2008 Year in Review: Remembering Those That Left Us

Ryan CallahanAnalyst IDecember 12, 2008

As 2008 draws to a close, the time has come to remember those that passed away this year. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but it's meant to honor the memory of a few and commemorate their respective impacts on the sports world.



Gene Upshaw


The 16-year NFL veteran and longtime head of the NFL Players Union died in August. He played for the Oakland Raiders for his entire NFL career and played in three Super Bowls. Upshaw was the first player who primarily played the guard position to be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.


The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, and Upshaw was 63 years old. NFL players honored him this season by wearing “GU” stickers on the back of their helmets.



Bep Guidolin


Guidolin was a long-time player and coach in the NHL who was also the youngest player ever to play in an NHL game. It was a month before his 17th birthday when he first suited up for the Boston Bruins in 1942. The record will likely stand forever, as the NHL moved its age requirement to 18 in 1965.


The left wing would end his career with 107 goals and 171 assists in 519 career games over a span of nine seasons. He also coached numerous teams in the NHL, AHL, and OHL.



Pit Martin


The 17-year NHL veteran died at age 64 when his snowmobile fell into an icy lake. He made four all-star teams and was one of the first NHL players to wear a helmet. The center ended his career with 324 goals in 1,101 games.



Lucas Sang


The Kenyan Olympic runner was killed by a stone-throwing gang on New Year’s Day in Kenya. The death was a direct result of the violence that goes on in Kenya every day between the rival tribes that live there.


Sang ran in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He was on the 4x400 team that finished eighth and also ran the individual 400.



Johnny Podres


Podres was a left-handed starting pitcher who played most of his career with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was named the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1955, pitching a shutout in game seven to clinch the series for the Dodgers.


In his 15-season career, Podres had a 148-116 record with 1,435 strikeouts and a career 3.68 ERA. He was on three World Series championship teams with the Dodgers.


He died in January at age 75 after an extended stay in the hospital with multiple ailments.



Pete Newell


One of the most influential people in basketball history, Pete Newell died at the age of 93 in November. He coached for 15 years at the University of San Francisco, Michigan State University, and University of California-Berkeley. He led Cal to the 1959 NCAA championship and coached the U.S. Men’s National Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1960.


Newell started an annual camp for centers and forwards. Notable attendees of the camp included Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Bill Walton.


ESPN’s Ric Bucher said, “Over the past 24 years, any big man of any significance has spent at least one summer week trying to get close enough to Pete.” Newell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.



Karl Kassulke


The former Vikings safety died of a heart attack at age 67 in October. He had a 10-year NFL career with Minnesota, including making the Pro Bowl and being considered one of the hardest hitters of his time.


His career was ended after a motorcycle accident which paralyzed him and left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.



Bob Jeter


Jeter had an 11-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. He was a member of the Packers when they won the 1965 NFL Championship and Super Bowls I and II.


As a cornerback, he helped the Packers have one of the best defenses in the league in the '60s. He retired with 26 interceptions and two touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and is in the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame.


In college at Iowa, Jeter was the 1959 Rose Bowl MVP as a halfback, rushing for 194 yards on just nine carries.


Jeter died in November of a heart attack.



Gene Hickerson


Hickerson was an NFL guard who played for 15 years with the Cleveland Browns. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007. He blocked for Hall of Famers such as Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly. With Hickerson on the offensive line, Browns running backs led the league in rushing seven times.


He was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was later diagnosed with numerous diseases in his later years, and died in a nursing home in October. In his honor, the Browns have been wearing "GH" patches on their helmets this season.



Eddie Brinkman


Brinkman was a shortstop for multiple teams in his 15-year MLB career. He is considered one of the best fielders of all time, evidenced by his record 72 straight games without an error.


He won a Gold Glove and has 1,355 career hits and 461 RBI. After his playing career, Brinkman was an assistant coach and scout with the Chicago White Sox for 18 years. He died in September due to lung cancer.



Mickey Vernon


Vernon was a first baseman who played the majority of his career with the Washington Senators, as well as stints with four other teams. He holds the major league record for career double-plays from first base, as well as American League records for career games, putouts, and assists.


He had a career average of .286 with 172 home runs and 1,311 RBI. He played in 2,409 games over the span of a 20-year career. He was a seven-time All Star and won two batting titles.


He died in September at the age of 90.



Don Haskins


Haskins was the basketball coach of Texas Western University (now called UTEP) who was famous for breaking the color barrier and starting five black players and coaching them to the NCAA championship in 1966.


The movie Glory Road chronicled the team's historic season. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame 1997, and the whole team was enshrined in 2007. He went on to coach future NBA All-Stars at UTEP including Nate Archibald, Tim Hardaway, and Antonio Davis.


Haskins died in September at the age of 78.



Kevin Duckworth


Duckworth was an NBA center who played for various teams over an 11-year career. He was a two-time All Star and won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. He retired with 8,085 points, 3,945 rebounds, and 316 blocks.


After his retirement, he became a Heritage Ambassador for the Portland Trailblazers and played an active role in the community. He was on his way to host a free basketball clinic when he died at age 44 of heart failure.