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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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Steve Van Buren, 91

The Eagles had never won a title before Van Buren arrived from LSU in 1944; when he retired in '51 as the NFL's alltime leading rusher, Philly had a pair. The first came in a foot of snow in 1948, when Van Buren's TD provided a 7--0 win over the Chicago Cardinals; the second came in a monsoon a year later, when Wham-Bam slammed the Los Angeles Rams for 196 yards.

Carmen Basilio, 85

Nicknamed the Upstate Onion Farmer (his father had a farm in Canastota, N.Y.), Basilio proved he was the dominant welterweight of his day when he retained his title with a knockout of Johnny Saxton in their third and final meeting, in 1957. Basilio, who stood just 5'6½", gave up that belt for a shot at Sugar Ray Robinson's middleweight championship, which he won and then lost in a pair of split decisions. Basilio paid a price in each, especially the second, a brawl in which his left eye was swollen shut for the final nine rounds. Still, he never stopped attacking. After the third Saxton fight, in which Basilio tried to pace himself, SI's Martin Kane wrote, "Regardless of what his brain advised, Carmen Basilio could no more ease up than a pit bull terrier could give quarter."

Darrell Royal, 88

Although the Texas coach wasn't much for change—one of his favorite sayings was "dance with the one who brung ya"—Royal helped revolutionize college football in 1968 when he installed the wishbone offense. The next season his Longhorns won the national title, the second in a 20-year stint at Austin during which Royal, who inherited a 1--9 team in '57, never had a losing record.

Moose Skowron, 81

Had he not gotten his nickname as a child, when a bad haircut left him resembling Benito Mussolini, Bill Skowron would have earned it for his power. The first baseman had four 20 home run seasons for the Yankees (and hit .300 five times). Skowron was often overshadowed by teammates such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford—the three men with whom he sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958—but he never shrank from the postseason spotlight: Moose slugged .519 for five World Series champions, and is still one of just two players with three Game 7 home runs. (Berra is the other.) In retirement Skowron worked for his hometown White Sox, occasionally calling bingo games in Polish at Comiskey Park's rightfield patio area.

Art Heyman, 71

Nicknamed the Pest, Heyman is most responsible for escalating the Duke--North Carolina rivalry. First the 6' 5" swingman reneged on his commitment to Chapel Hill to become a Blue Devil. Then in a 1961 game he scuffled with a male cheerleader and decked Tar Heels star Larry Brown in a brawl. Heyman was more than a brute, though: He was the '63 national player of the year.

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