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THE FAREWELLS
MARK BECHTEL
December 26, 2011
From a Cy Young pitcher to a beer-pitching pass rusher, from a cantankerous owner who revolutionized football to a crafty fútbol player who helped usher in a revolution, the sports world said goodbye to a host of indelible figures
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December 26, 2011

The Farewells

From a Cy Young pitcher to a beer-pitching pass rusher, from a cantankerous owner who revolutionized football to a crafty fútbol player who helped usher in a revolution, the sports world said goodbye to a host of indelible figures

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Walt Hazzard, 69

Called "the most unselfish man south of the North Pole" by SI, the reverend's son was the point guard of John Wooden's first UCLA championship team, which went 30--0 in 1964. An excellent ball handler, he was inspired by a Globetrotters show he saw at age eight. "I practiced dribbling like Marques Haynes for hours," he said. But Hazzard, who was Arthur Ashe's roommate at UCLA, could also score. He averaged 18.6 points as a senior, when he was named national Player of the Year. "I used to love to go to practice," Hazzard recalled. "And when we got to be Number 1, I liked it even better. You got to pay the cost to be the boss." After a 10-year NBA career (he finished in the top 10 in assists five times), he went 77--47 in four seasons as UCLA's coach.

Ollie Matson, 80

The NCAA's top rusher in 1951, Matson led San Francisco to a 9--0 record in its last Division I season. The NFL's Chicago Cardinals drafted Matson third in '52, but first he took a side trip: to the Helsinki Olympics, where he won a bronze (in the 400 meters) and a silver (4 ... 400 relay) medal. When the 6'2", 220-pound Matson, a six-time Pro Bowler, retired in 1966, he was second to only Jim Brown in all-purpose yards.

Dave Gavitt, 73

Though he's best remembered as the force behind the founding of the Big East in 1979, Gavitt was one of the premier coaches of the '70s. His Providence teams went to eight straight postseason tournaments (reaching the Final Four in '73), and he was chosen to coach the '80 Olympic team, which did not compete due to the U.S. boycott. Gavitt left as Big East commissioner in '90 to run the Celtics.

Al Davis, 82

"It's tunnel vision, a tunnel life," the Raiders' owner told PEOPLE in 1981, on the eve of Super Bowl XV. "I'm not really part of society." Fitting, then, that Davis's teams were known for their antisocial behavior. First as coach then as managing general partner, Davis stocked his roster with a rogue's gallery of players with nicknames like the Mad Stork and the Assassin. "I don't want to be the most respected team in the league," he explained. "I want to be the most feared." For a long time the Raiders were. And so was Davis, who cultivated a reputation for himself as a man who'd stop at nothing to "just win, baby," leaving many an opposing coach convinced that his locker room was bugged. But Davis didn't build a franchise that won three Super Bowls by being devious; he did it by being daring, independent and, above all, open-minded. He scouted traditionally black colleges, drafted a punter and a kicker in first rounds, and took on countless reclamation projects. He hired the NFL's first Latino and African-American head coaches and its first female chief executive. He didn't just foster an us-against-them mentality, he lived it, suing the league on several occasions. In one of his final acts, he abstained in the vote for the new collective bargaining agreement, the latest in a long line of stands Davis took alone against the NFL.

Socrates, 57

Born Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, he was one of Brazil's most dazzling footballers ever, a 6'4" midfielder with unerring vision who captained the 1982 national side, widely considered the best team not to win a World Cup. In addition to being a physician, Socrates—known for his love of life (especially drinks and cigarettes)—was a daring thinker, espousing democratic ideals at a time of dictatorship. In '82 the players on his club team, Corinthians, wore shirts that read I WANT TO VOTE for my president. (His beard recalled two of his heroes, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.) As Socrates said in 2010, "There's a need, in the modern society, for people who instigate thinking, who don't accept the status quo."

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