A Tribute to All the Athletes Who Died Young
Yesterday, we heard of the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others who were with him. Adenhart was only 22 and he leaves a world of potential behind him, among other things.
He was a victim of vehicular manslaughter, and these kinds of accidents sadly happen all the time. In my sophomore year of high school, I heard from the principal over the PA system that someone in my grade was hit by a car on his bike. He lived, but he was unconscious for weeks and only his helmet saved him. It made me realize how often these tragic accidents happen.
I can't possibly honor every athlete who died too young, but I can certainly honor some. Here are some of the greatest athletes ever to die too soon in reverse chronological order.
April 1, 1983 - Nov. 27, 2007
Taylor could have been a Pro Football Hall of Famer if he played the minimum five years in the NFL, but his career was cut short after three and a half.
The Redskins safety was shot in the leg at his home nine games into a season where he had five interceptions.
Taylor was also able to turn his image around in his final years. After multiple arrests, Taylor became the hardest working player on the Redskins, a guy who would motivate those around him.
The Redskins were able to rally around Taylor's work ethic and make the playoffs the year of his death.
May 9, 1977 - April 6, 2006
Not an athlete, but still only 28. Dixon was only a head coach in college basketball for one year, but she couldn't have had a greater impact.
She led the Army women to a 20-11 record and a conference championship after they finished in last the year before.
Before Dixon's death, the Maggie Dixon Award was created, honoring the best rookie coach in women's college basketball.
Dixon's enlarged heart lead to the tragedy, but couldn't have made a greater impact in a year.
July 20, 1979 - Jan. 25, 2004
Feher played in Hungary and Portugal, scoring 51 goals in 144 games. He scored 10 goals for the Hungarian national team, including a hat trick against Lithuania in a World Cup Qualifier in 2000.
He collapsed in a game when he was 24, and Benfica, his current team, retired his number.
Dec. 2, 1968 - July 22, 2002
Kile died during his best years, which were with the Cardinals. He won 20 games in his first year with the team in 2000.
He died from coronary disease with a 133-119 record and a 4.12 ERA.
The Darryl Kile award is now presented annually to the Cardinal or Astro who best represents Kile's traits of "a good teammate, a great friend, a fine father, and a humble man."
Nov. 21, 1965 - July 27, 1993
Lewis was a bright spot in the Celtics' championship gap in the '90s, but a sudden cardiac death took him in the prime of his career.
He averaged 20.8 points per game in his last two years. The Celtics won 48 games in his last season. They finished under .500 for the next eight years.
Lewis' number was retired by the Celtics.
Feb. 11, 1967 - March 4, 1990
Gathers was an exceptional college basketball player, averaging 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in a season at Loyola Marymount, leading all players in those categories.
Gathers never got to play in the pros; his life ended before then when he died of a heart-muscle disorder.
Gathers could have accomplished great things in the pros, but he is yet another who left too early.
Nov. 18, 1963 - June 19, 1986
Bias was selected second overall by the Celtics in 1986, expected to take over Larry Bird's role in an aging dynasty.
Like Gathers, Bias never played in the pros, dying from cocaine overdose after being drafted.
Bias was compared to Michael Jordan coming out of college and it's likely he would have been remembered as a great player who continued the Celtics' winning tradition had he lived.
July 7, 1947 - Aug. 2, 1979
Munson would have been a first ballot hall of famer if he could have completed his career. He's considered by many to be one of the best catchers in baseball history.
His number is retired with the Yankees. His accomplishments include two championships, seven all-star selections, three gold gloves, an MVP, an ROY, and 1558 hits in 11 seasons.
Munson died trying to land a plane, but was still one of the greatest players to put on a Yankee uniform.
Nov. 7, 1940 - July 20, 1973
Lee is known as an actor, but he also had some of the fastest reflexes of any martial artist.
He was extremely influential, making Chinese martial arts known in the Hollywood world.
As an athlete, Lee was trained in many kinds of fighting; he even won the 1958 Boxing Championship. He was also a pioneer for Jeet Kune Do.
No one really knows how he died, but nonetheless, he was only 32.
Dec. 14, 1939 - May 18, 1963
One of the NFL's faults is its inability to glorify its history, but Davis may never be forgotten by fans.
The running back was the first African American to win the Heisman.
He was drafted first overall in 1962, but only played in a preseason game.
Davis died of leukemia and his number was retired by the Browns. He was forever solidified in "The Express," a movie about all of his accomplishments.
June 19, 1903 - June 2, 1941
Where to start with Gehrig's accomplishments.
Maybe the greatest first baseman ever. Gehrig is fifth all-time in OBP and third in SLG. He's a six-time champion and he was one of the only people who could challenge Babe Ruth for being the best baseball player in the world.
Gehrig had to retire with ALS, now known to many as Lou Gehrig's disease. This was after playing 2,130 consecutive games in a time where player conditioning is nowhere near where it is today.
But Gehrig couldn't have been more grateful, fully appreciating the support he got from fans in his famous, "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech, which is now played before Yankee home games.
April 15, 1841 - Oct. 18, 1862
Creighton was baseball's first superstar. He invented the fastball and was the most dominant pitcher on any amateur team. As a hitter, he went a season without making an out.
Most think Creighton died from a baseball injury, possibly from hitting a home run.
Creighton died before professional baseball, but likely would have been the first pro if he made it to that time.