Enberg’s voice silenced
2017 SPORTS DEATHS
Roy Halladay seemed from another time. He pitched deep into games — complete games, the vanished art of major league baseball — and won a couple of Cy Young Awards along the way.
Connie Hawkins finally got his chance to take his playground wizardry to basketball’s big stage and insisted he was never bitter about the lost years.
Ara Parseghian came to South Bend and restored the glory of Notre Dame football, with the coach burnishing the Golden Dome as well as the myth.
Aaron Hernandez’s life was of another sort, an unfolding tragedy of ruin, surely one of the NFL’s darkest moments.
And days before Christmas, Dick Enberg died at his California home at 82. Enberg’s broadcasting career spanned six decades, his voice the steady, welcoming soundtrack for sports. Whether it was the Olympics or the Super Bowl, the Final Four or Wimbledon, horse racing or his beloved baseball, Enberg was there. And always with his trademark exhortation. “Oh, my!”
Former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, a legend himself, didn’t hold back in his tribute to his late friend.
“To me, Dick Enberg was the greatest all-around sportscaster who ever lived,” Scully said, “and will never be emulated.”
The deaths of Enberg, Halladay, Hawkins, Hernandez and Paresghian resonated largely if differently, and other lives lost in 2017 left a large imprint, too.
Baseball lost Jim Bunning, a Hall of Famer who pitched a no-hitter and perfect game before going on to a U.S. Senate seat; two tough hombres in Don Baylor on the field and Dallas Green in the dugout; Boston Red Sox great Bobby Doerr at 99; Yankees front-office whiz Gene Michael; star center fielder Jimmy Piersall, whose psychiatric problems were chronicled in the movie “Fear Strikes Out”; and Steve Palermo, whose umpiring ended in 1991 after he took a bullet in a parking lot.
Basketball said goodbye to two NCAA-winning coaches, Jud Heathcote of Michigan State and Rollie Massimino of Villanova; two NBA executives who presided over champions, Jerry Krause of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Jack McCloskey of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons; and Gene Conley, a two-sport star who played for NBA and World Series champions.
Jake LaMotta, the brawling middleweight champ portrayed by Robert De Niro in the classic Martin Scorcese film “Raging Bull,” died at 95. Also gone at 94 was Lou Duva, who handled 19 champions and seemed to be around boxing forever.
Tennis grieved for Pancho Segura, a champion of the 1940s and ’50s who later coached Jimmy Connors; and Jana Novatna, the 1998 Wimbledon champ who five years earlier cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after losing the final.
Football is diminished without Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers chairman for whom the landmark minority hiring initiative is named; and Y.A. Tittle, the star San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants quarterback whose photo — bleeding and slumped on both knees in the end zone during a game in 1964 — came to embody the sport’s fierce combat. There was also Cortez Kennedy, the mighty Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle; Yale Lary, the safety/punter/return specialist for the best teams in Detroit Lions history; and Tommy Nobis, the middle linebacker and first player drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1966. The college game lost Frank Broyles, the powerful football coach and athletic director at Arkansas.
Golf said farewell to Roberto De Vicenzo, the Argentine whose incorrect scorecard may have cost him the
1968 Masters. Hockey is without Milt Schmidt, the center who led the Boston Bruins to two Stanley Cups, and Johnny Bower, the goalie who led the Toronto Maple leafs to four Stanley Cups and played until 45.
American soccer executive Chuck Blazer died, his acknowledgement of corruption in the sport setting off a global scandal. Horse racing marked the deaths of Hall of Fame trainers LeRoy Jolley and Jack Van Berg as well as Penny Chenery, 95, the owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
In auto racing, the voice of Jim Nabors — the former “Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C” star sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the Indianapolis 500 for decades — was silenced. U.S. bobsled star Steven Holcomb was found dead at 37 in his room at an Olympic training center. And sports writing lost some grace with the death of Frank Deford, the Sports Illustrated essayist.
A handful of centenarians died: John Kundla (101), the first coach in Lakers history; high school basketball coach Lewis D’Antoni (103), the father of Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni; John Risher (107), a former University of Virginia football player who was a member of the stat crew until this season; and Margaret Bergmann Lambert (103), a German-Jewish high jumper banned from Hitler’s 1936 Olympics.