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Sports Then and Now

Remembering Sports Greats Lost in 2014

Posted on December 31, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Earl Morrall spent 22 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

Earl Morrall spent 21 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

One inevitable component of the end of the year is reflecting on those who we lost during the previous year. As always, we said goodbye to many sports greats during 2014.

Below are brief remembrances of just a few of those who passed away in 2014. Click here to check out a more comprehensive list.

Jean Beliveau – Hockey Hall of Famer – 83 years old
A member of the Montreal Canadiens for 20 years and a member of the NHL Hall of Fame, Jean Beliveau helped lead his team to 10 Stanley Cup Championships and is considered by many as one of the 10 greatest players in NHL history.

Rob Bironas – NFL Kicker – 36 years old
After bouncing around the Arena Football League and several NFL tryouts, Rob Bironas finally got his shot with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and was their kicker for nine seasons before being released prior to the 2014 season. He developed into a Pro Bowl kicker and scored 1,032 points while converting 85.7% of his field goal attempts.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – Professional Boxer – 76 years old
Best known by many for the feature film “The Hurricane” in which Denzel Washington chronicled his life as a professional boxer and 20 years in prison, Rubin Carter had a career record of 27-12-1 as a middleweight and lost to Joey Giardello in his only championship bought. He was twice convicted of a triple murder, but the conviction was eventually overturned and Carter became a champion for those wrongly accused of crimes.

In 1948 Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

In 1948 Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

Alice Coachman – Olympic Track & Field Athlete – 90 years old
A dominant long jumper, Alice Coachman won 10-straight AAU Championships between 1939 and 1948, but it was not until 1948 that she was able to show her prowess during the Olympics since both the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to World War II. She claimed victory in the high jump to become the only American woman to win a Gold Medal in the 1948 Olympics and the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

Alvin Dark – Major League Baseball Player & Manager – 92 years old
As a rookie in 1948, Alvin Dark was named the Major League Rookie of the Year and finished third in the MVP voting while helping lead the Boston Braves to a surprising World Series appearance. The three-time All-Star later won a World Series ring as a member of the New York Giants. In addition to his 14 year playing career, Dark also managed in the majors for 13 years and won a World Series title with the Oakland A’s in 1974.

Jim Fregosi – Major League Baseball Player & Manager – 71 years old
Though he spent 18 seasons as a major league player and 15 as a manager, Jim Fregosi is still most often remembered as the player the New York Mets received in their infamous trade of Nolan Ryan to the California Angels. A six time All-Star, he spent less than two seasons with the Mets and eventually returned to the Angels as manager. He won the 1993 National League pennant as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and won 1,028 games as a manager.

Harry Gamble – College Football Coach & Pro Football Executive – 83 years old
A successful college football coach at Lafayette and the University of Pennsylvania, Harry Gamble went on to build the Philadelphia Eagles into a contender in the late 1980s. He joined the Eagles originally as an unpaid assistant, but soon became President and General Manager. The Eagles reached the playoffs five times during his tenure.

Tony Gwynn – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer – 54 years old
Since World War II, only Ted Williams had a higher career batting average than Tony Gwynn. Spending his entire career with the San Diego Padres, Gwynn won eight batting titles and finished his career with 3,141 career hits. He was a 15-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves while twice leading the Padres to the World Series. His .394 batting average in the strike-shortened 1994 season is the highest average in the majors since Williams hit .406 in 1941.

After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph Kiner spent more than 50 years broadcasting the New York Mets.

After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph Kiner spent more than 50 years broadcasting the New York Mets.

Ralph Kiner – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer – 91 years old
Given that he last played in the major leagues in 1955, Ralph Kiner was better known to many as the voice of the New York Mets as he served as an announcer for their games from the inception of the team in 1962 until his death. As a power-hitting outfielder, Kiner led the National League in home runs in each of his first seven seasons in the league, including twice hitting more than 50 home runs in a season. He finished his 10-year career with 369 home runs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Earl Morrall – NFL Quarterback – 79 years old
During a 21-year career in which he played for six teams, Earl Morrall was part of several significant moments in NFL history. He began his career as the backup quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers “Million Dollar Backfield” team that included four future Hall of Famers. He then played briefly for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being traded to the Detroit Lions for Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne (who allegedly placed a curse on the Lions after the trade). He was a member of the Lions the year George Plimpton chronicled his time as an NFL quarterback in the book “Paper Lion.” In 1968 he was the NFL MVP while leading the Baltimore Colts to a 13-1 record and the NFL Championship. The Colts lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets, but two years later Morrall rallied them to victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. In 1972 he became the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins when Bob Griese suffered a broken leg and went 9-0 in the regular season to help the Dolphins to their perfect season. He was the holder for the field goal attempt that led to the infamous Garo Yepremian “pass” in Super Bowl VII.

Chuck Noll – NFL Hall of Fame Coach – 82 years old
After serving as one of Paul Brown’s play messenger guards during his seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Chuck Noll proved he should be the one calling the shots while leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls. He spent 23 years on the sidelines for the Steelers and remains the only head coach with four Super Bowl titles. Noll was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Jack Ramsay – Hall of Fame Basketball Coach – 89 years old
Known as “Dr. Jack” because he completed his doctorate degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania, Jack Ramsay went 234-72 in a decade as head coach of the St. Joseph’s Hawks. He moved to the NBA to serve as General Manager of the World Champion Philadelphia 76ers in 1967 and in 1968 led the 76ers to 55 wins in his first season as an NBA coach. He had three winning seasons coaching the Buffalo Braves and in 1977 won an NBA title coaching Bill Walton and the Portland Trailblazers. After resigning from his coaching job with the Indiana Pacers early in the 1988-89 season, Ramsay went on to become a well-respected basketball broadcaster for more than two decades. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Bob Suter – Olympic Hockey Player – 57 years old
Best known as a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” squad, Bob Suter won an NCAA Championship with the Wisconsin Badgers before helping the USA to their surprising run to the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. His brother Gary and son Ryan both played in the NHL.

Oscar Taveras – Major League Baseball Player – 22 years old
The death of Oscar Tavares during the 2014 World Series cast a somber pall on the Fall Classic. After playing 80 games as a rookie for the St Louis Cardinals in 2014, Taveras hit .429 during the post season, including a home run in the National League Championship Series.

Bob Welch – Major League Baseball Pitcher – 57 years old
Since Denny McLain won 31 games during the 1968 baseball season, no pitcher has registered more wins in a season than the 27 that Bob Welch registered while winning the American League Cy Young Award in 1990. Originally a phenom with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Welch famously struck out Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series. In 17 major league seasons, Welch won 211 games and two World Series rings.

Don Zimmer began his 66 year career in professional baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Don Zimmer began his 66 year career in professional baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Don Zimmer – Major League Baseball Player & Manager – 83 years old
As a player, coach and manager, Don Zimmer spent 66 years in professional baseball and was a witness (or participant) in some of the great moments in baseball history. He had two hits and two RBIs to help the Brooklyn Dodgers claim their only World Series title in 1955. He also won a World Series ring with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959. He spent 12 seasons as a utility infielder in the majors before turning to coaching. He became a minor league manager in 1967 and major league coach in 1971 before getting his first chance as a major league manager with the San Diego Padres in 1972. He was the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox when Carlton Fisk hit his famous home run in the 1975 World Series and was the manager of the Red Sox in 1978 when Bucky Dent’s home run for the New York Yankees completed the shocking comeback after the Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 14 games in August. He later managed the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, including winning Manager of the Year honors as the Cubs won the NL East in 1989. Zimmer served as a coach on the expansion Colorado Rockies for three seasons and then in 1996 joined the New York Yankees as bench coach for Joe Torre. He was part of the Yankees during four World Series champion squads. He later served as a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays during their rise from doormat to contender.

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