DIED of kidney and heart failure, pro wrestling pioneer "Classy"
Freddie Blassie, 85. A last link to wrestling's carnival roots,
the 6'1", 220-pound Blassie (real name: Fred Blassman) became
prominent in the game wrestling at fairgrounds, after serving in
the Navy during World War II. His bleached-blond hair, gravelly
voice and knack for riling opponents with tirades that invariably
included his signature put-down, "pencil-neck geek," made Blassie
wrestling's first superstar villain. His antics often incited
crowd violence. He lost the vision in his right eye when he was
hit by a hard-boiled egg thrown from ringside. He regularly had
to fight his way back to his dressing room, and he was stabbed by
fans on 21 occasions. He developed a cult following late in his
career and in 1982 starred with Andy Kaufman in My Breakfast with
Blassie, a satirical response to the arthouse movie My Dinner
with Andre. He was also a favorite guest of Regis Philbin's.
Though he wrestled his last match in 1973, Blassie made
appearances for WWE until a few months ago. In May he attended a
card in Philadelphia partly to promote his recent autobiography,
Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks. "The really great ones will do
anything to get a reaction," said WWE chairman Vince McMahon.
"Freddie would do or say anything. Few have ever been as good."
Of heart failure in a hotel room in Dresden, Germany, French
cyclist Fabrice Salanson, 23. The rising star for team Brioches
La Boulangere was scheduled to ride in the Tour de France but was
found dead on June 3, the morning before the start of the Tour of
Germany. An autopsy showed that Salanson's heart was enlarged.
The condition is common in athletes with extreme training
regimens, but can be caused by the performance-enhancing drug
erythropoietin (EPO), and rumors of a scandal surfaced when a
spokesman for Germany's state prosecutors said that unidentified
vials and pills were found in Salanson's bag. An IOC-accredited
lab then tested Salanson's body for EPO and did not find drugs or
SAVED from choking, LPGA Hall of Famer Donna Caponi, by Charlotta
Sorenstam. Before Friday's second round at the LPGA Championship,
Sorenstam performed the Heimlich maneuver on Caponi, freeing a
chunk of apple from her windpipe. Sorenstam (whose older sister,
Annika, won the tournament) then shot a 75 and missed the cut.
"In my eyes Charlotta is a hero," said Caponi, who won the
tournament in 1979 and '81 and was at the event as an analyst for
The Golf Channel.
BROKEN Marion Jones's national high school record in the girls'
200 meters, by Allyson Felix. A senior at North Hills Los Angeles
Baptist, Allyson (SI, June 9) won the state championship in 22.52
seconds, .15 of a second faster than Jones ran the 200 11 years
ago--but .41 slower than Allyson herself ran it in April at the
Banamex Grand Prix in Mexico City. Allyson's latest time stands
as the record because it was registered at a high school meet. A
crowd of 11,627 at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif., cheered
as Allyson, who has signed a letter of intent to USC, took a
victory lap. "To finish off like that was special," said Allyson.
"The record was definitely on my mind."