Sports mourns losses on the track and in the air

By Fred Lief

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Baseball could field a strong team from its losses in 2011: Snider could be joined in the outfield by Jim Northrup, Gus Zernial and slap-hitting Matty Alou. Killebrew and Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion would do just fine on the left side of the infield, with George Crowe over at first base. Mike Flanagan, Woodie Fryman, Bob Forsch and Paul Splittorff would win some games on the mound, and bespectacled Ryne Duren might throw a few pitches against the screen to keep everyone honest. In the dugout would be a couple of managers with World Series rings: Dick Williams of the Athletics and Chuck Tanner of the Pirates, both 82.

In basketball, the clock ran out at 69 on Walt Hazzard, the outstanding point guard on John Wooden's first championship team at UCLA; Dave Gavitt, 73, who helped create a Big East Conference now turned upside down; "Easy" Ed McCauley, 83, out of St. Louis and one of the NBA's early stars; and Sherman White, 82, a breathtaking player for Long Island University who was jailed in the 1950s point-shaving scandal.

Lorenzo Charles died at 47, driving a charter bus on the highway. His dunk at the buzzer sent North Carolina state over Houston for the 1983 title, one of the NCAA tournament's signature moments.

"It's still kind of amazing to me that ... people are still talking about it," he once said.

Ballesteros won five majors, but his place in golf was marked by more than championships. With a club in his hand, he was part genius, part daredevil, part entertainer. The Spaniard helped make European golf and the Ryder what they are today. Nick Faldo called him the "greatest show on earth." Ballesteros had a brain tumor and was 54.

"His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed," Tiger Woods said.

Waitz, too, left a stamp on her sport, taking the marathon to places it had never been. By the time she was done, this lean, blond Norwegian was practically a New Yorker as she glided through the boroughs. She won the city's marathon there nine times, but she also won in London twice and on so many other courses around the world. She was her sport's ambassador. Waitz, 57, fought cancer for six years, although she would never say what kind.

"When Grete stepped into the marathon, she changed the game," said Mary Wittenberg, president of New York Road Runners. "She made it a serious sport for women."

The bearded Socrates turned soccer into high art. He captained the Brazilian team at the 1982 World Cup, although it fell short of the title. He played with sophistication, commanding the field at all times. He went on to become a doctor and always had much to say about his country's politics. Drinking, however, got the better of him and he died at 57.

Brazilian President Dilma Tousseff said the nation lost "one of its most cherished sons."

This year marked the end of a long run for Jack LaLanne, the fitness king who through his studios and TV show got millions of Americans off the sofa and moving again. He was said to have exercised every day of his life, and that's a lot of days. He was 96.

"The only way you can hurt the body is not use it," he said. "Inactivity is the killer. And, remember, it's never too late."

Associated Press writer Misha Japaridze in Yaroslavl, Russia, contributed to this report.

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