SI Vault
 
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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Ingemar Johansson, 76

If the big Swede had a flaw, it was that he enjoyed a good time a little more than a boxer should. His training for his 1959 heavyweight title bout against Floyd Patterson in the Catskills consisted of golf in the morning and a trip to New York City for dinner, with some sparring sandwiched in between. No matter: Johansson's mighty right, which he called "toonder and lightning," floored Patterson in the third round. ("It is faster than the eye," Johansson said of his right hand. "Without my telling it to, the right goes, and when it hits, there is this good feeling all down my arm and down through my body.") Patterson got up, only to be sent back to the canvas at Yankee Stadium by six more rights in the round before the fight was finally stopped. One writer called Johansson's victory "a setback for austerity." Named SI's 1959 Sportsman of the Year, he lost two rematches to Patterson. In typical fashion, though, Johansson befriended his greatest adversary, and for years the two made transatlantic trips to visit each other.

Randy Smith, 60

Hailed by Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay as the best athlete he ever coached, Smith—a soccer All-America at Buffalo State—blossomed from a raw jumper into a feared scorer. A seventh-round pick of the hometown Buffalo Braves in 1971, the 6'3" guard played in 906 straight games from '72 until '83, which stood as an NBA record for 14 years. Smith averaged 20 points four times and was the MVP of the 1978 All-Star Game.

Dante Lavelli, 85

Though Lavelli played only three games for Paul Brown at Ohio State before enlisting to fight in World War II in 1942, when Brown needed players for the pro team he was starting, he tracked down the sure-handed end from Cleveland. In 11 years as a Brown, Gluefingers played in 10 league title games, catching 386 passes in his Hall of Fame career. Said Brown, "Nobody can take the ball away from him once he gets his hands on it."

Lou Albano, 76

No one married rock and roll to pro wrestling like Captain Lou, who was as fond of piercing his face as he was of training grapplers. Before being immortalized in song by NRBQ (a band he managed), Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper's videos; soon the pair were part of a ring plotline that culminated in their managing opposing fighters in a 1984 bout on MTV. It remains the second-highest-rated wrestling broadcast on cable.

Betty Jameson, 89

In Jameson's later years the license plate on her Oldsmobile read be stil. It was a piece of advice Tommy Armour had given her decades earlier, and she took it to heart: Jameson developed one of the purest swings in golf—women's or men's. Dubbed the sport's glamour girl by the press, she won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1939 and '40, then turned pro five years later. In 1950 Jameson and a dozen other women formed the LPGA.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8