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Most famously, Babe Ruth has been credited with saving baseball after the Black Sox scandal. Riding on the wave of the women's movement, Billie Jean King more or less created women's professional tennis. And Muhammad Ali kept boxing alive for its last hurrah.
But really, especially over a sustained period of time, has any one athlete ever mattered so much to a sport as Tiger Woods does to men's golf?
Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on the issue.