The Year in Review 2012: Roster of notable sports deaths

By PAT NASON, United Press International   |  Dec. 21, 2012 at 5:30 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The roster of 2012 deaths among sports figures included iconic coaches, Hall of Fame players, troubled stars and pioneers who broke ground in labor relations and auto racing safety.

Joe Paterno was 85 when he died in January, months after he was fired as head football coach at Penn State where he spent 45 seasons building one of college football's premier football programs and establishing himself as one of the top coaches in the history of the game.

Paterno's career ended abruptly after assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for abusing a number of boys, often on Penn State grounds. Paterno told a grand jury he passed reports of Sandusky's wrongdoing up the chain of command but he had come to believe he "should have done more."

Before the NCAA vacated 111 of his coaching victories, Paterno had posted a 409-136-3 record, surpassing Eddie Robinson of Grambling as the winningest coach in major college football. His teams posted five undefeated seasons and won national championships in 1982 and 1986.

Darrell Royal, who coached the University of Texas to three national football championships died at age 88. Royal was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 after a 23-year career in which his teams were 184-60-5, went undefeated in 1963 and 1969, and won national championships after the '63, '69 and '70 seasons.

Former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell died at age 86. Modell owned the Browns from 1961 to 1995, when he moved the team to Baltimore and they became the Ravens. Modell, whose teams won two NFL championships, served as NFL president 1967-69.

Alex Karras, a Pro Bowl-caliber football player who went on to a successful acting career, died at age 77. Karras won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football in 1957 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

He played for the Detroit Lions, playing himself in the movie "Paper Lions," and then enjoyed an acting career highlighted by roles in "Victor/Victoria," "Blazing Saddles" and the TV comedy "Webster."

Freddie Solomon, a wide receiver and kick returner for the San Francisco 49ers, died at age 59. Solomon also played for the Miami Dolphins in an eight-year NFL career.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide at the Chiefs' practice facility in December after killing his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. He was 25.

Dallas Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was 25 when he was killed in a Dec. 8 car crash in Irving, Texas. He was riding in a vehicle driven by nose tackle Josh Brent when Brent lost control of the vehicle at a high rate of speed. Police said Brent was booked on a count of intoxication manslaughter.

The suicide of San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, 43, served to spotlight the possible brain damage caused by concussions suffered during play. Seau, who retired in 2010, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest in his California home May 2. He did not leave a suicide note.

Marvin Miller, who was instrumental in transforming labor relations and pay scales in Major League Baseball, died at age 95. Miller led a committee of players that negotiated the sport's first collective bargaining agreement in 1968, and led a successful court challenge of baseball's reserve clause -- resulting in free agency and giving players the opportunity to sell their services to the highest bidder.

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who played 19 seasons in the major leagues and helped lead the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1986, died at age 57. Carter played 2,296 games for the Montreal Expos, the Mets, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was an 11-time all-star, including in 1975 and every season from 1979 through 1988.

Lee MacPhail, whose long career as a baseball executive earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame, died at age 95. MacPhail was general manager of the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees before serving as American League president 1973-83.

Johnny Pesky, a player, manager and announcer in his 61-years with the Boston Red Sox, died at age 92. Fenway Park's right field foul pole was dedicated to him in 2006.

Pedro Borbon Sr., a pitcher who helped the Cincinnati Reds win World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, died at age 65. Borbon also pitched for the California Angels, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

Bill "Moose" Skowron, a six-time all-star during his 14-year major-league career, died at age 81. Skowron played on five World Series champion teams, four with the Yankees and one with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Marty Springstead, a 20-year veteran Major League Baseball umpire who went on to become American League executive director of umpires 1986-2000, died at age 74.

Saint Louis University men's basketball Coach Rick Majerus, who compiled a career record of 517-215 in 25 years of coaching and took Utah to the 1998 NCAA title game, died at age 64.

Bob Boozer, who played on the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 1970-71 and U.S. Olympics gold medal basketball team in 1960, died at age 75.

Gene Bartow, who succeeded John Wooden as head basketball coach at UCLA in the 1970s, died at age 81. He left UCLA in 1977 to become athletic director and basketball coach at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Johnny Wilson, known as hockey's "Iron Man" when he played on four Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup championship teams, died at age 82. Wilson played in an NHL record 580 consecutive games in an era when players wore no helmets.

Former boxing champion Hector "Macho" Camacho died at age 50 after sustaining a gunshot wound in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A native of Puerto Rico who grew up in New York City, Camacho won championship belts in three weight classes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Carmen Basilio, who beat Sugar Ray Robinson for boxing's middleweight title, died at age 85. He was a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Emanuel Steward, Hall of Fame trainer for boxing champions including Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis, died at 68. Steward trained 41 world champions and worked as a boxing analyst for HBO.

Hall of Fame boxing writer Bert Sugar, former editor of Boxing Illustrated and editor in chief for The Ring, died at age 74. The International Veterans Boxing Association voted Sugar the "Greatest Boxing Writer of the 20th Century" and he was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

Carroll Shelby, the designer of the Shelby Mustang muscle car, died at age 89. After making his name as a driver Shelby developed performance cars at Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

Race car driver and owner Cotton Owens, who is due to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013, died this year at age 88.

Auto-racing broadcaster-journalist Chris Economaki died at age 91. Economaki covered racing for 23 years at ABC and later spent time at ESPN and CBS.

Margaret Osborne duPont, ranked No. 1 in women's tennis for four straight years more than a half-century ago, died at age 94. DuPont won 37 Grand Slam titles despite never competing in the Australian Open and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.

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