2018 Notable Sports Deaths

UNDATED: until 1997.


Aug. 5 — Tom Heckert, 51, former NFL executive. Heckert spent five years in the Broncos’ player personnel department and 27 years in the NFL. Heckert also had stints as general manager of the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

Aug. 7 — Stan Mikita, 78, Hall of Fame forward who helped the Chicago Black Hawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup title. Mikita spent his entire career with Chicago, from 1959 and running through the 1979-80 season. Mikita remains the only NHL player in history to win the Art Ross (scoring champion), Hart (MVP) and Lady Byng (sportsmanship) trophies in the same season, and he accomplished the feat in consecutive years in 1967 and 1968.

Aug. 8 — Nicholas Bett, 28, Kenyan runner who won the 2015 world championship title in the 400-meter hurdles, was killed in a car crash.


Aug. 8 — Jarrod Lyle, 36, Australian golfer who won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2008.

Aug. 13 — Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, 63, former WWE star. Neidhart joined with brother-in-law Bret Hart to form one of the top tag teams in the 1980s with the WWE. Neidhart, Bret “Hitman” Hart and manager Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart made up the Hart Foundation stable in the 1980s and 1990s and the tag team won two WWE championships.

Aug. 15 — Aaron Cox, 24, former Los Angeles Angels pitching prospect and the brother-in-law of Mike Trout. Cox spent parts of three seasons in the Angels’ system, including 11 games this season with Class-A Inland Empire. He retired from baseball earlier this summer.

Aug. 16 — Elena Shushunova, 49, Soviet gymnast who won the women’s all-around gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Shushunova also won gold in the team event, silver on the balance beam and bronze on the uneven bars, as well as five gold medals at the world championships.

Aug. 17 — Bob Bass, 89, former San Antonio and Charlotte general manager. The two-time NBA Executive of the Year spent 20 seasons with the Spurs in various roles — returning three times as coach — before going to Charlotte as the GM in 1994. He spent nine seasons with the Hornets. Bass also had a 311-300 career regular-season coaching record in the ABA and NBA.

Aug. 17 — Paul Naumoff, 73, former Pro Bowl linebacker who spent 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions. Naumoff played for the Lions from 1967-78. Naumoff played college football at Tennessee from 1964-66. He moved from defensive end to linebacker in 1966 and earned Associated Press All-America honors.

Aug. 17 — Doug Rose, 80, veteran drag racer. Rose died after crashing his jet engine-powered car at Norway (Mich.) Speedway. Rose crashed into a guardrail and flipped his “Green Mamba” during an exhibition run. Rose drove the Green Mamba for more than 35 years.

Aug. 19 — Doc Edwards, 81, major league catcher who went on to manage the Cleveland Indians for three seasons in the 1980s. Edwards spent more than a half century in baseball. He managed the Indians for the 1987-89 seasons, finishing with a record of 173-207. He played five years in the big leagues, mostly with Cleveland and Kansas City. He also played for the New York Yankees and Phillies.

Aug. 21 — George Andrie, 78, former Dallas Cowboys defensive end who scored a touchdown in the Ice Bowl game against Green Bay in 1967. Andrie was part of the “Doomsday Defense” that included Hall of Famer Bob Lilly and fellow starters Willie Townes and Jethro Pugh. He led the Cowboys in sacks four straight seasons from 1964-67 and was an All-Pro in 1969.

Aug. 24 — Javier Otxoa, 43, Spanish cyclist who won on Hautacam and triumphed in Paralympics.

Aug. 27 — John Asher, 62, longtime spokesman for Churchill Downs, the home to the Kentucky Derby. Asher also had a long career as an award-winning radio journalist. Asher joined Churchill Downs in 1997 and had served as the track’s vice president of racing communications since 1999.

Sept. 3 — Paul Koech, 49, former world half marathon champion from Kenya. Koech’s finest hour came when he won gold at the world half marathon championships in Zurich in 1998. He finished sixth in the 10,000-meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and fourth at the world championships the following year.

Sept. 4 — Alvin Brian “Ab” McDonald, 82, former NHL player. McDonald played 14 NHL seasons and scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961. McDonald won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1958 and 1959 and then again with Chicago. He finished with 182 goals and 248 assists for 430 points during his NHL career with Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Sept. 5 — Dennis Green, 87, first Australian to compete at five Olympic Games. After winning a bronze medal in the kayak doubles 10,000-meters at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with teammate Wally Brown, Green went on to compete at the 1960 Rome, 1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where he was selected as Australia’s flag bearer. He won 64 national open titles in singles, pairs and fours.

Sept. 6 — Richard DeVos, 92, billionaire co-founder of direct-selling giant Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic. DeVos, who served as Amway’s president until 1993, also was involved in the NBA, buying the Magic from a group headed by Orlando real estate developer William duPont III in 1991 for $70 million.

Sept. 6 — Burt Reynolds, 82, the handsome film and television star known for his acclaimed performances in “Deliverance” and “Boogie Nights,” commercial hits such as “Smokey and the Bandit.” Reynolds was an all-Southern Conference running back at Florida State University in the 1950s. Reynolds appeared headed to the NFL until a knee injury and an automobile accident ended his chances.

Sept. 12 — Billy O’Dell, 85, former major league pitcher who won 105 games in a 13-year career. O’Dell went straight from college to the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and pitched in the big leagues until 1967. O’Dell was twice named to the American League All-Star team in 1958 and 1958.

Sept. 6 — Diane Leather, 85, the first woman in the world to break five minutes for the mile. On May 26, 1954, Leather broke a world record when she finished a mile run in 5:00.2. Three days later at the women’s track and field championships in Birmingham, England, she broke her own record with a time of 4:59.6. Charles broke the mile record four more times, culminating in a 4:45 in 1955. She set three ratified world records in the 880 yards, and won silver twice in the 800 meters at the European championships.

Sept. 15 — Clay Riddell, 81, billionaire oilman and co-owner of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Riddell joined team’s ownership in 2003 after spending much of his life building oil and gas companies, including Paramount Resources.

Sept. 17 — Vinicius Noronha da Silva, 26, Brazilian volleyball player. Silva was a player for the Spanish volleyball team Teruel.

Sept. 17 — Celia Barquin Arozamena, 22, top amateur golfer from Spain and the 2018 Big 12 champion and Iowa State Female Athlete of the year. Barquin, a native of Puente San Miguel, Spain, was finishing her civil engineering degree this semester after exhausting her eligibility at Iowa State in 2017-2018.

Sept. 19 — Don Welke, 75, San Diego Padres vice president of scouting. Welke worked in baseball for more than 50 years. He joined the Padres in 2014. Welke also worked the Phillies, Dodgers, Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals and Reds. Welke was instrumental in the Rangers reaching consecutive World Series.

Sept. 20 — Greg Hodnett, 49, Sprint Car driver died after a crash at BAPS Motor Speedway. Hodnett was the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year in 1993 and went on to win 20 World of Outlaws races. He won the opening night this year at the Knoxville Nationals.

Sept. 20 — Shirley Day Smith, 99, an assistant in the press office of the New York Racing Association for more than 60 years. Smith retired from NYRA in the mid-1990s. She was the backbone of the New York Turf Writers Association and was popular nationwide among horse racing media. She received the National Turf Writers Association’s Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service.

Sept. 21 — Lee Stange, 81, member of Boston’s 1967 “Impossible Dream” team. Stange spent nearly 40 years in professional baseball, including 23 as a player, coach, and instructor in the Red Sox organization. Stange pitched in 359 big league games and made 125 starts over 10 seasons with the Minnesota Twins (1961-64), Cleveland Indians (1964-66), Red Sox (1966-70), and Chicago White Sox (1970), going 62-61 with 21 saves and a 3.56 ERA.

Sept. 22 — Mike Labinjo, 38, former Michigan State football player. Labinjo played for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL from 2007 to 2010. Labinjo was a member of the Stampeders’ 2008 Grey Cup Championship team.

Sept. 23 — Dr. Bernard John (B.J.) Mycoskie, 95, former Texas Rangers Medical Director. Dr. Mycoskie held the position for the team’s first 14 years in Arlington.

Sept. 24 — Tommy McDonald, 84, Hall of Fame receiver. McDonald was the small, speedy and sure-handed receiver who teamed with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin to help the Philadelphia Eagles win the 1960 NFL championship. McDonald was a two-time All-American for Oklahoma. He played 12 seasons for NFL five teams and was a six-time Pro Bowl selection.

Sept. 25 — Jack McKinney, 83, former NBA coach. McKinney was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1980-81 after leading the Pacers to a 44-38 mark and a playoff berth in his first season in Indiana. In six seasons, McKinney was 136-215 (.387) in the NBA. He also was 142-77 in eight seasons at St. Joseph’s.

Sept. 27 — Julius Whittier, 68, first African-American football letterman at the University of Texas. Whittier was among the first black athletes to receive a scholarship to Texas. The Longhorns had the last all-white national championship team in 1969. Whittier was an offensive tackle for the Longhorns from 1970-71 and moved to tight end as a senior in 1972.

Sept. 28 — Wayne Sims, 20, LSU basketball player was shot near the campus of another school in Baton Rouge. Sims was entering his junior season at LSU. The A 6-foot-6 forward averaged 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last year with 10 starts in 32 games.

Sept. 28 — Wes Hopkins, 57, 10-year safety with the Philadelphia Eagles and 1985 All-Pro. Hopkins spent his entire NFL career in Philadelphia, starting 125 games.

Sept. 29 — Greg Terrion, 58, former NHL forward who played six seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1980s. Terrion had 93 goals and 150 assists in 561 NHL games in eight seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and Maple Leafs.

Oct. 3 — C.J. Fuller, 22, former Clemson running back part of the Tigers’ 2016 national championship team. Fuller played at Clemson from 2015-2017 after redshirting his first season. He rushed for 599 yards and four touchdowns. Fuller was on three straight Atlantic Coast Conference title teams that made the College Football Playoffs.

Oct. 4 — Dave Andersonm, 89, Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist of The New York Times. Anderson worked at the Times from 1966 to 2007. He wrote elegant, descriptive commentary, displaying a wealth of expertise in baseball, the NFL, boxing and golf. Anderson wrote 21 books and received the 1994 Red Smith Award for outstanding contributions to sports journalism from the Associated Press Sports Editors. He was inducted into the National Sports Writers and Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 1990. His Pulitzer cited six columns from 1980, notably “The Food On a Table At the Execution.” It portrayed the scene at George Steinbrenner’s office when the New York Yankees owner forced out rookie manager Dick Howser.

Oct. 4 — Karl Mildenberger, 80, a top German boxer whose most notable fight was a bloody 12th-round loss in 1966 to Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title. Mildenberger had been the European heavyweight champion for almost two years when he faced Ali in Frankfurt, Germany on Sept. 10, 1966. He retired in 1969 with a record of 53 wins, six losses and three draws.

Oct. 4 — Jeanne Ashworth, 80, first American woman to win an Olympic speedskating medal. Ashworth competed in three Olympics and captured 14 North American championships. She won the 500-meter bronze at Squaw Valley, California in 1960. She also skated at the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria, and at Grenoble, France, in 1968.

Oct. 7 — John Gagliardi, 91, college football’s winningest coach. Gagliardi won more games than any other college football coach with his unconventional methods at St. John’s University, a small Minnesota school, Gagliardi retired in 2012 after a record 64 seasons as a head coach, with 60 of those at St. John’s, that competes at the NCAA’s non-scholarship Division III level. Gagliardi finished with 489 wins, 138 losses and 11 ties, winning four national championships with the Johnnies.

Oct. 6 — Kevin Ellison, 31, former Southern California defensive back, who was a captain for the Trojans before a brief NFL career. Kevin Ellison played for USC from 2005-08. He played on teams that won three Rose Bowl games. Ellison was drafted by San Diego in the sixth round in 2009 and played nine NFL games.


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