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Not to Be Forgotten
MARK BECHTEL
December 28, 2009
From a right-leaning quarterback to a bass-playing power forward to a clotheshorse coach, the sports figures who died made marks that will last for ages—even those who passed away far before their primes
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December 28, 2009

Not To Be Forgotten

From a right-leaning quarterback to a bass-playing power forward to a clotheshorse coach, the sports figures who died made marks that will last for ages—even those who passed away far before their primes

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George Kell, 86

A 10-time All-Star whom Brooks Robinson called "my hero," Kell led AL third basemen in fielding seven times, including in 1950, when he made just nine errors in 510 total chances. The soft-spoken Arkansan was also adept at the plate: In '49 he thwarted Ted Williams's bid for the Triple Crown by going 2 for 3 on the final day to win the batting title, .3429 to .3427. Kell struck out 13 times that year, which remains the fewest K's by a batting champ.

Kay Yow, 66

After receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1987, Yow coached the North Carolina State women's basketball team until shortly before her death in January. "She had a way of always exhibiting grace and dignity and courage," said assistant Stephanie Glance. But to remember Yow only for her fight is to overlook her proficiency on the bench: She went 737--344 with the Wolfpack and led the U.S. to Olympic gold in '88.

Glenn Davis, 74

The 1958 Sullivan Award winner, Davis ran sprints and middle distances and also competed in the long jump and high jump, winning 26 Big Ten titles at Ohio State. He took one gold medal in the 1956 Olympics (400-meter hurdles) and two more (400 hurdles, 4×400 relay) in 1960, when he and decathlete Rafer Johnson, who trained extensively with Davis, became the first black and white roommates on a U.S. team.

Myles Brand, 67

A former philosophy professor, Brand hewed to his principles. As Indiana University's president, he fired basketball coach Bob Knight for violating a zero-tolerance behavior policy; later, as president of the NCAA, he created the Academic Progress Rate for athletes. Said former Tulsa president Robert Lawless, Brand "propelled student-athletes to get an education where they otherwise might not have. That is his legacy."

Steve McNair, 36

Being an effective scrambling quarterback requires not only athleticism but also a willingness to take the occasional shot from a linebacker. McNair had an abundance of both. Throughout his four years at Alcorn State (where he amassed an NCAA-record 16,283 yards of total offense) and his 13-year NFL career (during which he played in three Pro Bowls and led the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV), McNair readily sacrificed his body and played hurt. More than just a runner, McNair threw for 3,000 yards six times in his eight full seasons as a starter, and his career passer rating of 82.8 is the 29th best of all time. He retired in 2008, and last July he was shot and killed by a girlfriend in what police have called a murder-suicide. Said former teammate Frank Wycheck, "I always felt that Steve McNair was indestructible."

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