At age 57 of a heart attack, former NFL linebacker Brad Van Pelt (above). A tremendous all-around athlete, Van Pelt lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Michigan State. After he won the Maxwell Award as the nation's top college player in 1972, the Giants chose him in the '73 draft. He made five Pro Bowl appearances in 11 years with New York, and he was named the team's player of the decade. "He really was like a movie star: talented and good-looking," former Michigan State football coach George Perles said. "Brad had a big heart and was a real giver. He carried a lot of people when he was on top."
At 64 of complications from diabetes, Jazz owner Larry Miller. A Salt Lake City car dealer, Miller bought the team in 1985 when it appeared the Jazz was on the verge of a move to Miami, and soon he became one of the NBA's more visible owners. "We can only wish that we leave this earth as gracefully as Larry," former Jazz forward Karl Malone, who spent five days with Miller last summer after the owner suffered a heart attack, told the Salt Lake City Tribune. "Right to the end, he did it on his own terms."
At age 46 of carbon monoxide poisoning, 1996 Olympic beach volleyball silver medalist Mike Whitmarsh (below). The San Diego County medical examiner ruled his death a suicide. Whitmarsh teamed with Mike Dodd to reach the finals at the Atlanta Games; they were defeated by fellow Americans Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes. A basketball player at the University of San Diego, the 6'7" Whitmarsh led the Toreros in scoring, rebounding and assists in 1984, finishing second by two votes to Gonzaga's John Stockton for the West Coast Conference player of the year award. Two years later he took up beach volleyball; he won 28 tour events in his career.
Of a pulmonary embolism at age 26 after collapsing in training, Poland's Kamila Skolimowska, who won the gold medal in the women's hammer throw at age 17 in the 2000 Olympics. Skolimowska failed to win a medal in Athens and Beijing, and in recent years she worked for the Warsaw police department.
By SI.com, that one of the top prospects in the Nationals' farm system falsified his name and birth records. In the summer of 2006 Washington thought it was signing 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez and gave him a club-record $1.4 million signing bonus. But four sources confirmed to SI.com last week that Gonzalez is actually Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, and he is four years older than was thought. Gonzalez led the Gulf Coast Rookie League in hitting last year (.343), but as one scout who has seen him play said, "Those are great numbers, but you should be hitting that well if you're that much older than your competition."
In the death of a 97-year-old man, former pro wrestling champion Verne Gagne, 82. Helmut Gutmann died three weeks after allegedly being injured in a fight with Gagne at a Bloomington, Minn., nursing home, where both men were being treated for Alzheimer's. (Police are investigating.) Gagne played briefly for the Packers before turning to pro wrestling. He won several belts, and as the owner of the American Wrestling Association he helped launch the careers of Hulk Hogan and Jesse (the Body) Ventura.
By U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, that the positive results of three steroid tests are inadmissible in the perjury trial of Barry Bonds. Illston also threw out what the prosecution says are doping calendars for Bonds maintained by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. Illston said that the prosecution could not prove that the tests belonged to Bonds and that the calendars could not be admitted without corroboration from Anderson, who is refusing to testify. The ruling harms but does not cripple the case against Bonds, who is charged with lying to a grand jury about steroid use. His trial is scheduled to begin on March 2.