Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Athletes Who Died Playing Their Sport

Posted by Staff Writers on Feb 22, 2012

Even after death, the best athletes live on in ways they might not have imagined. Sometimes it's as a symbol of inspiration for their communities, or through charitable giving facilitated through foundations created in their name. Below is a list of 10 athletes who died while playing their respective sport. One recurring quality among most of the 10 named is one of selflessness toward their teammates and fans, and that quality is manifested in their legacies. (Lane Frost photo from The Oklahoman Archives)

  1. Dale Earnhardt Sr. (1951-2001)

    American race car driver Dale Earnhardt was a controversial figure in his lifetime. His aggressive, reckless style of racing, sometimes creating accidents for the drivers he wanted to pass, earned him the nicknames "The Intimidator" and "Darth Vader." Earnhardt died in a crash while racing the 2001 Daytona 500. The accident and Earnhardt's death prompted several changes in NASCAR, including mandatory use of the HANS device for all drivers. There is a foundation in his name dedicated to programming and grants for the benefit of children, education, and wildlife and environmental preservation.

  2. Reggie Lewis (1965-1993)

    The death from heart failure of Boston Celtics basketball star Reggie Lewis led to speculations of medical negligence on the part of the league's doctors and cocaine use by Lewis. Lewis' athletic potential had just been realized before he died on the court. He remains the only Celtic in the history of the franchise to have had 100 rebounds, 100 assists, 100 steals, and 100 blocked shots in a single season (1991-92). His legacy lives on in Boston's Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

  3. Nick Gabaldon (1927-1951)

    Although not a professional competitive surfer, Nick Gabaldon, California's first documented surfer of African and Latin American descent, is considered to be a figure in the history of surfing. Gabaldon honed his surfing skills in a segregated section of Santa Monica coast named Inkwell Beach. He drowned while surfing during one of the largest swells in that area's history. "He was a gentleman. He was accepted and respected by all of us," said one of Gabaldon's friends and fellow surfers. "We didn't look at color; he was just a friend."

  4. Scott Brayton (1959-1996)

    In his lifetime, race car driver Scott Brayton was well loved as a representative of the racing community, making appearances throughout the country and overseas. He was also a great driver, winning the coveted pole positions for the Indy 500 in 1995 and 1996, one of only nine drivers to accomplish back-to-back poles. Tragically, Brayton died in a crash during a practice run just after he had qualified for that 1996 pole.

  5. Ray Chapman (1891-1920)

    American baseball player Ray Chapman played shortstop for Cleveland for the entirety of his career. He was killed in a game against the New York Yankees. While up at bat, a pitch hit the side of his skull, and the impact was so great that both sides of his brain were lacerated by his skull. To date, Chapman remains the only player to have been killed by a pitch, although other serious injuries have occurred. Hard batting helmets, introduced to the game in the 1950s, have no doubt prevented many deaths.

  1. Nicolas Bochatay

    Speed skiing is known as the fastest non-motorized sport in the world, with skiers regularly reaching speeds of 125-130 miles per hour. Swiss speed skier Nicholas Bochatay died on the next-to-last day of the 1992 Winter Olympics, the morning of the speed skiing final, after skiing and crashing into a snow grooming vehicle. He was only 27 years old.

  2. Daniel Quirk (1982-2005)

    Daniel Quirk grew up watching World Wrestling Federation and participating in "backyard wrestling" matches. Known on the independent wrestling circuit as "Spider," Quirk's professional wrestling career was cut short when he suffered a head injury after hitting the floor outside of the ring during a match. His death brought attention to what some say is a life-endangering lack of regulation of the independent wrestling circuit. A scholarship fund in his name was established by his family after his passing, and fan tributes to his legacy can still be found online.

  3. Francisco Rodriguez (1984-2009)

    Chicago-reared Francisco Rodriguez credited his father, Evaristo, who boxed in Mexico before becoming his son's trainer, for providing him with the inspiration and opportunity to box. Tragically, Francisco died in the ring after suffering injuries during a title fight in Philadelphia. He was just 25. His family decided to donate their son's organs. Thanks to that gesture, within a couple weeks of his passing, five people, including a cousin of his mother, received life-saving transplants.

  4. Bert Yancey (1938-1994)

    American golfer Bert Yancey played both the PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour. Throughout his life and career, Yancey struggled with mental illness, specifically manic depressive disorder, yet managed to win seven out of 13 PGA tour events and six top-five finishes in major championships. Toward the end of his life, Yancey made appearances as a public speaker advocating for those with mental illness. He died from a heart attack while preparing to go out for the first round of the Franklin Quest Championship.

  5. Lane Frost (1963-1989)

    Rodeo athletes get injured or die at a rate higher than athletes in any other sport, including professional football. Professional bull rider Lane Frost died in the ring after being gored by the bull he had just ridden. Since Frost's death, as an effort to prevent such accidents, new protective vests have been designed and introduced to the sport, but their effectiveness has yet to be proven. Several popular musicians, including Garth Brooks, The Smokin' Armadillos, and Korn, have all paid tribute in song and video to Frost, and a film based on his life starring Luke Perry was released in 1994.

Taken From Insurance Quotes

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