Undersized at 5'9" and 225 pounds, the linebacker made five Pro Bowls in 12 seasons. Known mostly as a Saint, he ended his career with the Panthers in 1998, five years before learning he had cancer of the small intestine. Mills was Carolina's linebackers coach when he died.
December 26, 2005
The three-time NL manager of the year won 1,902 games and led the California Angels to two division titles. He also fell agonizingly short of the World Series several times, most notably in 1964, when his Phillies blew a 6 1/2 game lead to the Cardinals with 12 games remaining.
The baritone from Bippus, Ind., brought a gentlemanly dignity to every sport he called. And he called almost all of them--golf's first televised Masters, 10 Olympics, the epic 1958 NFL title game, events on ABC's Wide World of Sports and, for 36 years, pro bowling.
The 1946 Heisman Trophy winner played on three national championship teams for Army. Known as Mr. Outside--backfieldmate Doc Blanchard was Mr. Inside--Davis still holds NCAA records for yards per carry for a career (8.3) and for a season (11.5 in '45).
Before there was Wilt or Kareem or Shaq there was Mikan, the NBA's first great big man. The bespectacled 6'10" center from DePaul used an unstoppable hook shot to lead the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA titles between 1949 and '54 and retired in '56 as the league's alltime leading scorer.
The four-time All-Star catcher was the Bill Buckner of his era, his 13-year career reduced to an error he made as a Brooklyn Dodger: a dropped third strike that would have ended Game 4 of the 1941 World Series. The Yankees went on to win that game and take the Series.
The popular Hawks backup center and Georgia Tech grad died in an ambulance on Oct. 15 after having difficulty breathing while he was sleeping. He had had no previous health problems, but an autopsy showed that his heart was 70% larger than normal.
The trash-talking defensive back earned rings in two pivotal games in NFL history: as a Colt in the 1958 championship game and as a Jet in Super Bowl III. In his 1970 book, Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer, Sample alleged that the league mistreated blacks.
One of the most influential figures in NFL history, the longtime Giants owner championed small-market franchises and revenue sharing among teams, helping to make the NFL the country's best-run sports league. Giants co-owner Bob Tisch, 79, died three weeks after Mara.
He gave the best heavyweights of his generation all they could handle. His greatest win was a 12-round decision over George Foreman in 1977. That victory was sandwiched between narrow losses to the champion, Muhammad Ali, and to Ken Norton.
The first harness driver to win $1 million in a season (1964), Dancer guided horses to three Triple Crowns between '68 and '72. A charismatic ambassador for his sport, he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and was toasted by Lyndon Johnson at the White House.
The 5'5" basketball coach led the Soviet Union to seven European titles, two world championships and the 1988 Olympic gold medal. While his team also won gold in '72, Gomelsky was not in Munich; fearing that he would defect, the KGB had confiscated his passport.
The longtime Chiefs coach changed the game, inventing the moving pocket and the two-tight-end formation while leading Kansas City to the AFL title in 1966 and a victory in Super Bowl IV. He said in 2003, "I married the only girl I ever loved and did the only job I ever loved."
He was a rare talent: a run-stuffing defensive tackle who could also pressure the passer. The No. 2 pick in 1997, Russell had 28 1/2 sacks in five seasons with the Raiders and made the Pro Bowl in '98 and '99 before failing three drug tests. He died in a car accident on Dec. 15.
The control pitcher had a 3.44 ERA in 14 big league seasons and started for two World Series teams, the 1968 Cardinals and the '71 Pirates. A longtime Pirates executive, Briles was playing golf at a team alumni event in February when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
A professor at a Denver community college, she took a shot to the head from Heather Schmitz, fell into a coma and became the first woman to die in a sanctioned fight. Zerlentes had told her coach that she would retire from amateur boxing after the bout.
Known for his flamboyant catches and for taking throws on the run, the first baseman was one of the game's first Latino stars. His fielding earned Power, born Victor Pellot in Puerto Rico, a rep as a showboat; it also brought him seven Gold Gloves in 12 seasons with six teams.
A charter member of the PBA tour and one of the pillars of bowling when the sport was at its peak in the 1960s, he won 10 of the PBA's first 23 tournaments. Weber was named bowler of the year three times from 1961 to '65, and in 1999 fans voted him bowler of the century.
CLARENCE (BIG HOUSE) GAINES
His 828 wins at Winston-Salem State are fifth-most in NCAA history, but he is remembered as much for the fatherly role he played in his players' lives. In 1967 his Rams won the Division II title, and he was the first African-American to be named NCAA coach of the year.
Known for his superb putting stroke, the 6'6" Archer became the tallest Masters winner when he beat Billy Casper by three shots in 1969. In '83 he asked his daughter Elizabeth to carry his bag at the Masters, making her the event's first female caddie.
Believed to be the first player to use a slap shot in an NHL game, he was left wing on the so-called Bread Line, which led the Rangers to the '40 Stanley Cup. The gritty Shibicky, who had a 14-year career, played the last two games of the Cup finals on a broken right ankle.
A guard on the Steelers' 1978 and '79 Super Bowl championship teams, he admitted to using steroids shortly before he retired, in 1985, and blamed them for his heart condition. Courson died when a tree he was cutting down fell on him; he was trying to save his dog.
In 1936 the former heavyweight champion from Germany dealt Joe Louis his first loss, by KO. Before their ballyhooed rematch two years later, Hitler cast Schmeling as a symbol of the Third Reich. Louis, then the reigning champ, dropped him in the first round.
A players' coach before the term was even coined, he was a skilled motivator who became one of the game's top managers. Between 1951 and '64, Lopez guided the only teams not named the Yankees (the Indians in '54 and the White Sox in '59) to the AL pennant.
A quarterback for the Eagles, Bears, Packers and Lions, he also had a historic role in TV sports. In 1962, as the QB for Boston College, he scampered 70 yards for a touchdown. After the play, ABC, using a new technology called instant replay, showed Concannon's run again.
The crusty shipping magnate was the catalyst for bringing professional hockey to New Jersey. A Naval commander during World War II, he owned baseball's Astros (1979 to '92) as well as the Devils (1982 to 2000), who won two Stanley Cups during his tenure.
TED (DOUBLE DUTY) RADCLIFFE
The Negro leagues star earned his nickname by pitching the first game of a doubleheader and catching the next. As a catcher he wore a chest protector emblazoned with THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. He was believed to be the oldest former professional ballplayer when he died.
The former Las Vegas cabbie caddied for Jack Nicklaus from 1963 through '82, becoming the first renowned looper. Argea was on Nicklaus's bag for more than 40 Tour victories, but he never worked the Masters; until 1983, outside caddies weren't allowed at the event.
With class and dignity, the running back broke the color barrier at Oklahoma in 1956, a decade before the big state schools in Arkansas and Texas integrated their teams. Gautt earned all-conference honors for the Sooners in '58 and '59, then played eight NFL seasons.
The Manchester United winger from Belfast had the talent of Pelé and the looks of a pop idol, which helped him evolve into soccer's first super celebrity. Best was known as much for his exploits off the field as on. He partied with beauty queens and abused alcohol, and the decades of hard living eventually led to multiple organ failure.
In 1951 the Venezuelan-born shortstop became the first Latin American player to appear in an All-Star Game. He was named an All-Star three more times while with the White Sox. "Chico helped put our country on the baseball map," says current Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
A former defensive back at North Carolina, he coordinated five NFL defenses, including Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain from 1972 to '77, and was the Browns' head coach in '89 and '90. His 1979 Los Angeles Rams' D held the Seahawks to minus-7 yards, still a league record.
Acquired midway through the 1969 season from the Expos, the first baseman had 12 home runs and 37 RBIs for the Mets, helping them turn a nine-game deficit into an NL East title. In their five-game World Series upset of the Orioles, Clendenon hit three homers and was named MVP.
The women's basketball coach, who retired in 2004 after 22 years, led LSU to eight Sweet 16 appearances. Her 708 wins are third-most in NCAA women's hoops history, and she was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September, a month after she died.
Distinguished by his high follow-through and his skin color--he was the third African-American to punt in the NFL--he was named to three Pro Bowls in 16 years. A Dolphin for 10 seasons, Roby wore a watch during games so that he could measure hang time.
FROM SI'S FAMILY
JERRY WACHTER 61
In 1979 he snapped his first cover photo. Over the next 35 years Wachter shot 34 more, demonstrating the rare ability to take stunning pictures of athletes in all four major sports.
HY PESKIN 89
Called "the greatest sports photographer ever" by another top shooter, Neil Leifer, Peskin combined imagination and hustle to produce many of sports' iconic images, including 40 SI covers.
JERRY COOKE 84
He covered 16 Olympics and 42 Kentucky Derbies for SI; in all, Cooke traveled to more than 100 countries, and his photos appeared in LIFE, National Geographic and Paris Match.
PAT PUTNAM 75
In 27 years with SI the always quick-with-a-joke Marine wrote about everything from football to horse racing to track, but he left a legacy as one of the great boxing journalists.