of eight consecutive championships. The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960.'
A few times a year, a group asks us to lead a tour of historic landmarks in Edina. Along with the mill site and the County Club historic district, people want to see where famous Edinans have lived.
We're no Hollywood Stars tour, but we will point out the former homes of basketball great George Mikan and Twins owner Carl Pohlad by request. Other groups have been curious about movie star Tippi Hedren, who grew up in Morningside and later starred in such Hitchcock classics as "The Birds," or entrepreneur Curt Carlson, who started his business career as a Morningside paper boy.
I have been intrigued by the interest in famous native sons and daughters, and wonder what place their stories have in our community. What role, if any, do famous individuals have in Edina's history?
Take the case of Mardy Fish. I kept seeing "Edina native" in stories that described his recent tennis accomplishments. When I investigated further, I found out that he was born here but moved away when he was four. I don't think Edina can claim much credit in growing a tennis great, and Fish can't be noted for influencing Edina tennis. He barely rates a mention in our collection.
Compare Fish to Bob Zender, whose obituary and story appeared this week in the Star Tribune. Zender, a 6-foot-8 center, led the Hornets to three straight Minnesota State High School League championships from 1966 to 1968. The team lost only one game during that time period.
Bob helped define Edina's emerging high school identity as a sports power. Edina didn't even have a high school until 1949, but by the 1960s -- thanks to powerhouse teams and athletes like Zender -- it had become the "team you love to hate."
Even though Zender moved away to Kansas State for college and died in his adopted state at the age of 60, he has a place in Edina history forever.
For a listing of some other famous Edinans, see the Wikipedia page on Edina. What do you think? Who made a difference in our community? Who just claimed an address here, but didn't affect our history? Please comment by clicking on "Comments" at the top of today's entry.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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