2018 Notable Sports Deaths

UNDATED: since 2006.


Nov. 12 — David Pearson, 83, NASCAR pioneer and longtime rival of Richard Petty. Pearson was a three-time Cup champion and his 105 career victories trail only Petty’s 200 on NASCAR’s all-time list. Pearson made his NASCAR debut in 1960 and along with Petty, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. Pearson was inducted into the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His career paralleled Petty’s and the two combined for 63 finishes in which the two finished first and second to each other.

Nov. 15 — Karim Sameh Azab, 22, Memphis basketball player died, seven months after announcing he had leukemia. From Giza, Egypt, Azab played 15 games for Memphis last season as a reserve. The 6-foot-10 forward had a total of 15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

Nov. 15 — Aldyr Schlee, 83, designer of Brazil’s soccer uniform. The yellow shirt and blue shorts kit of Brazil’s was created by Schlee for a contest organized by newspaper Correio da Manha in 1953. Schlee won the contest and received about $5,000 in prize money. Brazil played the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland and reached the quarterfinals wearing the colors designed by Schlee and has kept them ever since.


Nov. 22 — Willie Naulls, 84, former UCLA star who was a four-time All-Star with the New York Knicks and won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. After playing for UCLA from 1954-56, Naulls was selected with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks. He was shortly traded to the Knicks. With the Knicks, Naulls became the first black to be named a captain of a pro team in a major American sport. He averaged a double-double (19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds) during his seven-year tenure with the Knicks. Boston won titles in 1964, ’65 and ’66, Naulls’ final three seasons. Along with Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones and Tom Sanders, Naulls comprised the first all-black lineup in the history of integrated pro sports in December 1964 when Naulls replaced injured Tom Heinsohn as a starter.

Nov. 23 — Robert “Bob” McNair, 81, billionaire founder and owner of the Houston Texans. When Houston lost the Oilers to Tennessee after the 1996 season, McNair made it his mission to return the NFL to the city. He formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998, and on Oct. 6, 1999 he was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise. The Texans began play in 2002.

Nov. 23 — Mick McGeough, 62, former NHL referee. McGeough worked 21 seasons from 1987 through 2008, refereeing 1,083 regular-season games and 63 playoff games. He was one of the last referees to officiate without a helmet. Most recently, he worked as an NHL officiating supervisor.

Nov. 27 — Tony Hanson, 63, former University of Connecticut basketball star Tony Hanson. Hanson, who led the Huskies to the Sweet 16 in 1976, starred for UConn from 1973-1977, scoring 1,990 points, which ranks third in program history. He averaged 17.9 points per game and 26 points as a senior.

Nov. 29 — Turner Cockrell, 21, Vanderbilt tight end.

Dec. 3 — Josep Lluis Nunez, 87, Barcelona president who oversaw the club’s transformation into a soccer powerhouse. Nunez was in charge when Barcelona signed greats including Diego Maradona and founded the renowned “La Masia” youth academy to produce more stars. His tenure from 1978-2000 remains the longest and most successful presidency in the history of the club founded in 1899. Under Nunez, Barcelona won its first European Cup in 1992, seven Spanish league titles, and six Copa del Reys.

Dec. 6 — Luis Valbuena, 33, and Jose Castillo, 37, former major league players were killed in a car crash in Venezuela caused by highway bandits who then robbed them. Valbuena hit .226 with 114 home runs over 11 big league seasons with the Angels, Seattle, Cleveland, the Chicago Cubs and Houston. Castillo played five seasons with Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston. He had a .254 average with 39 home runs.

Dec. 6 — Willie Murrell, 78, former Kansas State basketball star. The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 54 games in two seasons with the Wildcat. Murrell played for Kansas State from 1962-64 after transferring from Eastern Oklahoma A&M. Murrell went on to play three seasons in the American Basketball Association, averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds with Denver, Miami and Kentucky.

Dec. 6 — Tim Rossovich, 72, consensus All-America defensive end at Southern California who played in the NFL before going on to an acting career. Rossovich played at USC from 1965-67 and appeared in two Rose Bowls. He was selected with the 14th pick of the 1968 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and played linebacker for them from 1968-71, getting named to the 1969 Pro Bowl. He also played for the San Diego Chargers in 1972-73 and Houston Oilers in 1976.

Dec. 7 — Isaiah Robertson, 69, former two-time All-Pro linebacker. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Robertson from Southern University in the first round of the 1971 NFL draft. He remained with the Rams through 1978, then played in 1979-82 for the Buffalo Bills. He was named first-team All-Pro in 1973 and 1976 and was chosen for the Pro Bowl in his rookie 1971 season, as well as 1973-77.

Dec. 9 — Bill Kirsch, 86, former Siena athletic director who guided the school’s jump to Division I basketball 42 years ago. Kirsch, a star at Siena in baseball and basketball, coached at Russell Sage College and Sage Junior College of Albany before taking over at his alma mater. He served as both athletic director and head men’s basketball coach from 1972-82, finishing with a record of 142-111, and continued as athletic director until his retirement in 1992.

Dec. 14 — Bill Fralic, 56, former star Atlanta Falcons lineman. He was a three-time All-American offensive lineman at Pittsburgh. Fralic, burly and athletic, was the first offensive lineman to finish in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy balloting — finishing eighth in 1983 and sixth in 1984. Fralic was the second overall pick in the 1985 draft and spent nine seasons in the league. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and earned All-Pro honors in 1986 and 1987. The NFL named him to its All-Decade Team for the 1980s.

Dec. 14 — Joan Steinbrenner, 83, the wife of late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. She held the title of Yankees vice chair.

Dec. 21 — Terry Hutchens, 60, longtime Indiana sports writer. Hutchens was a five-time recipient of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Indiana Sports Writer of the Year Award. Hutchens most recently was Indiana University beat writer for CNHI Sports Indiana. He also worked for The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He covered the NFL’s Colts as well as the end of the Bob Knight era for Indiana basketball.

Dec. 23 — Ken Foreman, 96, longtime Seattle Pacific track coach who was the head women’s coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games. During his five decades at Seattle Pacific, Foreman also coached cross country and basketball, was athletic director and led the effort to build Royal Brougham Pavilion. Foreman led the U.S. teams in the 1983 World Championships and 1986 Goodwill Games.

Dec. 24 — Jozef Adamec, 76, former Czechoslovakia striker the youngest member of the team beaten 3-1 by Brazil in the final of the 1962 World Cup in Chile. He scored 14 goals in 44 international matches, including a hat trick against Brazil in a friendly in 1968. Adamec netted 170 goals in the top division of the former Czechoslovakia, winning five titles with Spartak Trnava and two with Dukla Prague.

Dec. 25 — Sigi Schmid, 65, winningest coach in MLS history. Schmid had an MLS-record 266 regular-season and postseason victories in 18 seasons with the LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Sounders. He led teams to two MLS titles, the first with the Galaxy in 2002 and the second with the Crew in 2008, and was a two-time MLS Coach of the Year. He stepped down as coach of the Galaxy in September with six games left in the regular season. Schmid coached UCLA for 19 seasons before moving on to MLS, leading the Bruins to three NCAA titles.

Dec. 25 — George Sullivan, 91, head athletic trainer at Nebraska for 20 years and a member of the athletic program’s medical staff for more than 50. Sullivan was regarded as a pioneer in athletic training practices and was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 1976. Memorial Stadium’s athletic training room is named for him. He retired from full-time work in 1994 and continued as a consultant to the athletic department and other organizations.

Dec. 25 — William “Bill” Baillie, 84, New Zealand athlete who once held world records in the now obscure 20,000-meter and one-hour running events. At the time Baillie broke the records they had a higher status than today and were held by Czech great Emil Zatopek. Baillie set both marks in the same race in Auckland in 1963. In one hour he covered 12 miles, 960 yards, 7 inches or 20.19 kilometers, after reaching the 20K mark in 59 minutes, 28.6 seconds. Baillie competed in the 5,000 at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where he finished sixth. He also competed in four Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, ’58, ’62 and ’66.

Dec. 28 — Peter Hill-Wood, 82, former Arsenal chairman for 31 years who presided over the English club’s title-winning eras of George Graham and Arsene Wenger. Continuing a long family tradition of involvement in the London team — both his grandfather and father served as chairman — Hill-Wood joined Arsenal’s board in 1962 and was chairman from 1982-2013. During that time, the club moved from Highbury to its current Emirates Stadium. Hill-Wood oversaw the appointment in 1986 of Graham, who guided Arsenal to two English league titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Wenger joined as manager in 1996, and the Gunners won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups under the Frenchman.

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