Sports mourns 1960s touch­stones Mikita, Tay­lor and McCovey

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Sports - BY FRED LIEF

Sports deaths in 2018 were marked by the losses of three touch­stones from the 1960s: Stan Mikita, the em­bod­i­ment of pow­er­ful Chicago Black­hawks teams; Jim Tay­lor, the pun­ish­ing Green Bay Pack­ers full­back; and big-hit­ting Wil­lie McCovey of the San Fran­cisco Giants. Each ar­rived just as the 1950s was go­ing through its last paces and sports had yet to be­come a round-the-clock cor­po­rate be­he­moth. All three were in­ex­tri­ca­bly tied to city and team, their lega­cies bur­nished as the decades passed.

They were touch­stones of sports in the 1960s, and sports lost three of the best in 2018: Stan Mikita, the em­bod­i­ment of pow­er­ful Chicago Black­hawks teams; Jim Tay­lor, the pun­ish­ing Green Bay Pack­ers full­back; and big-hit­ting Wil­lie McCovey of the San Fran­cisco Giants.

Each ar­rived as the 1950s was go­ing through its last paces and sports had yet to be­come a round-the-clock cor­po­rate be­he­moth. They were in­ex­tri­ca­bly tied to city and team, their lega­cies bur­nished through the decades.

STAN MIKITA

He gave hockey the curved stick blade and Chicago a hockey team that would be­come a peren­nial force.

Mikita, 78, com­bined with Bobby Hull and goalie Glenn Hall to send the Black­hawks to the 1961 Stan­ley Cup ti­tle. He was a nine-time All-Star who led the league in points four times. He was the first to play in the NHL from what was then Cze­choslo­vakia and spent all of his 22 sea­sons with Chicago.

The 5-foot-9 Hall of Famer was the only win­ner of the Hart (MVP), Art Ross (scor­ing) and Lady Byng (sports­man­ship) tro­phies in the same sea- son. He was among the first to wear a hel­met.

“He em­bod­ied the Chicago Black­hawks,” team pres­i­dent John McDonough said.

JIM TAY­LOR

Tay­lor owned the role of the pun­ish­ing, un­re­lent­ing full­back, all blood and grit and guts. Vince Lom­bardi came to the Pack­ers a year af­ter Tay­lor, and the coach had his man to lead his ground forces.

Tay­lor, 83, was a Hall of Famer who helped the Pack­ers to four cham­pi­onships, in­clud­ing the first Su­per Bowl in which he scored the first touch­down. In 1962, he was the MVP.

Tay­lor was of­ten com­pared to Jim Brown, but Lom­bardi saw a dif­fer­ence.

“Jim Brown will give you that leg (to tackle) and then take it away from you,” the coach said. “Jim Tay­lor will give it to you and then ram it through your chest.”

WIL­LIE MCCOVEY

What if he pulled the ball a few feet more? What if it had been a bit higher?

It was Game 7 of the 1962 World Se­ries. The Giants trailed the Yan­kees 1-0 in the ninth in­ning but had run­ners on sec­ond and third with two out. McCovey then scorched the ball, but right at sec­ond base­man Bobby Richard­son. That was as close as McCovey came to a cham­pi­onship.

“I still think about it all the time,” he said.

McCovey , 80, hit 521 home runs and bat­ted .270 over 22 sea­sons, all but three with the Giants. The 6-foot-4 slug­ger known as “Stretch” was the NL’s Rookie of the Year in 1959 and MVP in 1969. He was slowed by bad knees but glided into the Hall of Fame.

Sports this year lost oth­ers who blazed paths:

Anne Dono­van, a

6-foot-8 pi­o­neer of women’s bas­ket­ball, was 56 was a win­ner wher­ever she went.

Broad­caster Keith

Jack­son, he of the “Whoa, Nelly! call and ami­able com­pany for many years across all sports, was 89.

Roger Ban­nis­ter, 88,

● smashed four-minute mile, but the British track great in­sisted his real achieve­ment was as a neu­rol­o­gist.

Base­ball also said good­bye to Tony Cloninger, the Braves pitcher who hit two grand slams in a game; Rusty Staub, the “Le Grand Or­ange” with more than 2,700 hits; Red Schoen­di­enst, the Car­di­nal pa­tri­arch who at 95 had been the old­est liv­ing Hall of Famer; Os­car Gam­ble, owner of 200 home runs and a re­splen­dent afro; and Wayne Huizenga, whose Florida busi­ness em­pire in­cluded the Mar­lins, NFL’s Dol­phins and NHL’s Pan­thers.

Bas­ket­ball is now without cham­pion guards Jo Jo White (Celtics) and Hal Greer ( 76ers); Frank Ram­sey, sixth man for the mighty Celtics teams of the 1960s; Wil­lie Naulls, among the early black stars; Jack McKin­ney, coach of the “Show­time” Lak­ers whose ca­reer was un­der­cut by a bi­cy­cle ac­ci­dent; Paul Allen, owner of the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers and NFL’s Seat­tle Sea­hawks; and Tex Win­ter, 96, guru of the tri­an­gle of­fense.

Foot­ball mourned Dwight Clark of the 49ers, who be­stowed on the NFL a peer­less im­age of “The Catch”; Billy Can­non, who won the 1959 LSU Heis­man Tro­phy and later spent time in prison for coun­ter­feit­ing; Tommy Mc­Don­ald, the fleet re­ceiver on the Ea­gles’ 1960 ti­tle team; Chuck Knox, who coached the Los An­ge­les Rams to three straight NFC ti­tle games; Earle Bruce, an Ohio State pa­tri­arch who suc­ceeded Woody Hayes; and Bob McNair, the owner who re­turned the NFL to Hous­ton.

Gone from hockey are John Ziegler, the NHL pres­i­dent who presided over a 1992 play­ers strike, and Bill Tor­rey, gen­eral man­ager of the 1980s New York Is­lan­der dy­nasty. In a bus crash on the Saskatchewan prairie, 16 from a ju­nior team were left dead.

Box­ing’s deaths in­cluded Karl Milden­berger, the Ger­man who went 12 rounds with Muham­mad Ali. In auto rac­ing, it was Dan Gur­ney, who won in NASCAR, For­mula One and IndyCar. In horse rac­ing, it was jock­eys Manny Ycaza and Ron­nie Franklin. In golf, it was two-time ma­jor win­ner Hu­bert Green and Bruce Li­et­zke.

In soc­cer, Wal­ter Bahr was last liv­ing player from the U.S. team that rocked Eng­land at the 1950 World Cup. Ten­nis lost the grace­ful cham­pion Maria Bueno while pro wrestling counted out beloved box-of­fice draw Bruno Sam­martino.

Sports writ­ing is di­min­ished without Dave An­der­son, the Pulitzer Prizewin­ning colum­nist for The New York Times. Like­wise, The As­so­ci­ated Press with the death of Jim O’Con­nell, the Hall of Fame col­lege bas­ket­ball writer.

Anne Dono­van, the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Famer who won a na­tional cham­pi­onship at Old Do­min­ion, two Olympic gold medals in the 1980s and coached the U.S. to gold in 2008, died June 13 of heart fail­ure. She was 56.

Wil­lie McCovey, the sweet-swing­ing Hall of Famer nick­named “Stretch” for his 6-foot-4 height and those long arms, died on Oct. 31. He was 80.

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