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Farewell
Mark Bechtel
December 31, 2012
A BOWLER AND SEVERAL BRAWLERS, COACHES AND A CARD SHARP, TWO SLUGGERS AND A TACKLE WHO SLUGGED A HORSE—LUMINARIES OF ALL SORTS PASSED AWAY IN 2012
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December 31, 2012

Farewell

A BOWLER AND SEVERAL BRAWLERS, COACHES AND A CARD SHARP, TWO SLUGGERS AND A TACKLE WHO SLUGGED A HORSE—LUMINARIES OF ALL SORTS PASSED AWAY IN 2012

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Alex Karras, 77

One of the fiercest pass rushers of his day, Karras didn't look the part. At 6'2" and 248 pounds he was undersized at tackle—an SI story on him was headlined A GIGANTIC MIDGET AMONG GIANT MEN. (Karras compensated with a nimbleness that earned him the nickname Mr. Twinkletoes.) He also wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses that, as George Plimpton noted, gave Karras "a benign, owllike bearing." That mien suited him well after his 12 seasons with Lions, during which he was a three-time All-Pro. Already something of an actor (he had played himself in the film of Plimpton's Paper Lion), Karras memorably KO'd a horse in Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles before introducing himself to a younger generation as a star of TV's Webster. But the role in which Karras shone brightest was that of himself. With his quick wit and affability, he cracked up Johnny Carson, spent three years in the Monday Night Football booth, slung insults on Dean Martin's roasts and was the ideal game-show guest. (On Match Game he once winged a wrestling demonstration with a contestant who grappled professionally as Lola Kiss, the Kiss of Death from Transylvania.) After returning from a one-year suspension, in 1963, for betting on football, Karras was asked to call a pregame coin toss. "I'm sorry, sir," he told the ref. "I'm not permitted to gamble."

Gene Bartow, 81

Even though George Raveling, then coach at Washington State, said Bartow's succeeding John Wooden at UCLA was "like St. Peter replacing the Lord," Clean Gene never stood a chance. After two seasons in which he was ripped despite going 52--9 and reaching a Final Four, Bartow left to launch the UAB program, then led the Blazers to nine NCAA tournaments in 17 years.

Jeff Blatnick, 55

In a sport obscure to most Americans, Blatnick provided an enduring memory from the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Two years after his spleen was removed because of Hodgkin's lymphoma, he won heavyweight gold in Greco-Roman wrestling, then wept and said, "I'm a happy dude." Blatnick became a commentator for wrestling and mixed martial arts—which he named.

Pascual Perez, 55

While he was among the game's tougher righthanders, too often Perez wasn't able to pitch, the causes ranging from injury (several) to drug suspension (two) to getting lost on the interstate that rings Atlanta and circling the city until his car overheated (one). Perez, a 1983 All-Star who won 67 games in 11 seasons, was killed in his native Dominican Republic in an apparent robbery.

Angelo Dundee, 90

From Cassius Clay's second pro fight, in 1960, until Muhammad Ali's final loss, in '81, Dundee was a constant in the Greatest's corner. He also trained 14 other champs, including Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman. Dundee was a cut man, tactician, hype artist, kind soul and, above all, pedagogue. As he told The Tampa Tribune in 2008, "I could teach a dead rat to be deader."

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