Deaths Of Our Sports Icons, 2019, by Rich Paschall
For many of us, we grow up idolizing our sports heroes. It is an important part of our youth. These people are more significant to us than the movie or television heroes because they are real icons. They are athletes we can watch on television, or, if we are lucky, go to see in person. They mean a lot to us in our youth and when they pass away, it is a reminder of the passage of time. We mourn for them and for ourselves, because we have lost a part of our youth. They have passed into our aging memories.
For this “In Memoriam” I will mention ten that hold substantial memories to me for the sports I watched and listened to when I was young. They passed away in 2019. This is not a ranking and the order is totally random. There is no way I could place a number on the life of these accomplished figures.
First, there are a few that deserve to be mentioned for their notable lives. You may not know the name Pete Frates, 34. The Boston College baseball star never made it to “the bigs.” He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehring’s’s Disease) in 2012. Frates along with his friend Pat Quinn are credited with creating the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It raised apprpoximately 200 million dollars for ALS research. In 2015 the Boston Red Sox gave Frates a lifetime contract.
Jack Whitaker, 95, was a longtime sports broadcaster. The Emmy award winner called the first Super Bowl in 1966. He was at countless sporting events for many decades for CBS, then ABC.
You may never have heard of Julia Ruth Stevens, 102. I had not heard of her either until now. She was the last living daughter of baseball great, Babe Ruth. Later in life, she was a Boston Red Sox fan.
Cliff Branch, 71. The wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders (1972-1986) won three Super Bowls.
Jim Bouton, 80. The longtime major league baseball pitcher spent the first seven years in the “Bigs” with the New York Yankees. He became well know after baseball as a broadcaster, and for writing the babseball book, ‘Ball Four.”
Bill Buckner, 69. One of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history became best known for just one error with the Bost Red Sox. He played 22 years in “the show,” including 8 with our Chicago Cubs.
Bart Starr, 85. Even though he played for the rival Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears fans could still appreciate the accomplishments of this HOF quarterback. He won the first two Super Bowls.
John “Hondo” Havlicek, 79. The basketball Hall of Famer played 16 seasons for the Boston Celtics. For some reason we hated to see the ball in his hands. He was an outstanding ball handler.
Forrest Gregg, 85. The NFL Hall of Fame lineman played with Bart Starr on the Green Bay packers. Like Starr, he later went on to coach the Packers.
Scott Sanderson, 62. The long time MLB pitcher played on both the Chicago Cubs (1984-89) and Chicago White Sox (1994). His career spanned 18 seasons.
Frank Robinson, 83. The longtime baseball player, then manager is in the MLB Hall of Fame.
Mel Stottlemyre, 77. He pitched 11 seasons for the NY Yankees, winning 5 World Series. He later went into coaching including 10 more years with the Yankees.
Zeke Bratkowski, 88. He played for the Chicago Bears and LA rams before becoming the “Super-sub” and backup to HOF QB Bart Starr. Legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi picked up Bratkowski off waivers at the beginning of the Green Bay dynasty.
These athletes may not be known by some, and may be forgotten by others, but they remain there through the foggy mist of my memories. They cling to those precious spots of youth from which we are reluctant to let go. “Requiescat in pace.”
Sources include: “Pete Frates,” Alchetron.com
“Too much loss: A look back at the notable sports deaths in 2019,” The Detroit News, detroitnews.com December 31, 2019.
“Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s Daughter, Dies at 102,” The New York Times, nytimes.com March 9, ,2019.