Category Archives: Obituary

Hockey Legend Jean Beliveau Dies At 83

Jean Beliveau – The Epitome Of Grace And Power

Jean Beliveau puts his arms around teammates Ken Dryden and Frank Mahovlich following their victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals on May 16, 1971, at the Montreal Forum. photo: B Bennett / Toronto Star

Jean Beliveau, who won 10 Stanley Cup championships playing for the Montreal Canadiens from 1951-1971 died Tuesday, December 2, 2014 in Longueuil, Quebec at the age of 83.

Beliveau was among the smoothest and fastest skaters I have ever seen. His hockey skills were extraordinary in every way. He dominated the game like only a handful of players have ever done. He had a wrist shot that was keenly accurate and was among the best play-makers to ever lace up a pair of skates in the NHL.

Jean Beliveau (No. 4) scores a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs October 15 , 1959. Goalie is Johnny Bower. Canadiens won the game 4-2 - photo: UPI

Jean Beliveau (No. 4) scores a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs October 15 , 1959. Goalie is Johnny Bower. Canadiens won the game 4-2 – photo: UPI

Beliveau amassed 507 goals and 712 assists in 1125 games. In 162 career playoff games he tallied 176 points. A two-time Hart Trophy (league MVP) winner, he was the captain of the Montreal  Canadiens for the final ten seasons of his career.

Besides his greatness as a player, what people will remember about Jean Beliveau was that he was a modest gentleman, both on and off the ice.

Teammates, opposing players, coaches and fans respected and admired Jean Beliveau. He carried himself with class, the way few athletes do nowadays.

Adieu, Jean Believeau.

Alvin Dark Slides Home Safely At The Polo Grounds – 1950

Al Dark – Giant Star And Religious Man

Andy Seminick Al Dark May 27 1950

Dark Deed

New York: Alvin Dark of the Giants plows home safely from third in the eighth inning of the game with the Phillies at the Polo Grounds May 27. Action came in Don Mueller’s grounder to Eddie Waitkus at first. Eddie ran in for the ball and threw to catcher Andy Seminick in an attempt to nail Dark, but the throw was late. Umpire is Al Barlick. Phillies won, 8-5. credit: (Acme) 5-27-50

(UPDATE 11/13/2014 – Alvin Dark dies of natural causes at age 92)

Al Dark is 92 and living in Easley, South Carolina. He is at peace with his life and can look back on a very successful fourteen year playing career in which Dark compiled a .289 career batting average, had over 2,000 hits and was a three time all-star.

Alvin Dark in 2012 ERIK S. LESSER FOR SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Alvin Dark at home in Easley, SC in a 2012 photo: Erik S. Lesser for the San Francisco Chronicle

Dark said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on the eve of his 90th birthday, “I never drank, never smoked, never chewed, never anything like that. It was all against my sports upbringing. I feel very fortunate. And very happy. God blessed me.”

After his playing career ended in 1960 at the age of 38, Dark managed four teams over the course of 13 seasons winning the pennant in 1962 with the Giants and the World Series with the Oakland Athletics in 1974. Athletics owner Charlie Finley dumped Dark after the 1975 season when the team went 98-64, but the Athletics were swept in three games by the Red Sox in the divisional playoffs. Finley had previously fired Dark in 1967 with the Kansas City Athletics.

According to sportswriter Harold Parrott, Finley fired or technically “did not rehire” Dark, not for losing the playoffs in 1975 but for something Dark said at a prayer meeting!

Dark recounted what he said in the prayer meeting in his autobiography When in Doubt, Fire the Manager: My Life and Times in Baseball, “You know — and I’m saying this with respect — Charlie Finley feels he is a fantastic big person in the game of baseball. And he is. He has accomplished things, and I give him credit for building up the ball club. But to God, Charlie Finley is just a very little bitty thing that’s lost, and if he doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior he’s going to Hell.”

Shortly after he was fired Dark claimed he held no grudges against Finley and delivered a sermon at a church in Louisville saying, “I really care for Charlie Finley, my family and I pray for him; in fact we have Christians all over America praying for him.”

When later asked by a reporter, “Would you ever work for Charlie Finley again?”

Dark said, “If I thought that was what the Lord wanted, certainly.”

The Brilliance Of Sid Caesar – Five Of His Great Comedy Sketches

Sid Caesar, Master Of Sketch Comedy Dies At 91

Sid Caesar Feb 9 1953When certain celebrities pass away it hits me hard. Sid Caesar was always one of my favorite comedians. His death at the age of 91 in Beverly Hills, CA on February 12, 2014, closes the book on the big TV comedy stars during the golden age of prime time television of the 1950’s. Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Ernie Kovacs, Phil Silvers – they’re all gone now.

Sid Caesar’s meteoric rise at breakneck speed from 1950-1954 on Your Show of Shows and from 1955-1957 on Caesar’s Hour was offset by a steep fall into depression with drug and alcohol problems, which took him many years to recover from.

To modern audiences Caesar may be best known for his movie appearances in Grease (1978) as Coach Calhoun and It’s A Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World (1963) as one of the treasure pursuers. But I would say for most people under the age of 40, the name Sid Caesar will draw a blank stare when mentioned. That is a shame.

Here is a sketch that pre-dates the current health food craze by sixty years.

What Sid Caesar accomplished besides entertaining millions with his hilarious sketches that the common man could relate to, was to bring together a staff of talent that influences modern comedy to this day.

The writing and performing staff included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin and Larry Gelbart. It is no exaggeration to say the annals of comedy would not have been the same without Sid Caesar.

As the New York Times pointed out in its obituary of Sid Caesar:

A list of Mr. Caesar’s writers over the years reads like a comedy all-star team. Mel Brooks (who in 1982 called him “the funniest man America has produced to date”) did some of his earliest writing for him, as did Woody Allen. Continue reading

The Little Girl Harpo Marx Was “Crazy About”

Harpo Marx Loved A Little Visitor To The Set So Much, He Seriously Wanted To Buy Her

Harpo Marx with Shirley Temple in the studio commissary during the filming  of Duck Soup 1933

Harpo Marx with Shirley Temple in the studio commissary during the filming of Duck Soup 1933

Maybe today this would be considered kind of creepy, but anyone who knew Harpo Marx would have said it was not, because it was “so Harpo-like.”

The story sounds apocryphal, but according to Groucho Marx as told to Richard Anobile in The Marx Brothers Scrapbook it is true.

In the midst of the Great Depression during the production of the Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers in 1932, Harpo Marx would see this adorable girl who was about four-years-old along with her parents watching the Marx’s work on the set. During breaks in the filming, Harpo starting talking to the child and her parents. Groucho says, “Harpo was crazy about this girl.” He became so enchanted with this little girl, that he offered to adopt her and give her parents $50,000 as compensation.  They of course refused.

Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple doll 1934

Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple doll 1934

This all happened before the little girl was in a single film and would go on to become the biggest child movie star of all-time – Shirley Temple.

The photograph at the top of this article was taken a year after Harpo’s offer. By that time, Shirley Temple had still not made a feature film, but appeared in many ten minute shorts. Shirley was just beginning to become known to the public when she revisited Harpo while in the studio commissary.

Shirley Temple died in Woodside, CA, Monday February 10, 2014 of natural causes. She retired from motion pictures at the age of 21 in 1949. Shirley was happily married for 55 years to Charles Black. She became a United States ambassador and by all accounts had a very happy and fulfilling life.

Because Harpo’s wife Susan Fleming was unable to have children, Harpo did eventually adopt four children who all say he was the most wonderful father in the world.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner, Mets Longtime Announcer And Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Dies At 91

Ralph Kiner (r) holds several bats while watching the Braves young slugger Eddie Mathews (l) before a game - 1953

Ralph Kiner (r) holds several bats while watching the Braves young slugger Eddie Mathews (l) before a game – 1953

For many New Yorker’s who grew up watching or listening to baseball, a part of their childhood ended today February 6 2014, with the death of Pirates slugger and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner.

Ralph Kiner had a brief, yet great playing career followed by a long TV and radio career where he had been with the Mets broadcast team since their inaugural season in 1962.

Besides announcing Mets games, many baseball fans enjoyed watching Kiner through the Mets post-game TV show Kiner’s Korner.

The obituary writers will surely cover Kiner’s career thoroughly, but here are five things you might not have known about Ralph Kiner:

Ralph Kiner slides safely past Phillies catcher Andy Seminick at Shibe Park May 7, 1949

Ralph Kiner slides safely past Phillies catcher Andy Seminick at Shibe Park May 7, 1949

1. In the 1940’s Chicago Cubs scout Dutch Ruether found two bright prospects he wanted to bring to the Cubs. He got Ralph Kiner and Ewell Blackwell to agree to be signed for what he thought were bargain price bonuses. The Cubs didn’t sign Kiner saying it was too much money. The cost? $3,000!  Blackwell wanted only $750 and the Cubs passed on him too!

2. Ralph Kiner came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 and had one of the most extraordinary starts to a career, leading the National League in home runs for seven consecutive years.

3. In 1947 Ralph Kiner became just the fifth player in the history of baseball to hit 50 or more home runs in a year.

4. In his short career which spanned only ten years (1946-1955) Kiner hit 369 career home runs and walked 1,011 times, but struck out only 749 times.

5. According to Pirate teammate Joe Garagiola, Kiner was one of the great practical jokers in baseball. Kiner’s frequent victim was Pirates trainer Doc Jorgensen. One day Kiner removed all of the bottles and bandages out of Jorgensen’s medical kit. Later during a game when a player got spiked, Jorgensen ran out to the field and opened his bag to treat the player, and found that it was filled with sandwiches courtesy of Ralph Kiner.

Jerry Coleman Baseball Legend Dies At 89

Ballplayer, Broadcaster, World War II and Korean War Combat Hero, Jerry Coleman Passes Away

Jerry Coleman Phil Rizutto 1949

Vaudeville Tactics

New York: Jerry Coleman, second baseman for the Yanks does a nip-up like a vaudevillian to get the ball down to first after putting out Bobby Dillinger of the Browns in the first inning of the game at Yankee Stadium on August 6. The throw was not fast enough to get to first before George Elder who had grounded out to Bobby Brown at third. Yankees won, 9-8. That’s Phil Rizzuto, Yankees shortstop lurking in the background. Credit: (ACME) 8-6-49

Jerry Coleman died at Scripps Hospital in San Diego, CA January 5, 2014 of complications from head injuries he suffered in a fall last month.

In his major league baseball career he hit only 16 home runs and batted just .263, but the slick fielding Jerry Coleman was a beloved baseball legend by fans on both coasts.

Coleman played his entire career for the New York Yankees from 1949 -1957. He appeared in six World Series, was the MVP of the 1950 World Series and appeared in one All Star game.

After his playing career ended Coleman worked in the Yankees front office. In 1960 he became an announcer, first with CBS television on the Game of the Week, then in 1963 he rejoined the Yankees and stayed with their broadcast team for the next seven years. Continue reading

Art Donovan, A True Character and Football Great Dies At 89

Baltimore Colts Tackle, Football Hall of Famer, Art Donovan Passes Away

On Sunday, August 4, 2013 Art Donovan, one of the greatest tackles to ever play in the NFL died at the age of 89 of a respiratory ailment at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium, MD.

The New York Times obituary summarizes Donovan’s interesting life appropriately. I’ll just say that professional athletes like Donovan are a rare breed today; talented, honest, humble and funny.

I remember the many classic Miller Lite beer commercials that Art Donovan appeared in. Unfortunately none are currently available for viewing.

This video clip below from 1988 is a classic. Art Donovan is promoting the paperback release of his autobiography “Fatso” on Late Night with David Letterman.

Letterman brings up the fact that when Donovan was on the show previously promoting the hardcover release of the book, Donovan admitted he had not read it.

Letterman asks, “now that it is out in paperback have you read it?”

Donovan shakes his head and says, “Uh, no David I can’t say I have. I know all the stories, so why should I waste my time reading the book!”

Exactly.

Rock n’ Roll Deaths In April 2013

Andy Johns, Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones Right Hand Man; Storm Thorgerson, Album Cover Creator Extraordinaire; Christina Amphlett, Lead Singer Divinyls; All Die in April

April has been a bad month for the world of rock ‘n roll, as death has taken away three unique talents.

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns who worked on some of the greatest rock albums of all-time as a producer and engineer died in Los Angeles on April 7, at the age of 62 due to complications of a stomach ulcer.

Johns was a name not known to casual rock fans because he worked behind the scenes, but his contributions to dozens of classic albums is immeasurable. From the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street to Led Zeppelin’s greatest period of production in the early 1970’s, Johns was setting up and overseeing the recording of albums that will be played for as long as people listen to rock n’ roll. Some of the many bands and artists Andy Johns worked with included Free, Eric Clapton, Blind Faith, Cinderella, Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Mott The Hoople.

After Andy Johns died I scanned The New York Times on a daily basis in disbelief that they did not cover his death. Nearly two weeks after his passing, an obituary finally appeared.

Here, Andy Johns talks about his experiences working with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the recording of Led Zeppelin’s classic Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. 4 Symbols or Untitled) and the song Stairway To Heaven.

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Throrgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Thorgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

Storm Thorgerson was a name even less known by the general public than Andy Johns, but literally millions of people have seen his work. Thorgerson, as half of the design firm Hipgnosis with Aubrey Powell, created dozens of the most iconic record album covers, sleeve and insert artwork of all time. After the dissolution of Hipgnosis in 1983, Thorgerson ran his own firm and continued working until he died on April 13 at the age of 69 from cancer.

LP Cover Scorpions Lovedrive LP Cover The Who Who's Next LP Cover Led Zeppelin Presence LP Cover AC DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Thorgerson’s work was surreal and many times bizarre. But it caught your attention like any great artwork that was meant to be contemplated. Millions of people who bought albums would study the large canvas that an LP album offered for insights and clues about the music and the band they were listening to. With the supremacy of CD’s in the 1990’s, cover artwork was given a much smaller space and a less important role in point of purchase sales of music. Despite this, Thorgerson maintained a steady stream of clients who wanted original and outstanding works of art to go with their musical output.

LP Cover Yes Going For The One LP Cover Peter Gabriel LP Cover Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here LP cover Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy Gatefold

Best known for his long association with Pink Floyd, Thorgerson also created album covers for a wide variety of bands including Led Zeppelin, Yes, Scorpions, UFO, Phish, AC/DC, 10cc, Black Sabbath, The Alan Parsons Project, Anthrax and many others.

In this clip below, Thorgerson talks about the beginnings of Hipgnosis.

Chrissy AmphlettThe Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett was known in the United States as more of a one-hit wonder for the 1991 top ten song I Touch Myself than for anything else. But in her native Australia, Chrissy Amphlett was a rock legend. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard even spoke of the impact of Amphlett’s death and what she meant to the Australian music scene.

Amphlett died in New York City at the age of 53 on April 20 after battling multiple sclerosis and breast cancer for many years.

The Divinyls were not just a pop band, they could rock as hard as anybody as evidenced here in a 1982 live performance of Boys in Town. With her schoolgirl outfit Amphlett displays some head-banging moves reminiscent of AC/DC’s Angus Young.

 

Clive Burr, Iron Maiden Drummer Dies At 56

Clive Burr – Iron Maiden’s Masterful And Highly Underrated Drummer Passes Away

Clive Burr Drumming 1982Clive Burr, who was Iron Maiden’s drummer from 1979-1982, died in his sleep at his home in London, England on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. He had been in ill-health for a number of years.

Burr played on the first three Iron Maiden albums, Iron Maiden, Killers and The Number of the Beast. With Iron Maiden on the verge of worldwide stardom, Burr was replaced under circumstances which remain murky to this day by Nicko McBrain for 1983’s Piece of Mind album. The official reason given was personal problems and difficulties in dealing with the heavy touring schedule.

Clive Burr Interview 1982Burr played with a string of other bands for the next dozen years, but never achieved the success he had with Iron Maiden. In the early 1990’s Burr’s musical career came to an abrupt end when he noticed tingling in his hands. He received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1994.

His former band mates held several charity events during the last decade which they called “Clive-Aid” to raise money to help Burr with his medical expenses which had left him in debt.

Iron Maiden Cliveaid 2007

Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Clive Burr at 2007’s CliveAid Concert

Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood said in 2002 at the first benefit, “Maiden has always been a family and even after all these years, we still consider Clive to be part of the family and as such we feel we should help him in any way possible.”

There has been a long simmering debate among hardcore Maiden fans about who was the better drummer, Burr or McBrain?

They were so different in style that a comparison is very difficult, but I always preferred Burr’s lucid, free jazz-style drumming. Continue reading

Two Baseball Greats Pass Away- Stan Musial & Earl Weaver And Remembering An Infamous Interview

Cardinals Superstar Stan Musial Dies At 92, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver Dies At 82 And One Very Dirty, Funny Radio Show

If you are like me, Saturday, January 19, 2013 will be remembered by baseball fans as a very sad day because two Hall of Famers died.

Stan Musial was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and was a gentleman on and off the field.

Earl Weaver was supposedly a gentleman off the field. On the field he could be a terror to the umpires.

I’ll leave the comments of greatness to others on both of these legends. While both of these men will get accolades and fond remembrances in the obituary pages, few will mention the outtake reel from “The Manager’s Corner” with Earl Weaver and Tom Marr.

This pre-game show that usually aired 20 minutes before every Orioles game never made it on the air for obvious reasons. I first heard this about 15 years ago. It had me rolling on the floor with laughter. I’d like to remember Earl as having a funny enough sense of humor to purposely make a radio show un-airable. Here is the story of how this 1982 “interview” transpired.

WARNING – EXTREMELY STRONG LANGUAGE – Play in the presence of children if you swear like a sailor.