SI Vault
 
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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles

Lorenzo Charles, 47

It might be the maddest play in the history of March: Charles snatching a teammate's miss and dunking at the buzzer to give North Carolina State a 54--52 upset of Houston for the 1983 NCAA title. A day never went by when he wasn't asked about it. "Just the right guy in the right place at the right time," he said. The 6'7" Charles played one NBA season before a long European career. He died when the bus he was driving crashed.

Dan Wheldon, 33

Unlike most British drivers who dream of Formula One stardom, Wheldon embraced IndyCar racing in the U.S., earning a full-time ride in 2003 and winning the Indy 500 two years later. After a rough stretch, the popular Brit won Indy again in '11, then at the finale in Las Vegas he ran into a wreck that launched his car into the catch fence, killing him. Said car owner Chip Ganassi, "A little bit of everybody in IndyCar racing died today."

John Mackey, 69

At a time when tight ends were blockers and possession receivers, Mackey was a big-play threat, averaging 15.8 yards per catch from 1963 to '72. He made five Pro Bowls but was passed over by Hall of Fame voters until 1992. ("I can't believe I got in before John Mackey," said Mike Ditka, the first true tight end inducted, in '88.) The snub may have been due to Mackey's role in the players' union; he became its first president, in 1970.

Duke Snider, 84

Snider had the unfortunate lot of playing centerfield at a time when the other two men patrolling the position in New York City were named Mays and Mantle. But to the question of the day—Who would you rather have?—the answer was sometimes surprising. In 1955, SI ran a piece with the headline DUKE OR WILLIE? A VOTE FOR SNIDER. While not as dashing as Mays or Mantle, Snider "reminds one of the careful, easy, loping grace of Joe DiMaggio," the story said. "Next to [Ted] Williams, Snider probably has the best hitting form in the game." As a four-year-old in Compton, Calif., Edwin Donald Snider was nicknamed Duke by his father for the way he strutted around; when he joined the Dodgers in 1947, he became the Duke of Flatbush. Snider was beloved in Brooklyn, where he led the Bums to the '55 World Series title, their only one before going to Los Angeles in '58. He struggled after the move, and five years later he was shipped back to New York, where he played a season with the Mets. He retired in 1964 with 407 career homers, including five straight seasons of at least 40, a feat only two other players—neither one named Mays or Mantle—had accomplished at the time.

Matty Alou, 72

Known at first for playing alongside older brother Felípe and younger brother Jesús in the 1963 Giants outfield, Alou was traded to the Pirates in '65. Pittsburgh manager Harry Walker encouraged him to use a heavier bat, choke up and slap the ball to left, and Matty raised his average 111 points, hitting an NL-best .342. He finished in the top five in batting in each of the next three years and was a two-time All-Star.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13