If Les Mann weren’t such a good baseball player, he might have swept the 1911 Nebraska state track meet.
He won the 220 at state as a sophomore, but his performance at the Lincoln High interclass meet his junior year gave a glimpse of what could have been. He scored 41 2?3 points, winning the discus, 100, 200, 220, 400, low hurdles and broad jump. He took second in the pole vault and shot, and tied for third in the high jump.
Mann missed the state meet that year because he was playing in baseball’s MINK league with the Nebraska City Foresters. He never got another chance on the track after signing with the Boston Braves before his senior year of high school.
It’s a fitting anecdote for the type of athlete Mann was: a jack of all trades, but a master of all of them, too.
“Les did everything well. He was tops at football, basketball, track and baseball. He would have been equally great in other sports,” said Mann’s close friend, Scott Dye, in a newspaper account following Mann’s 1962 death in a car accident.
He played his first game with the Braves in 1913, and the next year, Boston won the World Series with Mann in the outfield. His pro career spanned five major league teams and 16 seasons. He retired with a career .282 average, 44 home runs and 503 RBIs.
Mann also coached while playing in the major leagues, including basketball and football at Indiana from 1922 to '24. Mann finished his coaching career at Springfield College, where he had been a standout quarterback in the baseball offseason despite never graduating from high school.
In his retirement, Mann became an advocate for the expansion of baseball. He was a manager in the first baseball exhibition game in the Olympics. Because no other countries participated, the U.S. team split to demonstrate the American sport to more than 125,000 fans in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Mann was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Played for: Lincoln High, Springfield College, Nebraska City Foresters, Boston Bruins, Chicago Whales, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Win Noyes. Although the two may have never met while in Nebraska, Mann and Noyes played their rookie seasons with the 1913 Boston Braves. Noyes was a pitcher from Pleasanton and four years older than Mann.
Best moment as an athlete: The Boston "Miracle Braves" became the first team to sweep a World Series, defeating the Philadelphia Athletics in 1914. With Game 2 tied 0-0 with two outs in the ninth, Mann singled in the winning run.
Mann was No. 62 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »