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2018 Notable Sports Deaths

December 28, 2018
UNDATED: and Louisville.


July 8 — Frank Ramsey, 86, All-American at Kentucky and member of seven NBA championship teams with the Boston Celtics. Ramsey was a part of the Wildcats’ 1951 national championship team and a three-time All-American. The 6-foot-3 guard was selected by the Celtics in the first round of the 1953 NBA draft and began his professional career one year later. He averaged 13.4 points per game for his career.

July 8 — Dr. Ken Ravizza, 70, innovator in the field of sports psychology who long worked with the athletics programs at Cal State Fullerton, Olympians and most recently with the Chicago Cubs. Ravizza worked as a mental skills consultant for the Rays when Maddon managed there, then joined the Cubs when Maddon came aboard ahead of the 2015 season — and the Cubs captured their first World Series championship in 108 years with the 2016 title.

July 9 — Hans Guenther Winkler, 91, German showjumping great who won five Olympic gold medals. After taking gold at the 1954 and 1955 World Championships, Winkler and his mare Halla won their first gold medal at the 1956 Olympic equestrian events in Stockholm. Four more followed, as well as a silver and bronze, before Winkler retired in 1986.

July 9 — Sam Esposito, 81, former North Carolina State baseball coach who played in the 1959 World Series for the Chicago White Sox. Esposito won 513 games for the Wolfpack and led them to four Atlantic Coast Conference baseball titles and third place in the 1968 College World Series. Esposito played 10 seasons in the major leagues, nine with the White Sox as a utility infielder.

July 8 — Billy Knight, 39, former UCLA basketball player. Knight was a guard/forward at UCLA from 1998-2002, averaging 14.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a senior.

July 11 — Darryl Rogers, 83, former college football and Detroit Lions coach. Rogers coached Michigan State from 1976-79, going 24-18-2 and winning a share of the Big Ten title in 1978. Rogers also coached at Arizona State from 1980-84 before heading to the NFL. He was with the Lions from 1985-88. Rogers played wide receiver and defensive back at Fresno State and became the coach there in 1966. He also coached San Jose State from 1973-75 before taking over at Michigan State.

July 12 — Len Chappell, 77, former basketball all-American and NBA All-Star. The 6-foot-8 Chappell led Wake Forest to two Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles and the school’s only Final Four trip in 1962. The ACC player of the year in 1961 and 1962, was the No. 4 pick in the 1962 NBA draft and played nine seasons in the league, scoring more than 5,600 points.

July 12 — Tom Stephens, 82, original member of the AFL Patriots and a two-way player. Stephens was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1959. He signed with the Boston Patriots for their inaugural season in 1960 and played five seasons until 1964, appearing in 49 games as a tight end and defensive back. After the NFL, Stephens coached at Harvard and Curry College in Massachusetts, where he spent 23 years as its athletic director.

July 13 — Marcia Chambers, 78, reporter who covered high-profile crimes for The Associated Press and The New York Times who in the 1990s turned to writing groundbreaking articles and a book that examined discrimination against women and black people at private golf clubs. In the late 1980s, she also began contributing to Golf Digest and wrote a series of articles on discrimination against women and black players at private golf clubs, which won an award from the American Bar Association. The series would lead to Chambers’ 1995 book, “The Unplayable Lie: The Untold Story of Women and Discrimination in Golf.”

July 14 — Don McAuliffe, 90, former Michigan State All-American running back. McAuliffe helped Michigan State to back-to-back 9-0 seasons and national titles in 1951 and 1952. McAuliffe led the Spartans in rushing in 1951 with 566 yards. He rushed for 531 yards and had 194 receiving yards in 1952 as a team captain, was named an All-American and finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

July 15 — Mark Hayes, 69, former Oklahoma State star who won the PGA Tour’s 1977 Players Championship. Known for his Amana bucket hat, the Oak Tree Gang member won three PGA Tour titles, also taking the 1976 Byron Nelson and Pensacola Open. Hayes was a two-time All-American at hometown Oklahoma State and won the 1972 Sunnehanna Amateur and World Cup Amateur, helping the United States win the Eisenhower Trophy.

July 15 — Mike Kudla, former Ohio State defensive end. Kudla was an All-Big Ten defensive end and the Buckeyes’ most valuable player on defense in 2005.

July 15 — Ray Emery, 35, former NHL goaltender. Nicknamed “Razor” for his aggressive style, Emery played parts of 11 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks from 2003-2015. He helped the Senators reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 and won it as a backup with the Blackhawks in 2013.

July 16 — Gabe Rivera, 57, College Football Hall of Famer who was paralyzed in a car accident while a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rivera was an All-America defensive lineman with Texas Tech. He was selected 21st overall by Pittsburgh in the 1983 NFL draft. He had two sacks in his first six games, but in October of that year he was in an automobile accident that left him a paraplegic.

July 16 — Manny Ycaza, 80, Hall of Fame jockey who won the 1964 Belmont Stakes and paved the way for generations of Latin Americans to ride in North America. He won 2,367 races from 10,561 mounts. He was aboard Quadrangle in the 1964 Belmont, spoiling Northern Dancer’s Triple Crown bid. Ycaza finished second on Ridan in the 1962 Preakness and was second aboard Never Bend in the 1963 Kentucky Derby.

July 17 — Mitch Chortkoff, 78, columnist and beat writer who covered the Los Angeles Lakers for over 50 years. Chortkoff worked for the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Santa Monica Evening Outlook, San Diego Evening Tribune and South Bay Daily Breeze. In recent years, he was sports editor of the weekly Culver City Observer.

July 18 — Larry Robinson, 76, two-way player who never missed a game in his 14 seasons with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. The Canadian Football Hall of Famer played for his hometown team from 1961-74. He was a kicker, receiver and defensive back and helped the Stampeders end a 22-year championship drought with a Grey Cup victory in 1971. Robinson was the first CFL player to score 1,000 points. He had a franchise-record 50 career interceptions and was a three-time CFL West all-star at defensive back.

July 19 — Denis Ten, 25, Olympic figure skating medalist. Born in Kazakhstan to a family of Korean descent, Ten won bronze at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, becoming Kazakhstan’s first medalist in figure skating. He also won the Four Continents championships the following year, and was a world championship silver medalist in 2013.

July 21 — Ernie Palladino, 63, sports writer who covered the New York Giants for more than 20 years of a journalistic career that spanned almost four decades. Palladino wrote two books, including one that focused on Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry launching their coaching careers working for the Giants. Palladino began his career with the Journal News in Westchester 38 years ago. He also was a blogger, teacher and freelance writer for many newspapers and organizations, including The Associated Press.

July 22 — Rene Portland, 65, former Penn State women’s basketball coach. Portland led Penn State to its first NCAA Final Four, in 2000, with the Lady Lions the national title runner-up, losing to Connecticut. She also coached at St. Joseph’s and Colorado, amassing 693 wins in all — 606 of them at Penn State — and with 21 appearances in the NCAA tournament. Portland’s basketball pedigree reached back to Immaculata College “Mighty Macs”, where she played on three AIAW national championship teams in the early 1970s, before the NCAA recognized women’s sports.

July 22 — Tony Sparano, 56, Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach. Sparano had been the Vikings’ offensive line coach since 2016. Sparano began his NFL coaching career in 1999 and had stints as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. He was the Dolphins’ head coach from 2008-11 and went 29-32. He went 11-5 and won the AFC East in his first season with Miami. Sparano also spent time with the Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Cowboys and 49ers.

July 23 — Barbara Kennedy-Dixon, 58, Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time scoring and rebounding leader and a longtime Clemson administrator after her playing days. Kennedy-Dixon played for Clemson from 1978-82 and left with ACC career record with 3,113 points and 1,252 rebounds. Kennedy-Dixon served several roles in Clemson athletics after her playing days. She was on the women’s basketball staff until moving into administration. Kennedy-Dixon served as the school’s Senior Women’s Administrator from 2005-14 and retired from the school three years’ later.

July 24 — Darius Minor, 18, University of Maine football player collapsed and died during a preseason workout on campus.

July 24 — Tony Cloninger, 77, former major league pitcher perhaps best known for hitting two grand slams in a game. Cloninger, who had worked as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox since 2002, went 113-97 during 12 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Braves. In 1966, playing at Candlestick Park, Cloninger became the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in the same game. He drove in nine runs that day, getting three hits as the Braves routed San Francisco 17-3.

July 26 — Bob Petrino Sr., 81, longtime Carroll College football coach the father of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino and Idaho coach Paul Petrino. Petrino was the head coach at Carroll from 1971 until 1998, a 28-year run that saw the Saints post a 163-90-2 record. Carroll had 20 winning seasons, won 15 Frontier Conference championships and qualified for the NAIA playoffs six times.

July 26 — Willie Brown, 76, Southern California’s original I-formation tailback under coach John McKay who went on to a brief NFL career. Brown played at USC from 1961-63. He was a member of the Trojans’ 1962 national championship team and captain in 1963. Brown also played center field and shortstop for the Trojans from 1962-64, winning the College World Series in 1963.

July 26 — Johnny Kline, 86, forward for the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1950s.

July 28 — Bruce Lietzke, 67, fun-loving, draw-hitting PGA Tour winner. In five decades as a player, he competed in 700 tournaments as a member of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, and recorded a total of 20 victories. Lietzke, a 13-time PGA Tour winner, played in the United States’ 1981 Ryder Cup victory in England. He won seven times on the senior tour, the last victory coming in the 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness.

July 28 — Vibeke Skofterud, 38, Norwegian cross-country gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Skofterud, who retired in 2015, won gold in the 4X5km relay in Vancouver. Skofterud was considered one of Norway’s top skiers between 2001 and 2015. She won two golds, one silver and a bronze medal in World Championship relays across multiple years.

July 28 — Brian Christopher Lawler, 46, former World Wrestling Entertainment star died after attempting suicide in his jail cell. Lawler, “who is best known in WWE as Too Cool’s Grandmaster Sexay,” competed during the height of the “Attitude Era.”

July 29 — Josip Peruzovic, 70, former pro wrestler known for playing beloved villain Nikolai Volkoff. Peruzovic was known for singing the onetime Soviet Union’s national anthem before matches and for his tag team alliance with another wrestler known as The Iron Sheik. His career spanned the better part of 40 years and featured showdowns with wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan.

July 30 — Tony Bullimore, 79, British sailor and entrepreneur. Bullimore became world-famous after he survived for four days in the upturned hull of his boat when it capsized in the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean in 1997. He skippered a team that came second in the 2005 Oryx Quest.

July 31 — Tom Higgins, 80, journalist who covered NASCAR for 33 years at the Charlotte Observer and was inducted into the auto racing series’ Hall of Fame. Higgins covered NASCAR at the Observer from 1964, the early days of the stock car series, until 1997.


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