SI Vault
December 29, 2008
The sports world said goodbye to two members of the Steel Curtain, a couple of Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers and a pair of legendary basketball coaches, as well as the singular Kiwi beekeeper who conquered Everest, a unique champion of chess and one of the most respected voices in broadcasting
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December 29, 2008


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86 | In four decades in front of the camera, McKay never relied on gimmicks or cloying catchphrases. He just conveyed a sense of genuine wonder and delight at what he was calling, whether it was Olympic highlights or cliff diving in Mexico. As the longtime host of ABC's Wide World of Sports, he visited 40 countries and traveled nearly five million miles. Of course, not every story was uplifting. McKay is likely to be remembered most for his work at the 1972 Munich Games, when he began a 15-hour stretch behind the desk in a damp bathing suit—he had been in a sauna when the news broke—watching the horrible fate of 11 Israeli hostages unfold. He then told the world at the ordeal's end, "They're all gone." When he finally left the air, he received a cable from Walter Cronkite that read, "Today you honored yourself, your network and your industry." That was no surprise, because McKay was so much more than a talking head. For most of his career he wrote his own copy, including the phrase that signaled the beginning of another adventure in the Wide World of Sports: "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."


92 | Originally a society writer at the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, N.C., Garber moved to sports when that department's all-male staff was depleted by World War II. She ended up working the beat for more than 50 years, becoming one of the first women to cover men's sports—though sometimes she had to sit with the coaches' wives. In 2005 she was the first female winner of sportswriting's highest honor, the Red Smith Award.


59 | With his arrow Mohawk (a reminder to always move forward) Holmes was one of the more colorful members of the Steelers' 1970s dynasty. Nicknamed Fats, the defensive tackle made two Pro Bowls and twice led Pittsburgh in sacks. Holmes described himself as "stone crazy"—he once fired a handgun at a police helicopter—but after his career he became an ordained minister in New Waverly, Texas; he died near there in a car accident.


89 | One of the original owners of the Broncos in 1959, Howsam wasn't content to build an AFL franchise, so he sold his interest, switched sports and put together one of baseball's most memorable dynasties. After four years in St. Louis as general manager of baseball's Cardinals, he moved to Cincinnati and assembled the Big Red Machine, an offensive juggernaut that won four pennants and the World Series in 1975 and '76.


90 | He played on only two teams that finished higher than third, but Vernon was one of the best hitters of the 1940s and '50s. Though he primarily hit for average—he won two AL batting titles for the Senators—his most memorable moment came on a home run. After his walk-off shot on Opening Day in '54, he was intercepted by a Secret Service agent and taken to President Dwight Eisenhower, who insisted on shaking Vernon's hand.


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