Died at age 41, Ken Caminiti. SI's Tom Verducci remembers the 1996 NL MVP.
Shortly after Caminiti joined the Braves in 2001 for the last of his 15 major league seasons, Atlanta hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, a longtime friend, invited him to his home for dinner. Rettenmund and his wife, Susan, talked to Caminiti, a recovering alcoholic, about the chance to live a full, clean life no matter what mistakes he had made in the past.
"No," Caminiti said. "You don't know what I've done. I don't plan to live that long anyway."
On Sunday, Caminiti was dead--of a heart attack, according to his lawyer, Rick Licht. Five days earlier he had admitted in court that he had flunked a drug test, his fourth such lapse since going on probation in 2002 for possession of cocaine. "One time I took him straight from the courthouse to a rehab facility," Licht said, "and told him, 'If you continue down this path, it'll kill you.' And he said to me, 'If it happens, it happens.'"
October 17, 2004
Caminiti, a three-time All-Star third baseman, had an unyielding grit, particularly when it came to playing through pain. Once, after cracking the nail on his big toe during pregame batting practice, he yanked the nail off with a pair of pliers, wrapped the toe in tape and played in the game without telling the trainers what had happened. Asked why he had not sought help, Caminiti said, "It was almost game time."
Before a game on Aug. 18, 1996, Caminiti was so dehydrated from an upset stomach that he needed two liters of intravenous fluid. He took the IV out, ate a candy bar and smacked two home runs and had four RBIs.
Caminiti won the MVP award with San Diego that year, smashing 40 homers and driving in 130 runs, numbers he never again approached. In May 2002 Caminiti admitted to SI that he had used steroids in 1996 after injuring his left shoulder. He said he continued using steroids for five seasons. "He won the MVP with one shoulder," Rettenmund said. "I talked to him once that season and said, 'Maybe you should take some time off.' He said, 'Don't worry. I'll be all right by the end of the week. I've got a package coming.' That's when I suspected [steroids]. Cammy was a gamer. You won't find anyone who has anything bad to say about him from four o'clock to 10 o'clock at the ballpark."
The idle hours troubled him. Licht once asked him how someone so fit and disciplined in his sport could be so reckless with alcohol and drugs. Caminiti shook his head and said, "I just don't understand."
Died at the age of 97, Johnny Kelley, who ran the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, the last time in 1992. Kelley won the country's oldest marathon in '35 and '45, finished second seven times and was as much a part of the race's landscape as Heartbreak Hill; in fact, the difficult climb became known as such in 1936 when Kelley passed Ellison (Tarzan) Brown on the incline (about 20 miles into the race) and tapped Brown on the shoulder as he went by. Though identified most with Boston, Kelley (below, in '41) competed all over the world--he was the only American to finish the '36 Olympic marathon in Berlin--and was named Runner of the Century by Runner's World in 2000. He also worked a day job as an electrical maintenance man for 35 years (he retired in 1973) and was an avid painter, though he would abstain from his art for three days before a race to conserve energy. Said four-time Boston winner Bill Rodgers, "He was the Boston Marathon."
Wanted by Las Vegas police, former Raiders kicker Cole Ford, 31, who is suspected of committing a drive-by shooting at the home of tigerphilic entertainers Siegfried and Roy (right) last month. No one was injured in the shooting, in which several shotgun blasts shattered windows and tore a footwide hole in the wall of Jungle Palace, the performers' Las Vegas estate. A witness at the estate identified Cole's car and alleged that the driver said, "We need to get ... Siegfried and Roy out of our country." As of Monday, Ford was still at large and considered armed and dangerous.
Protested by fans of Manchester United, Malcolm Glazer's potential takeover of the team. The Buccaneers owner has a 19% stake, worth $239 million, in the team and is reportedly considering making a bid for a controlling interest, with the intention of taking MU private--much to the chagrin of the team's ardent fan base. Last Thursday about 30 supporters, many wearing black hoods, went onto the pitch during a reserves game between Man U and Birmingham City and unfurled a banner that read NOT FOR SALE. Earlier in the week vandals threw red paint on the Jaguar of a club director who had sold Glazer a million shares of the team.
Ended on a high note, the career of swimmer Jenny Thompson, the most decorated U.S. Olympic athlete. Last Saturday, Thompson, 31, won gold in the 50meter butterfly in her final meet, the World Swimming Championships in Indianapolis--the site of her first international meet, the 1987 Pan Am Games. "It seems like a good place to end it," she said. Thompson (right), who returned to Columbia medical school this week, won 12 Olympic and 15 world championship medals. "I never felt this ready to move on," Thompson said after the meet. "I think that's a good thing for my mental health."
Died of complications from heart surgery, comedian Rodney Dangerfield, 82, whose portrayal of boorish Al Czervik in 1980's Caddyshack provided recreational golfers with a healthy supply of one-liners. After failing to make it as a Catskills comic, Dangerfield worked as an aluminum-siding salesman until he gave showbiz another shot at age 40. His self-deprecating routine made him popular, but his big break came in 1980 when he gave up six weeks of his Vegas act--or about $250,000--for a $35,000 role in Caddyshack. He followed that up by playing an aging diver in Back to School and a soccer coach in Ladybugs. On the day of Dangerfield's death, the joke of the day on his website read, "I tell ya, I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, 'There goes the neighborhood.'"