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Duke Snider, Dodger great, dies at 84

Snider Duke Snider, one of the Brooklyn Dodgers' Boys of Summer and one of three outstanding New York center fielders in the 1950s, died Sunday. He was 84.

Snider died at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, the Dodgers announced. No cause was given.

Here is a look at how dominant Snider was during his career with the Dodgers. From the Los Angeles Times' obituary by former staff writer Mike Kupper:

The Duke of Flatbush, a smooth-fielding outfielder and, thanks to his prowess as a home run hitter, a fan favorite in Ebbets Field, was a Dodger, both in Brooklyn and his native Los Angeles, for 16 of his 18 years in the major leagues. A Hall of Fame member, the eight-time All-Star helped the Dodgers to six National League championships, and Brooklyn's only World Series title, in his first 11 seasons, providing Dodger power from the left side of the plate.

Snider hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons and during the 1950s led all major leaguers in home runs, 326; runs batted in, 1,031; runs scored, 970; and slugging percentage, .569. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .295 and 407 home runs, 389 of them as a Dodger, still the team record. He is the only player to have twice hit four homers in the World Series, matching his 1952 feat in '55, the year the Dodgers won the Series and he was named major league player of the year by Sporting News.

He hit the last home run in Ebbets Field and had the first hit in Dodger Stadium, a single on opening day in 1962, and was part of the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers team that beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.

The complete obituary can be found here.

 -- Keith Thursby

 Photo: Duke Snider in 1952. Credit: Associated Press

Former Los Angeles Ram Ollie Matson dies at 80

Matson Ollie Matson, a great athlete who played for some terrible Los Angeles Rams teams during a 14-year Hall of Fame career, has died. He was 80.

Matson died Saturday of respiratory failure at his Los Angeles home.

Here's some detail on his versatility, from our news obituary from former staff writer Mike Kupper:

"He blocked, caught passes –- he threw a few as well -– and, early in his career, played defense as well as offense. But Matson, thanks to his Olympic-class speed, was known for his breakaway running with the ball, from scrimmage, after catching passes or on kickoff and punt returns. Averaging 4.4 yards, he rushed for 5,173 yards, caught 222 passes for 3,285 yards more and altogether gained 12,844 yards on rushes, receptions and returns."

The Rams traded eight players and a draft choice to the Chicago Cardinals in 1959 to get the future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Matson's obituary can be found here.

-- Keith Thursby

 Photo: Ollie Matson in 1960. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Bob Cook, member of 'Never Missed a Super Bowl' club, dies at 79

Cook Bob Cook, a Wisconsin man featured in a Visa credit card television commercial for having never missed a Super Bowl, has died. He was 79.

Cook had been to 44 straight Super Bowls but couldn't make it to Texas to watch his beloved Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6. Instead, he viewed the game from his hospital bed with his wife, who decorated his room with green and gold lights.

Cook, a resident of Brown Deer, Wis., died Feb. 10 after being hospitalized in Milwaukee with a blood infection and other chronic issues, including congestive heart failure, said his wife, Sarah Cook.

She said they had their bags packed and were ready to go, but Bob Cook told his wife three days before the game that he was too ill to travel to the game.

"I'm just a die-hard Packer fan," he said before the Packers' victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game on Jan. 23. "I'd rather watch football than any other sport."

Cook and the three other members of the "Never Missed a Super Bowl" club — Thomas Henschel of Tampa, Fla.; Larry Jacobson of San Francisco and Don Crisman of Kennebunk, Maine — were the stars of a Visa ad leading up to the Super Bowl.

Henschel, 69, said Cook was the last to join the group, during the 36th Super Bowl. Henschel had met Crisman and another man who also had been to every Super Bowl around the 17th Super Bowl.

Henschel, a Steelers fan, said Cook's two daughters went to the game in his place.

"It was kind of strange," he said. "Here's his team playing against my team. I thought we'd have a little fun. Maybe put a little wager on the game."

Cook was the former owner of Bob Cook's Vagabond Travel Service and started going to Super Bowls while working there. When asked in January why he goes to every Super Bowl he said: "I don't like the season to end."

"When football's over I wait for the preseason," he said. "No, I wait for the draft. Then the preseason. Then the season. Then the postseason. I worked hard not to let it end."

Cook said it was relatively easy to get tickets for the first few Super Bowls. He said he even went to a few Super Bowl cities without tickets but always got lucky when he got there. One year someone gave him tickets for free but another year he had to sell off some of his jazz record collection to pay for a ticket.

As for how much money he spent on going to each game — Cook said he doesn't know.

"I probably could have bought a better house or put a couple new cars in the garage," he said in January. "It's all worth it and I'm very happy with my household and the way it is."

Cook has said the 31st Super Bowl was his favorite, when the Packers beat the New England Patriots in New Orleans. And he had hoped he would make it to the 50th Super Bowl.

Sarah Cook said her husband of 28 years enjoyed doing the commercial this summer and all the attention since then.

"He had so much fun with this," she said. "The last couple months of his life were truly enjoyable."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Bob Cook shows some of his Super Bowl ticket stubs in January. Credit: Associated Press

Cliff Dapper, traded by Brooklyn Dodgers for announcer Ernie Harwell, dies at 91

Dapper Cliff Dapper, a former Brooklyn Dodger catcher who was traded in 1948 for future Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell, has died. He was 91.

Dapper died in his sleep Feb. 8 at an assisted-living facility in Fallbrook, Calif., said his son, Curtis.

Dapper had a brief career with the Dodgers, batting .471 in eight games during the 1942 season. He was playing for the Dodgers' minor league team in Montreal in 1948 when he became part of an unusual trade with the minor league Atlanta Crackers for their broadcaster, Harwell.

The Dodgers wanted to sign Harwell to replace an ailing Red Barber, but Atlanta's owner demanded a player in return. Dapper became a player and manager for Atlanta. Harwell, who died in 2010, became best known as the Detroit Tigers' broadcaster.

Clifford Roland Dapper was born in Los Angeles on Jan. 2, 1920, and graduated from Washington High School. He served three years in the Navy during World War II.

Dapper played and managed in the minor leagues until 1957. He had two stints as a player with the Hollywood Stars of the old Pacific Coast League, from 1939-41 and 1950-51.

--Keith Thursby

Photo: Cliff Dapper with the Hollywood Stars in 1941. Credit: Los Angeles Times


Gino Cimoli, Dodgers’ first hitter on the West Coast, dies at 81

Cimoli Gino Cimoli, a former Dodger outfielder who was the first major league hitter on the West Coast when the Dodgers and Giants moved to California in 1958, has died. He was 81.

Cimoli died Saturday at Sutter Roseville Medical Center in Roseville, Calif., of kidney and heart complications, said his longtime companion, Lorraine Vigli.

The Dodgers opened their first season in California on April 15, 1958, against the Giants at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Cimoli, who was born in San Francisco, struck out against the Giants' Ruben Gomez. The Giants won the first game, 8-0.

"Gino was a part of history not just as a member of both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, but throughout the game of baseball because of his role in the first-ever big league game on the West Coast," the Dodgers said in a statement. "The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants picked up where it left off in New York and Gino was the fortunate one to lead off that afternoon in his hometown."

Cimoli played 10 seasons in the major leagues. He started with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and was an All-Star in 1957. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1958 season.

Cimoli also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates on their 1960 World Series championship team, the Milwaukee Braves, Kansas City Athletics and Baltimore Orioles before finishing his career with the Angels in 1965.

He was born Dec. 18, 1929, in San Francisco. In addition to Vigli, his survivors include two daughters, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

--Keith Thursby

Emory Bellard, who created wishbone offense, dies at 83

Emory Bellard, a former Texas A&M and Mississippi State football coach credited with developing the wishbone offense when he was an assistant at the University of Texas, died Thursday. He was 83.

Bellard died at a care facility in Georgetown in central Texas, said Cathy Capps, director of the Texas A&M Lettermen's Assn. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Bellard was on Darrell Royal's staff at Texas in 1968 when the Longhorns developed a formation with three running backs that came to be known as the wishbone.

He coached at Texas high schools for more than two decades and won three state titles. His success landed him on the Texas staff, and while other assistants relaxed during the summer before the 1968 season, Bellard was busy trying to figure out a way to use a strong group of running backs after Texas endured three straight mediocre seasons.

Bellard's idea was to put a third running back a yard behind the quarterback, flanked by two more running backs a few yards behind to form what looked like a "Y." Quarterbacks had three options — hand off to the fullback, keep the ball or pitch to one of the other running backs.

The wishbone was similar to the two-back veer, which Houston was using to become a threat in the Southwest Conference. The Longhorns rode Bellard's modification to a national championship in 1969, and Oklahoma made the offense nearly unstoppable in the 1980s.

"People all over the country and different levels of football adopted that offense," said former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, who was hired as an assistant by Bellard in 1972. "I think he was proud that the game he cared so much about, that he was able to make a significant contribution to it."

Slocum also credited Bellard with being among the first football coaches in Texas to recruit black players.

"I don't think he ever got the full credit for what he really did," Slocum said.

Bellard had a 48-27 record in seven years at Texas A&M before resigning during the 1978 season. He led A&M to three straight bowl games, including a win in the 1977 Sun Bowl. He was 37-42 in seven seasons at Mississippi State.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Emory Bellard on Dec. 31, 1981, after his Mississippi State team beat Kansas in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Credit: Associated Press

Tony Malinosky, Brooklyn Dodger who was oldest living major league baseball player, dies at 101

09_malinosky lasorda Tony Malinosky, 101, a former Brooklyn Dodger infielder who was baseball’s oldest living major leaguer, died Tuesday in Oxnard, the Dodgers announced.

Malinosky played 35 games for the Dodgers in 1937, batting .228, before a knee injury in July of that year effectively ended his baseball career. He later played in the minors but never made it back to the majors.

"We had a lot of fun in those days," he told the Associated Press in 2009. "Of course, it was a lot different than today. The players nowadays have to have a truck to haul away their money. When I played, you could put it in your pocket."

Malinosky served in the Army during World War II and later worked for an aircraft company.

Born Oct. 5, 1909, in Collinsville, Ill., Malinosky moved to El Monte when he was in high school and attended Whittier College with future President Richard Nixon.

Asked to explain his longevity in the 2009 interview, he said, "Just keep breathing -- and be associated with a good doctor."

Connie Marrero, a Cuban pitcher for the Washington Senators who is nearing his 100th birthday on April 25, is now believed to be the oldest living former player from the majors.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Tony Malinosky with former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at Dodger Stadium in 2009. Credit: Los Angeles Dodgers


Former college football star Ed Dyas dies at 71

College Football Hall of Famer and former Auburn star Ed Dyas has died after a long battle with cancer.

Dyas died Sunday, Auburn officials said. He was 71. No other details were available.

A fullback, linebacker and kicker, Dyas was fourth in the 1960 Heisman Trophy balloting and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. He finished his career as Auburn's No. 6 leading rusher with 1,298 yards, leading the Tigers in rushing and scoring as a senior.

Dyas was also a three-time academic All-American who opted for medical school instead of a professional football career. He became an orthopedic surgeon in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.

-- Associated Press

George Crowe, who played in Negro Leagues and majors, dies at 89

George Crowe, a former Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball player, died Tuesday night in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, his daughter Adrienne Crowe told the Daily Journal of Franklin, Ind. He was 89.

The cause of death wasn't immediately known. Crowe had been in an assisted living home since 2008 after a series of strokes.

Crowe was born in 1921 in Whiteland, Ind., and attended Franklin High School. He was selected Indiana's first Mr. Basketball in 1939.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He played in the Negro National League's Black Yankees and the Harlem Renaissance of the black professional basketball league.

His nine-year major league career included stints with the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. He hit 31 home runs in 1957 for the Reds.

-- Associated Press

AFL star Cookie Gilchrist dies at 75

Cookie Gilchrist, one of the American Football League's first marquee players whose ferocious running style drew comparisons to that of the great Jim Brown, has died. He was 75.

Gilchrist He died early Monday at an assisted living facility near Pittsburgh, nephew Thomas Gilchrist said. He was first diagnosed with throat cancer, and the disease spread to his prostate and colon.

"The Bills were very lucky to have procured the services of Cookie Gilchrist, who was one of the greatest fullbacks I have ever seen in all of my years in professional football," said Ralph Wilson, the 92-year-old owner of the Buffalo Bills.

Gilchrist's alluring nickname belied the notion that he might easily crumble. He was a 251-pound bruiser, and his grit and single-mindedness extended beyond the football field. He took stands against racism and wasn't afraid to demand better contracts.

Carlton Chester "Cookie" Gilchrist joined the Bills of the AFL in 1962 and spent three seasons there. He was the league's player of the year in 1962, when he had 1,096 yards rushing and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. In 1964, Gilchrist and quarterback Jack Kemp led the Bills to their first of two straight AFL championships.

Before joining the Bills he spent six years in the Canadian Football League, where he is regarded as one of its top two-way players.

Cornerback Booker Edgerson, a former Bills teammate, said Gilchrist was "just as good and maybe even better" than Brown. "He and Jim had the same outstanding abilities to play the game," he added.

Edgerson noted that Gilchrist also starred at linebacker in the CFL and wanted to play the position in Buffalo.

"Yeah, he was tough," Edgerson said. "If they would've allowed him to play linebacker, he would've kicked a lot of butt."

Gilchrist led the AFL in yards rushing for three straight seasons (1963-65) and touchdowns (1962-64). His most notable game came in Buffalo's 45-14 win over the New York Jets in 1963. He set a then pro football record with 243 yards rushing and became only the fourth player to score five touchdowns — one short of the record set by Ernie Nevers.

After Buffalo, Gilchrist spent two seasons with Denver and one with Miami.

Retired Buffalo News football writer Larry Felser covered Gilchrist during his days with the Bills and still regards him as the best to play the game. Felser wrote in 2004: "Any time. Any place. Any brand of football. Cookie was, pound for pound, the greatest all-around player I ever saw. He would be a superstar in today's football."

Gilchrist also displayed a different kind of toughness. He and a group of black players boycotted the 1965 AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans after they weren't allowed into a bar and had difficulty catching taxi cabs. The game was eventually moved and played in Houston.

Gilchrist is the only player to turn down induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He cited racism and exploitation by team management.

Gilchrist had a long-running feud with Wilson after the team waived him in 1964. Gilchrist refused to return to Buffalo to attend alumni functions unless he was paid. Gilchrist and Wilson finally settled their differences last week during a phone conversation, Thomas Gilchrist said.

"I'm glad they had that conversation," Edgerson said. "When I visited him, he told me, 'I've got to bury the hatchet with Mr. Wilson.' "

On Monday, Wilson called it a "good conversation."

Edgerson called Gilchrist a unique individual, who wasn't afraid to speak out for better pay.

"He was 30 years ahead of his time," Edgerson said. "He believed in what he did, good bad or indifferent. And he would go wherever he had to make it work."

Gilchrist was a four-time AFL Pro Bowl selection. He and O.J. Simpson are the only two Bills players to score touchdowns rushing in seven straight games, and Gilchrist's 128 points in 1962 is the fourth-highest single-season total.

Born in Brackenridge, Pa., Gilchrist was 18 when he was lured out of high school by the Cleveland Browns. He failed to make the team and that led him to Canada, where he played six seasons with Hamilton, Saskatchewan, and Toronto.

He led Hamilton to a Grey Cup victory in 1957. Gilchrist was a six-time division all-star, five times as a running back and once as a linebacker.

The Toronto Argonauts media guide refers to him as a "charismatic and volatile free spirit, who many claim was the best all-around athlete to ever play for the Argos."

Gilchrist is survived by sons Jeffrey and Scott and daughter Christina Gilchrist all of Toronto, and two grandchildren.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Cookie Gilchrist in 1964. Credit: Associated Press / Buffalo Bills

Former Angels pitcher Ryne Duren dies at 81

Ryne Duren, an All-Star pitcher known for a 100-mph fastball, occasional wildness and Coke-bottle glasses that created a most intimidating presence on the mound, died Thursday at his winter home in Florida, his family said. He was 81.

An All-Star in three seasons, Duren helped the New York Yankees reach the World Series in 1958 and 1960. He joined the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961 and pitched two seasons here, becoming the first Angels pitcher to strike out four batters in an inning.

Duren's unique first name lives on in baseball history. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg's plaque in Cooperstown includes this note: "Named after former Yankees pitcher Ryne Duren." They are the only major leaguers named Ryne, according to

But it was Duren's blazing heater — and 20/200 vision in his left eye, 20/70 in his right — that always attracted attention. The look was very Ricky Vaughn from the movie "Major League."

Duren was known for coming out of the bullpen and throwing at least one of his warm-up pitches to the backstop on the fly. He later kidded that he sometimes did it on purpose. Either way, opposing batters took notice, and Duren's reputation grew.

"Ryne could throw the heck out of the ball. He threw fear in some hitters. I remember he had several pair of glasses but it didn't seem like he saw good in any of them," Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra said Friday.

"He added a lot of life to the Yankees and it was sad his drinking shortened his career," he said.

Duren wrote about his alcohol problems in his books "I Can See Clearly Now" and "The Comeback." He spent many years working with ballplayers, helping them with their addictions, and was honored by the Yankees for his efforts.

Duren played for seven teams during a big league career from 1954 to 1965. He went 27-44 with a 3.83 ERA in 311 appearances, all but 32 in relief. The right-hander struck out 630 and walked 392 in 589 1/3 innings, and threw 38 wild pitches.

"Everybody knew Ryne," former Yankees teammate Bobby Richardson told the Associated Press by telephone. "He was a legend."

"It got to be a thing at the Old-Timers' games. He'd come in and throw one into the stands. It was a lot of fun. But I can tell you, it was no fun to hit against him. Everyone was afraid he was going to hit them."

Richardson recalled being on second base in a game when Duren was pitching for the Angels. Richardson noticed the catcher was softly tossing the ball back to Duren, so he started running and stole third without a throw.

"Ryne took it as a slight and came over and told me that the next time he faced me, he was going to throw one right at me," Richardson said.

That's when one of Duren's old carousing buddies, Yankees star Mickey Mantle, stepped in.

"Mickey took him out drinking that night and calmed him down," Richardson said. "I saw Mickey later and he said, 'You're all right, he's not going to hit you now.' "

Richardson, the 1960 World Series MVP who later worked for the Baseball Assistance Team and Baseball Chapel, praised Duren's efforts off the field.

"He helped so many former ballplayers, counseling them and doing follow-up work. He really made a difference in so many lives," he said.

In 1986, Duren testified in New York at a state Assembly hearing that was considering a bill requiring an alcohol-free zone at sporting events with 250 or more spectators.

Rinold George Duren was born Feb. 22, 1929, in Cazenovia, Wis., and was a prep star. His fastball was so overpowering, his youth coaches often had him play the infield, rather than risk having him hurt someone with his pitches.

Duren once recalled he frequently played at second base as a kid. He could simply underhand the ball over to first and besides, he couldn't see well enough to play the outfield.

He made his major league debut with Baltimore in 1954. He led the AL with 20 saves for the Yankees in 1958. That fall, he won Game 6 of the World Series with 4 2/3 impressive innings against the Milwaukee Braves, his favorite team as a boy. The Yankees then won Game 7 at Milwaukee for the championship.

Duren was 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in five World Series games. He was with the Yankees from 1958 to 1961 and played for Baltimore, the Kansas City Athletics, the Angels, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Washington.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Ryne Duren in 1958, when he was with the New York Yankees. Credit: Associated Press

Edward Evans, thoroughbred racing owner, dies at 68

Edward P. Evans, one of thoroughbred racing's leading owners and breeders, has died after a brief illness. He was 68.

Evans died Friday night at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, his personal secretary, Catherine Moraetis, said Saturday. The cause of death was acute myeloid leukemia.

Evans owned Spring Hill Farm in Virginia, and his horses won more than 100 stakes races during his 30-plus years as an owner.

Quality Road was among his best horses, earning more than $2.2 million, including victories in the Woodward Stakes and the Metropolitan Handicap in 2010. Other horses bred by Evans include 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Gygistar and Tap Dance.

Evans, who was born in Pittsburgh, was the son of Thomas Mellon Evans, also a breeder and owner whose Buckland Farm produced 1981 Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony.

Evans also was a former chairman of publisher MacMillan Inc. He recently donated $50 million to his alma mater, Yale University, to help with construction of a campus for its school of management.

-- Associated Press


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