BASN Looks Back: Notable Sports Deaths of 2005

By Tony McClean
Updated: December 26, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — As is every sports season, we see young athletes like James Blake, Reggie Bush, and Rickie Weeks make a name for themselves. Unfortunately, we also see the passing of some of the athletes and officials who helped pave the way for their success.

Today, we remember the fallen heroes of the African-American sports scene who left us in 2005. Some are notorious, others were true pathfinders, while others were just getting started. All together they make up a small, but important part of what we we do here at BASN: looking back at a proud past while celebrating the present and exciting future.
Go to fullsize image Jan. 20 — Antwoine Key, 22, an Eastern Connecticut guard, died after collapsing on court during the opening minutes against Worcester State.
Go to fullsize image Jan. 23 — Charles Martin, 46, the former Green Bay defensive end who body-slammed Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon into the turf and ended his season in 1986. Martin played for the Packers, Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons during his five-year NFL career.

Go to fullsize image Jan. 30 — Coley Wallace, 77, beat Rocky Marciano in an amateur boxing bout and portrayed Joe Louis in two movies. Wallace had a record of 20-7-0 in six years as a professional, but his most memorable moment came as an amateur in 1948 when he defeated Marciano in the New York Golden Gloves tournament.
Go to fullsize image Feb. 20 — Jimmy Young, 56, former heavyweight boxer who beat George Foreman and fought Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton in the 1970s.

Go to fullsize image Feb. 22 — Reggie Roby, 43, a 16-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection. The punter was a sixth-round pick in 1983 out of Iowa by the Miami Dolphins, where he played from 1983-92. He also played for four other teams before retiring in 1999.
Go to fullsize image March 16 — Todd Bell, 47, a standout at Ohio State and a former All-Pro safety for the Chicago Bears. Bell was a four-year starter at defensive back for the Buckeyes from 1977-80.
March 17 – David Little, 46, a durable linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Little played his entire 12-year career in Pittsburgh and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1990.
April 10 — Al Lucas, 26, died from a presumed spinal cord injury sustained while trying to make a tackle for the Los Angeles Avengers during an Arena Football League game.
April 16 — Herm Gilliam, 58, a guard on the Portland Trail Blazers’ only championship team. He played for Cincinnati, Buffalo, Atlanta and Seattle before spending his final season, 1976-77, with the Trail Blazers.

April 18 — Sam Mills, 45, an undersized linebacker who became a five-time Pro Bowl player with New Orleans and Carolina. The 5-foot-9 Mills began his career in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars.

April 18 — Clarence “Big House” Gaines, 81, one of college basketball’s winningest coaches. Gaines retired in 1993 after 47 seasons at NCAA Division II Winston-Salem State with 828 wins. Gaines had 18 20-win seasons and won 11 CIAA titles at Winston-Salem. In 1967 he led the Rams, featuring future NBA star Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, to a 31-1 record and an NCAA championship.

April 23 — Earl Wilson, 70, a former major league pitcher from 1959-1970. Wilson, finished 121-109 and was one of the best power-hitting pitchers in baseball history, with 35 homers, two short of Wes Ferrell’s major league record. Wilson was also a member of baseball’s “Black Aces”.

April 26 — Johnny Sample, 67, a defensive back who was on the winning side in two of the NFL’s landmark games. Sample played for the Colts in the 1958 NFL championship game against the New York Giants that is still often described as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Sample had an interception for the New York Jets in their 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl in 1969. The 1958 title game was as a rookie and the 1969 game was his last.

May 8 — Danny Rumph, 21, a Western Kentucky basketball player collapsed and died during a pickup game in his hometown of Philadelphia.
July 18 — Jim Parker, 71, a Hall of Fame lineman with the Baltimore Colts who made a career out of masterfully blocking for Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore.
Aug. 11 — Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, 103, Negro League star who played for more than 15 teams from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Radcliffe, given his nickname by sports writer Damon Runyon after catching Satchel Paige in the first game of a doubleheader in the 1932 Negro League World Series and pitching a shutout in the second game.

Aug. 20 — Thomas Herrion, 23, offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers. Herrion collapsed in the locker room, minutes after the team’s exhibition game at Denver.

Sept. 15 – Charlie Williams, 61, the first black umpire to work home plate during a World Series game, Williams made history when he called balls and strikes in Game 4 of the 1993 Series. The marathon game set a World Series record, lasting four hours and 14 minutes. Williams also worked two All-Star games and two Championship Series.

Sept. 17 — Donn Clendenon, 70, the power-hitting first baseman who was the Most Valuable Player in the New York Mets’ 1969 World Series victory. Clendenon hit .274 with 159 home runs and 682 RBIs in 12 seasons in the major leagues with Pittsburgh, Montreal, the Mets and St. Louis.

Sept. 22 — Leavander Johnson, 35, boxer. Johnson collapsed on his way to the dressing room after taking a beating in his first IBF lightweight title defense Sept. 18 against Jesus Chavez.
Sept. 26 – Shawntinice Polk, 22, an Arizona University women’s basketball player collapsed and died during a workout at McKale Center
Oct. 2 — Pat Kelly, 61, a former All-Star outfielder who played for five teams during a 15-year major league career. Kelly was selected to play in the 1973 All-Star game during a season in which he hit .280 for the Chicago White Sox. Brother of NFL Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly.
Dec. 21 — Elrod Hendricks, 64, who spent nearly four decades as a player and coach with the Baltimore Orioles. Hendricks got most of the playing time at catcher for the Orioles on teams that went to three consecutive World Series from 1969-71, sharing duties with Andy Etchebarren. Hendricks also played briefly for the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees during a 12-year major league career that lasted from 1968-79.
NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this story.