Jesse Owens was first across the line recently, just as the late sprinter/long jumper was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In balloting for 20 charter members to the new US Olympic Hall of Fame, Owens finished on top, and by a comfortable margin. Using a descending point system, members of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters made Owens No. 1 with 5,273 points. Mark Spitz was second with 4,804 points, followed by Jim Thorpe, Eric Heiden, and Al Oerter.
Though the least promiment of the first five, Oerter appeared at the top of certain ballots, including that of this newspaper's sports editor. Oerter did what no other American ever accomplished - win gold medals in four successive Olympics. Because he won them in the discus, a somewhat obscure track and field event, his name is not the household word others are.
Only a handful of individual athletes made it with just one gold medal to their name. They managed to distinguish themselves in various ways. Rafer Johnson, for example, got the nod over fellow decathlon winner Bruce Jenner because Johnson won a silver in 1956 to go along with his gold in 1960. Bob Beamon didn't merely win the long jump in 1968, he obliterated the world record with a phenomenal leap (29 ft. 21/2 in.) that still is still on the books.
In the case of Muhammad Ali, selection may have been based as much on his career since the Olympics as his light heavyweight victory in 1960. Peggy Fleming no doubt benefitted from wide public exposure and celebrity status, too, even though her transcendent qualification may have been style in the minds of some voters. Tenley Albright and Dorothy Hamill also won Olympic figure skating crowns, but Fleming stands as the epitome of the glamorous artist/athlete.
After Oerter, the charter members finished in this order: Bob Mathias, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph, Johnny Weissmuller, the 1980 ice hockey team , Johnson, Don Schollander, Beamon, Dick Button, Ray Ewry, Ali, Bob Richards, Harrison Dillard, Fleming and Edward Eagan (tied). Pro football scoring champions
One seldom hears much discussion about the National Football League's scoring championship. Maybe that's because kicking specialists tend to win year after year. Ho, hum, who cares?
This season, however, running back Marcus Allen of the Los Angeles Raiders scored 16 touchdowns to become only the second non-kicker since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger to win a league scoring title. O. J. Simpson turned the trick in 1975, and a decade before that another runner, Chicago rookie Gale Sayers, tied the AFL's Gino Cappelletti with 132 points.
As a wide receiver who handled placekicking duties for the Boston Patriots, Cappelletti was the last double threat to capture a scoring crown.
His multiple talents were typical of an earlier era in which few players secured outright scoring titles without being both offensive regulars and kickers. The only NFLers to do so before Sayers were running backs Crazylegs Hirsch (1951), Jim Brown (1958), and Jim Taylor (1962), plus placekicker Don Chandler (1963).
The best multi-threat scorer in history was Green Bay halfback Paul Hornung, whose 176 points in 1960 is a record. Besides tallying 15 TDs, the Packers' ''Golden Boy'' also had a golden toe, booting 15 field goals and 41 extra points. Hawkeye home; punter's near-miss
With this month's opening of the $17 million Hawkeye-Carver Sports Arena, the University of Iowa joined the long list of schools that have built new basketball facilities in recent years. Ironically, the school's nationally ranked team blew the occasion, losing at home for the first time since last year in a upset to Michigan State.
Coach Lute Olsen said his squad may have been a little in awe of the arena. After all, it carries three times the lighting of the old fieldhouse, which was the largest indoor facility of its kind when built in 1927. The arena also is light years better in terms of seating, with 15,000 unobstructed-view seats, compared to the old 13,000-seat facility that left several thousand spectators peering around huge I beams.
All seats were filled opening night, as they have been at Iowa games since 1978. For the privilege of receiving two season tickets for the next five basketball seasons, many fans donated between $2,500 and $5,000 to the arena building fund.
* Don't tell Carl Birdsong pro football is a game of inches. He knows. The St. Louis Cardinals agreed to pay him a $5,000 bonus this season if he could average 44 yards a punt. But he punted 54 times for 2,365 yard and a 43.8-yard average. If just one punt had rolled another 11 yards, he would have made up the 7.2-inch difference.