There have been many tragedies in professional sports, from serious injury to death. Some athletes who lost their lives at an early age died from diseases, some from murder, others from drugs. There was even a case where a football player lost his life right there on the net.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, here are 10 athletes who died before their time.
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This New York Yankee catcher was one of the best in the history of not only the Yankees, but Major League Baseball. An avid pilot, Munson tragically crashed his plane on August 2, 1979, before the season ended. Before his death, he played in 97 games during the 1979 season with a .288 average. His lifetime average over 11 seasons was .292. In 1976, he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player as he hit .302 with 105 RBIs, striking out just 38 times in 616 at-bats. Thurman Munson won three Gold Glove Awards, was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1970, was a member of two World Series Championship teams, and was a seven-time All-Star. He was only 32 years old at the time of his death.
This athlete who died too young might be the most senseless death on this list. Len Bias was a star basketball player at the University of Maryland and became a star there. When the 1986 draft began, Bias was considered a surefire top-10 pick, and in fact, he was taken by the Boston Celtics with the second overall pick. Before he could even step on the court for the Celtics, Bias was preparing for his NBA future by negotiating a $1.6 million deal with Reebok. On June 19, 1986, Bice and good friend Brian Tribble were sitting in the dorm room shared by Bice and others and made the ill-fated decision to snort cocaine. During a conversation with basketball teammate Terry Long, Bias collapsed after a seizure. Tribble called 911 paramedics couldn’t get her heart to respond, and the same thing happened at the hospital. He was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m., the cause of death being a cardiac arrhythmia due to cocaine ingestion.
In this athlete, you had one of the greatest distance runners in history. Steve Prefontaine’s accomplishments are many. At the 1968 and 1969 Corvallis Invitationals in Oregon, Prefontaine finished first in the two-mile, setting the Oregon high school record, then in 1969 breaking the United States high school record with a time of 8:41.5. Between 1971 and 1975, he had 21 first place finishes in his events. At the 1972 Olympics, Prefontaine finished fourth in the 5,000 meters. He was training for the 1976 Olympics when he tragically crashed his car and died in the accident on May 30, 1975.
If you’re a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, like I am, and were alive in 1972, you remember New Year’s Eve that year as a tragic one. That was the night Roberto Clemente boarded a plane bound for Nicaragua to help earthquake victims, but his plane crashed into the ocean and the wreckage, along with the bodies of those on board, were never found. Clemente was one of the greatest players of all time, perhaps the best defensive right back to ever play the game. He was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his final hit total was exactly 3,000.
The 1961 Heisman Trophy was awarded to Syracuse University’s Ernie Davis. Davis rushed for 823 yards that season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He scored 12 times on the ground and two more from passes. He had 157 yards on 16 receptions. Two years earlier, in 1959, Syracuse won the national title behind Davis’ seven-yard average. In the 1962 NFL Draft, Davis was the top pick of the Washington Redskins, who turned around and traded the top pick to the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, Ernie Davis never got to play in an NFL game. In the summer of 1962, after developing neck swelling, it was discovered that Davis had developed acute monocytic leukemia. There was no cure, and sadly, at the age of 23, Davis died on May 18, 1963.
As a big boxing fan, I distinctly remember watching the Salvador Sanchez fight. He was an amazing boxer. His record was 44-1-1 with 32 knockouts, and Steve Prefontaine before him, Sanchez was driving his sports car (Porsche 928) on August 12, 1982, when he crashed along a highway in Mexico, killing him instantly. Sanchez was only 23 years old and was the reigning WBC and lightweight champion. He was on a 25-fight winning streak and had defeated many notable fighters during that run. He defeated Danny Lopez and defeated Juan Laporte. My most memorable fight involving Sanchez was his fight with Wilfredo Gomes. He completely dominated Gomez and defeated him by a knockout in the eighth round. Sanchez also knocked out Felix Trinidad and in his last fight knocked out the great Aksumah Nelson by TKO in the 15th and final round at Madison Square Garden. To this day, Salvador Sanchez is one of the greatest boxers I have ever seen.
If you like tearjerkers and get choked up easily, watching Brian’s Song (the original) will do that to you. The true story of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo is a very sad one. A promising young running back who was part of a tandem with Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. Piccolo managed three seasons from 1966 to 1968 before cancer struck him, cutting his season short in 1969. Piccolo was only 26 when cancer took his life. His No. 41 jersey was retired by the Bears.
There has only been one on-field death in the history of the National Football League. Chuck Hughes was a wide receiver who played college ball at the former Texas Western College, now renamed the University of Texas at El Paso. There, he set a single game rushing record with 401 yards. NCAA record 34.9 yards per reception in a game also in 1965. He set the all-purpose yards per game average that season. with 204. Hughes is a member of the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame. Drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967, he played two seasons in Philly before being traded to the Detroit Lions. 1971 on Oct. 24, Hughes crumpled to the turf in the fourth quarter and struggled with big Dick Butkus standing over him, pleading for help. Despite efforts to revive him and an ambulance coming to his rescue, Chuck Hughes expired at 5:34 that day, and his autopsy revealed that he suffered from advanced arteriosclerosis, which indicated that one of his coronary arteries was blocked. was by 75%.
Lyman Bostock played for two Major League Baseball teams, the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels. In four seasons, he hit .311 and had 102 doubles. He also stole 45 bases and knocked in 250 runs. Baseball was in Bostock’s blood, as his father, Lyman Sr., was a professional player in the Negro Leagues from 1938-1954. After a divorce when he was young, Lyman Jr. grew up with his mother and never reconnected with his father. 1978 on September 23, Bostock was in a car with a woman named Joan Hawkins, who had tutored Bostock when he was younger. Her ex-husband Leonard Smith, who had followed the two, believed Bostock had been having an affair with his ex-wife. Smith pulled up next to Bostock’s car and fired a single shot from a handgun into the back seat where Bostock and Hawkins were sitting. The bullet hit Bostock in his right temple, and he died in hospital two hours later. He was only 27 years old.
There have been deaths from punches in the sport of boxing, but none of them can match the brutality of what happened to Benny Parrett. The Cuban-born welterweight was a good fighter but never won a world title, with his final record standing at 35-12 with 10 knockouts and three draws. On March 24, 1962, Emil Griffith was challenged for the NYSAC, NBA and Ring middleweight titles. The fight went 12 rounds, but in the final round Griffith beat Paret horribly, and watching the replay, you wonder why Paret’s corner didn’t land, or why the referee didn’t step in and stop the onslaught. . Paret was taken to the hospital as a result of the beating, and after 10 days in a coma, Benny Paret died at the age of 25 from a massive brain haemorrhage.