Notable sports deaths in 2014
Alfred Di Stefano
Real Madrid legend Alfred Di Stefano passed away on July 5, 2014. Di Stefano was regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, winning five straight European cups and scoring in each final between 1956 and 1960.
1936 Olympian and WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini passed away Wednesday at age 97.
In a statement released by Universal Pictures, Zamperini’s family said:
"Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge. He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia.
After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days."
Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn lost his fight with cancer in his salivary gland June 16, 2014. Gwynn played his entire career in San Diego earning the nickname Mr. Padre during his tenure. Gwynn was a multi-sport star in college where he also played point guard for San Diego State University. His son, Tony Gwynn, Jr. carries on his legacy in the majors.
Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who turned around a long-suffering franchise and made it into one of the most potent dynasties in league history, has died at the age of 82.
Bob Welch, the 1990 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics and the last major leaguer to win at least 25 games in a season, has died. He was 57.
Welch died late Monday night at his Southern California home in Seal Beach, the team said Tuesday. Police said officers responded to a call for medical aid and found Welch dead in the bathroom area.
Don Zimmer played in the major leagues for 12 years (1954-1965) and spent the next several decades around the game as a manager and coach. His résumé included time on-staff with the Expos, Padres, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Giants, Rockies, Rays, and Rangers. Zimmer was truly one of the great baseball ambassadors. Whether it’s appropriate or not, he might be remembered most for charging at Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS. He was 83.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer passed away at the age of 85. Glazer had owned the Bucs since 1985 and purchased Manchester United in 2005.
Jimmy Ellis, the onetime sparring partner for Muhammad Ali who captured the heavyweight boxing championship after it had been stripped from Ali, died on May 6 in Louisville after battling with Alzheimer's disease. He was 74.
Ellis and Ali began their boxing careers in Louisville as amateurs and later on Ellis gained little attention early in his professional career, while Ali became the charismatic undefeated heavyweight champion.
He turned pro in 1961 as a middleweight and also worked as Ali’s sparring partner. With his career stalled three years later, Ellis joined Ali's renowned trainer, Angelo Dundee.
Ellis grew into an undersize heavyweight, at around 190 pounds, and then had an unexpected shot at boxing glamour when he was named the eighth and final entrant in a 1967-68 tournament.
Ellis’s last major fight was in March 1975, when Frazier stopped him in the ninth round. Ellis retired that year after a sparring partner partly blinded him with a poke to his left eye.
Ellis had a 40-12-1 record, with 24 knockouts.
Elena Baltacha, a former top-50 professional tennis player who had been fighting liver cancer since retiring from the game, died on May 4. She was 30.
Baltacha, who represented Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, was diagnosed with the illness in January, two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after she married her long-time coach Nino Severino.
After being diagnosed with a chronic liver condition at 19, Baltacha dealt with the illness throughout her career, receiving medication and regular blood tests.
Her best ranking was 49th in 2010, and she reached the third round at Grand Slam tournaments three times- at Wimbledon in 2002, and at the Australian Open in 2005 and 2010. Ankle problems eventually forced her to retire in November. She had hoped to use her experience to develop the next generation of British players.
Baltacha had already planned a tennis charity event in June, "Rally for Bally," to raise money for a cancer hospital and her tennis academy. It will go ahead in her memory, with competitors including childhood friend Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman.
Dr. Jack Ramsay
Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay died on Monday April 28 at the age of 89.
Ramsay earned his title with a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. He went on to coach the Portland Trail Blazers to their 1977 NBA championship.
In 21 seasons as an NBA head coach, Ramsay guided the Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Braves, Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers to a combined 864-763 record. In 1988, he retired with the second-most wins all-time and now ranks 13th on that list. Prior to reaching the NBA, he coached St. Joseph’s to the 1965 Final Four. He was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
In 1996, after 21 seasons with the NBA he embarked on his second career as an NBA analyst which he held until the 2013 playoffs when his health declined.
Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, who battled recurring tumors, died on April 25, 2014 after a long battle with throat cancer.
"It is with sadness that Barcelona must announce that Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova has died today at the age of 45," the club said on their website. "The death of our former coach occurred this afternoon when he could not overcome this disease which he had battled since 2011."
Vilanova succeeded Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and won the Spanish League Championship in his only season.
Vilanova is survived by his wife and two children.
Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died Sunday April 20, 2014 at the age of 76.
The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior, one of the most recognizable and influential professional wrestlers of the late 80s and 90s, died at the age of 54.
Late Tuesday night, April 8, 2014, WWE's Chief Operating Officer Paul Levesque, better known to wrestling fans as Triple H, his wife, WWE’s Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, and her father, WWE’s Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, tweeted within minutes of each other, confirming the loss of the icon and sent their condolences. #RIPUltimateWarrior was a popular world-wide trend on Twitter throughout the night.
Warrior was born James Brian Hellwig, but legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. As an active wrestler, Warrior was known for his chaotic sprints to the ring, energetic personality and interview delivery and vibrant face paint. Despite his multiple on and off stints with the company, Warrior has always maintained a positive and devout following from wrestling fans.
Over the weekend, Warrior headlined the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014. On Monday night, April 7, 2014, he made his final public appearance on Monday Night RAW, addressing the live crowd from New Orleans, LA in a mask that mimicked his trademark look. In his final words to the “WWE Universe,” Warrior acknowledged their long-time support for not only him but others as well; “The spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever.”
Warrior is survived by his wife Dana and daughters Indiana and Mattigan.
Ralph Wilson, long-time owner of the Buffalo Bills, died at the age of 95.
Wilson was a recipient of the American Spirit Award for his time served in the Navy during World War II along with other NFL owners Bud Adams, William Clay Ford, Sr., Tom Benson and Alex Spanos. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wilson was known for many decisions, which eventually shaped the modern-day NFL. He is directly responsible for the creation of the American Football League alongside former Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, negotiating the AFL’s television contract during the 1960s and, perhaps his greatest accomplishment, initating the AFL-NFL merger. The merge installed an inter-league championship game, which came to be known as the Super Bowl.
Wilson died peacefully with his wife Mary and daughters by his side.
Dr. Frank Jobe
Jobe worked for the Dodgers for 50 years and is best known for performing the first-ever unlar collateral ligament reconstructive elbow surgery on Tommy John on September 25, 1974. While it was a last-ditch effort to save his career, John went on to pitch 14 more seasons.
The procedure, which would eventually be known as Tommy John surgery, changed the sport and has extended the careers of countless pitchers. Jobe was honored in Cooperstown last July for the groundbreaking surgery, but many have argued that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to think of many people who have had a bigger impact on the game of baseball.
Ralph Kiner, who slugged his way into the baseball Hall of Fame and enjoyed a half-century career as a popular broadcaster, has died. He was 91.
Kiner, who died with his family at his side at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., hit 369 home runs during his 10-year career, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who retired his No. 4 in 1987.
With 11 Primeira Liga titles, a European Cup, a Ballon d’Or, and a Bronze Ball to his name, Portuguese soccer superstar Eusebio has passed away from heart failure at the age of 71.
The East African-born striker, who began his life in severe poverty, was known as a pioneer for Africans in European soccer, with The Guardian’s Paul Hayward tabbing him as “Africa’s first great footballer.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman, a former second baseman for the New York Yankees who interrupted his pro career to fly as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II and Korea, died Sunday after a brief illness. He was 89.