Sunday, January 01, 2017
So Long, 2016!!
Yes, girls and boys, it's time to turf that ragged old 2016 calendar, and unfurl the one that arrived in the mail. Reflecting on the past year, sad to say, we lost a fine group of athletes from many different areas in the sporting world.
In no particular order, I shall address those losses. Some of them may not move you deeply, as they matured, like a fine wine, to a great old age. Others left us too soon, for a variety of reasons.
Arnold Palmer left us last year. He was certainly a legend on the golf links, and managed to stay in the game long enough to have great impact.
Muhammad Ali died in 2016. I trust you have seen some of the documentaries, or movies of the man. He dominated the fight game for many years, and was a lightning rod for the promotion of racial integration in the United States.
Two other great fighters also died last year: Aaron Pryor, and Sonny Liston, who helped promote the game with Ali, Frazier, and a few others.
Dick McCauliffe was a fine baseball player, and won a World Series with the Tigers in 1968. Monte Irvin was one of the pioneers of the game, the last survivor of the Negro Leagues. The Hall of Famer was 96. Joe Garagiola died last year, at the age of 90. His story, and that of his son, is documented in a previous column. Milt Pappas starred with the Cubs, Orioles and Braves during his career. The most tragic baseball loss last year was that of Jose Fernandez. Fernandez managed to escape from Cuba to became a star with the Marlins in Florida. A superstar .in the making, his life was snuffed out in a late-night boating accident off the coast of Florida. Drugs and booze involved? Of course. Tragic? Absolutely.
We lost NBA Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond, and another in Bobby Wanzer who played for the Rochester Royals and became an NBA Champion in 1951.
Johann Cruyff was declare Europe's best player of the 20th century on the soccer pitch. He helped promote the game world-wide.
Winston Hill was a key player in the career of Joe Namath. Hill was a tackle with the Jets, and protected “ Broadway Joe” when he won his only championship. Buddy Ryan was a legendary coach with many NFL teams. His sons are currently unemployed, after unsuccessful seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
A slight nod to the wrestling game. “Chyna” passed away last year. She was 46 years old, and had difficult times outside the ring.
So many friends left the ice for good last year, but none greater than Gordie Howe. Have a look at the record book. No matter what Jagr does, Gordie will reign supreme. But we lost one of his nemeses, Lou Fontinato as well. One of the Plager brothers, Bill, who brought a little small town non-nonsense hockey from the north left us last year. Ted McKaskill only played one year in the NHL, but father a pretty fine ball player, his son Kirk.
Bill Gadsby played 21 seasons in the NHL. Rudy Migay starred for the Leafs, Charlie Hodge for the Habs. Former Red Wings Benny Woit and Bill Dineen have left the building. Normie Kwong won four Grey Cups with the Eskimos, but also had his name scratched on the Stanley Cup as one of the owners of the Calgary Flames. Kingston's Bob Dailey passed away last year. A stalwart in early Olympic hockey, Ken Broderick is gone.
And Ron Wicks, the long-time NHL referee, also passed away last year.
May you have a spectacular 2017. May all of your sports dreams come true. ( Keep in mind the word “Rebuilding”! That covers a lot of ground!)