One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is always having a Reader’s Digest around the house.
The Digest was often referred to as the “the bible for readers with short attention-spans” because their articles, stories and vignettes were condensed and to the point. My dad subscribed to RD for as long as I can remember and I would often read many of its features myself.
I enjoyed “Humor in Uniform” and all the other funny stories but without fail, one feature drew my attention each publication. I have always enjoyed words and their derivations. I’ve been a crossword puzzle and other word games nut all my life so the feature “Increase Your Personal Word Power” always caught my eye.
They would give you 10 words and each word would have four possible definitions. It was up to you to guess what the correct definition was. Some of the words were obscure but most were words that could easily be used in everyday conversation. Maybe the reason I love to write today is because I was intrigued by these words.
So, today I will give you a “Word Power” test to see how well you do. The word for today is “necrology.” Here are four possible definitions:
a) the study of the kidneys
b) a list of people who have died within a certain time period
c) the science of speed and air displacement
d) chemical solution that is used in the development of film
If you answered “b” then you are correct.
You usually see necrologies at this time of year when the previous year is being reviewed. I wanted to take a moment and remember some prominent individuals from the world of sports who passed away during 2009.
Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Wizards. Perhaps, the most significant thing Mr. Pollin accomplished as owner was to change the name of the team in 1996 from the Bullets to the Wizards. The team had originally been moved to Baltimore and the area had gone through a number of murders involving guns that year and he thought “Bullets” promoted that atmosphere.
Jack Kemp, former Republican Congressman and Vice-Presidential candidate. Kemp was an excellent quarterback, most notably with the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL, earning MVP honors in 1965.
Tied closely to Kemp is Lou Saban, who also died this past year. Saban played in college and as a professional but is most known for his coaching. He coached Maryland, Northwestern, Army, and Miami and several pro teams. Saban was an innovator in the pro passing game developed many great quarterbacks. He coached Kemp in Buffalo. Lou Saban was the father of Alabama head coach, Nick Saban.
In baseball, we lost Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, the quirky pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in the 70’s; George Kell, a solid hitter and sure-handed third baseman Hall of Famer; Preston Gomez, former manager of the Cubs, Padres, and Astros; Harry Kalas, long-time announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies; and Nick Adenhart, a young pitcher for the California Angels who was tragically killed in an auto accident after pitching in a game the same night.
The boxing world lost Ingemar Johansson, former heavyweight champion. Johannson was born in Sweden and defeated Floyd Patterson in June, 1959 to win the title. He lost to Patterson almost one year later.
Basketball lost former NBA MVP Randy Smith, once the holder of the consecutive games played mark; Marvin “The Human Eraser” Webster; and former Chicago Bull and one of the best defensive players the game has ever known, Norm Van Lier.
Another sad loss was the death of Kay Yow, women’s basketball coach at NC State. Yow had over 700 victories in her career and was a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame. She also coached the women’s Olympic team to a Gold Medal in 1988.
Chuck Daly, former coach of the two-time champion Detroit Pistons and coach of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team was also lost.
Football also lost some other greats. Most notably Doc Blanchard. Blanchard was a running back known as “Mr. Inside” to his teammate Glenn Davis “Mr. Outside”. He played for Army and was the first Junior to win the Heisman Trophy in 1945. During his three years at Army their record was 27-0-1. He was a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Brad Van Pelt, a fine linebacker for the New York Giants died at the age of 58. He was a five-time Pro Bowler who teamed with Lawrence Taylor to form one of the strongest linebacking tandems in pro football history.
Bruce Snyder, ex-Arizona State coach, where he was twice Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
And close to home, former Falcon defensive tackle, Shane Dronett. Dronett started every game for the Falcons in 1998, the year they made it to the Super Bowl (the only time in franchise history the team has made it the Big Show.) Dronett committed suicide at the tender age of 38.
Former NFL and Tennessee Titan quarterback, Steve McNair was a victim of domestic violence and most recently, Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals was killed in a freak auto accident.
As you can see from this list, the world of sports has lost some valuable members. Individuals who contributed greatly in every phase of the games they represented. RIP
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.