Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who Is Next?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When you hear about deaths, there is an old saying that they happen in threes.

In the past eight weeks, the sports world has been rocked with four legends passing away.

From the Midwest, to the West, to the Northeast, three major cities have lost iconic figures. I'm not going to get into a long drawn out story this time. I've already written two tributes already with another one on the way.

But here is a brief recap.

It began on May 4 when Cancer claimed the life of Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ernie Harwell. When I saw Ernie in December of 2008, I really thought he could have lived until 100, but at 92, Harwell came up eight years short.

One Month later, the greatest college basketball coach ever John Wooden (99) passed away on June 4 due to old age. He would have celebrated his 100 birthday on October 14 and I could just imagine the celebration there would have been on the UCLA Campus if he had reached that milestone. We all know that Los Angeles knows how to throw a great party. If there is a disadvantage to having a birthday late in the year, this was it.

It took five weeks as the ESPN family of networks pounced on another tribute. This one came on July 11 as long-time Yankees Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard (99) passed away. Like Wooden, Sheppard was due to celebrate his 100 birthday later in the year on October 20. It's unbelievable that Wooden is just six days older than Sheppard and they both died five weeks apart.

As if New York and Yankee fans had enough to grieve about, it took 48 hours for another legend to go down.

The baby of this group was Owner George M Steinbrenner.

He just celebrated in 80 birthday on July 4 and on July 13, the day of the All-Star Game, this controversial stick of dynamite found himself in heaven reunited with his old buddy and Manager Billy Martin watching the game at the old Yankee Stadium.

I'll do a separate tribute on Steinbrenner in a couple days because I had a couple of interesting experiences with him that are worth sharing. But for now, I'm just amazed that as I was gearing up to watch the Mid-Summer Classic, I found myself listening to tributes on Steinbrenner all day as Fox and ESPN blanketed this story finding every credible person to voice their experiences.

When you add up the ages of these four men, we're looking at 370 years worth of life. The memories and impact that they had on their communities will last forever. But to see them pass so quickly and close to one another is mind boggling.

There is no doubt that Harwell, Sheppard and Steinbrenner have seen a lot of curve ball's in their baseball careers, so I've decided to throw one myself.

During this May 4-July 13, time frame, Diff'rent Strokes Actor Gary Coleman, who was 4 feet, 8 inches, died on May 28. He celebrated his 42 birthday on February 8, and while he certainly didn't live as long as the other four legends listed above, his impact on television with those of us in our 30's-50's for his great sense of humor on that television show will never be forgotten.

So as the headline says, Who Is Next? I hope we don't find out for a long while. But I have a feeling that won't be the case. I hope I'm wrong.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.


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