An array of influential and record-setting sports figures passed away. Among them: a four-time Olympic gold medal winner, a sure-handed Hall of Fame shortstop and a bus-jumping motorcycle daredevil
December 31, 2007


ON A TEAM full offlashy stars, the hard-nosed outfielder gave the Yankees pluck. A war hero whowon two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts in the Pacific, Bauer was ready toquit baseball in 1946 because of leg wounds suffered on Okinawa. But he gavethe game one more try and went on to make three All-Star teams and win sevenWorld Series with New York. His 17-game Fall Classic hitting streak remains arecord.


ONE OF ONLY twojockeys to win the Kentucky Derby five times, Hartack accomplished it on just12 mounts. (It took Eddie Arcaro 21.) More than one acquaintance describedHartack as reclusive, but he connected easily with thoroughbreds and, despitehis bouncing style, always seemed to find a way to get the most out of a horse.Hartack also won the Preakness three times and took the Belmont in 1960.


THE SOFT-SPOKENWalsh stood out in a league in which screamers roamed the sidelines. He gotresults, though, inheriting the moribund 49ers in 1979 and turning them intochamps in two seasons; Super Bowl wins in '85 and '89 would follow. A formertight end and defensive end, Walsh wrote a master's thesis as a grad assistantat San Jose State titled "Defensing the Pro-Set Formation." But as ahead coach—first at Stanford and then at San Francisco—he was known for hisoffensive schemes, specifically his short-passing game, dubbed the West CoastOffense. The system revolutionized the sport, but like any system, it requiredgood players, and few were better at finding them than Walsh. He snagged JoeMontana in the third round of the '79 draft, used eight predraft trades torestock his aging team in '86 and acquired Steve Young a year later for asecond-round choice, extending the Niners' dynasty. "People use the wordgenius, and we usually scoff at that," said fellow Hall of Fame coach JohnMadden. "In his case, I don't think you can scoff at it."


HE WAS a highschool runner in West Islip, N.Y., when he threw his first discus; one hadlanded at his feet during practice. Oerter heaved it back so far that his coachimmediately insisted he take up the event. His initial throw at the 1956Melbourne Games was just as remarkable: He sent the discus flying184'11"—4'4" farther than the Olympic record and 5'1" beyond whatany of his competitors would throw. The 19-year-old was so nervous that henearly fainted on the medal stand, but Oerter would have more opportunities toget comfortable at the top of the podium. He won gold at the next three Games,setting an Olympic record each time. On all three occasions he entered as anunderdog, primarily because he'd suffered serious injuries. The worst came in'64, when he slipped and fell on a wet concrete discus circle six days beforehis event was to begin in Tokyo. Oerter tore cartilage in his rib cage andsuffered internal bleeding, but he insisted on competing. "These are theOlympics," he said. "You die before you quit."


ACRAFTYRIGHTHANDER with a sinkerball that some thought a little too moist—Red Smithsuggested his record should include wins, losses and relative humidity—Burdettestymied big league hitters for 18 years. He won 203 games and beat the Yankeesthree times in the 1957 World Series, ending the Braves' 43-year title drought.In '59 he hurled 13 shutout innings to beat the Pirates' Harvey Haddix, who hadbeen perfect through 12.


THE FORMER bigleague third baseman was struck by a foul ball while coaching first base forthe Tulsa Drillers, Colorado's Double A affiliate, becoming the first on-fieldfatality in the pros since 1920 (SI, Sept. 24, 2007). In October the Rockiesvoted to give his widow, Mandy, who was pregnant with their third child whenMike died, a full playoff share. MLB announced that next season, on-fieldcoaches will wear protective headgear.


A 6'3"SHOOTING GUARD who led the nation in scoring as a Providence senior, Walker wassuch a terrific athlete that he was selected with the final pick of the 1967NFL draft despite never having played a down of college football. He signedwith the Pistons and was a two-time All-Star, averaging nearly 17 points overhis nine-year career. Walker was the father of NBA player Jalen Rose, but thetwo had virtually no contact.


THE FIFTHcommissioner led baseball through its stormiest era: a Supreme Court caseushering in free agency, labor strife—including a work stoppage that canceled athird of the 1981 season—and gambling and drug scandals. But the game also grewat an unprecedented rate. When Kuhn arrived in '69, total attendance was 23million. When he left in '84, it had nearly doubled. Nine months after he diedhe was elected to the Hall of Fame.


IN 1978, justbefore he was to sign a contract with the Patriots that would have made him oneof the NFL's highest-paid receivers, Stingley saw his career—and nearly hislife—ended by a hit from Raiders safety Jack Tatum. Left a quadriplegic,Stingley eventually regained partial movement in his right arm. He went on tofound a nonprofit organization to mentor troubled youths in his hometown ofChicago.


HIS PORTLINESSaside—the righty once noted that he'd "never heard of anyone going on thedisabled list because of pulled fat"—Beck was one of baseball's topclosers, a three-time All-Star who saved 286 games over 13 seasons. He wasnever more at home than at the stadium. During his comeback from elbow surgeryin 2002, he lived in a Winnebago outside the Iowa Cubs' stadium, and he wasburied in his Chicago Cubs uniform.


THE MVP of boththe basketball and football teams at Purdue, the 6'?7" Lundy chose the NFL.He was a mainstay with the Rams, playing 13 seasons at right end for the fabledFearsome Foursome defensive line. He took a job as an assistant with theChargers in 1971, but health problems cut short his coaching career. Saidfellow Foursome member Merlin Olsen, "He was the stabilizing force—Mr.Consistency."


THE GRITTYJohnson was overshadowed by fellow Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey; whenHarvey missed much of the 1958--59 season with an injury, Johnson won theNorris Trophy. He also earned six Stanley Cups with Montreal and in '70 began athree-year stint as the Bruins' coach. Johnson's hands-off style suited a teamfilled with rowdy stars; Boston led the NHL in victories in '71--72 and won theStanley Cup—its last—the following season.


CHEVY CHASE'SSaturday Night Live impressions of his clumsiness notwithstanding, Ford was thenation's most athletic president. A star center at Michigan, he turned downoffers from the NFL to become the boxing coach and a football assistant atYale. He soon enrolled at Yale Law School, starting down a path that would leadhim to Congress and the vice presidency; in '74 he assumed the presidency afterRichard Nixon resigned. Ford wasn't well-known when he entered the Oval Office,but the world soon learned that he loved his golf, even if he didn't always hitthe ball straight. "It's not hard to find Jerry Ford on a golf course,"Bob Hope once joked. "You just follow the wounded." Ford handled theribbing with his typical grace: "I would like to deny all allegations byBob Hope that during my last game of golf, I hit an eagle, a birdie, an elk anda moose."


AFTER ROBINSONsuccumbed to Alzheimer's disease in April, Doug Williams, who playedquarterback for Robinson and then succeeded him as Grambling's football coach,said, "He'd been fighting that battle for a long time. It was one of themany he fought." The son of a sharecropper, Robinson was hired as the firstcoach of the Tigers, in 1941. He had no paid assistants, lined the fieldshimself and made sandwiches to take on road trips because his all-black teamoften couldn't get served in restaurants. Still, Robinson turned Grambling intoa powerhouse. In his second season, with a team composed of 33 of the school's57 male students, the Tigers held all nine of their opponents scoreless.Robinson sent more than 200 players to the NFL; four of them reached the Hallof Fame. Winning 408 games in 57 years meant that Robinson could rightly bedescribed as legendary, but the coach didn't see it that way. "I can't evenspell it," he said. "What I've done since 1941 has been more for [theplayers] than for me."