Long list of fallen heroes and friends

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

TORONTO -- Old heroes and friends fall like autumn leaves, evoking sadness and sentiment at the passage of time.

They leave us to recall and reminisce of their past glories, their triumphs, their joys and, occasionally, their shortcomings.

This year, the media lost one of its most charismatic characters - Sun Media columnist Jim Hunt.

Hunt was 79 when he died of heart failure on March 8. He was a man who had an inexhaustible love of family while conducting a passionate affair with the world of sports. He was still writing a weekly column when he died. Tributes poured in for Hunt, whose unmistakable booming voice marked the unofficial opening of every major sporting event in this country for almost 50 years.

Other heroes passed into history, including Kirby Puckett, the Hall of Fame outfielder, who died March 6 of a stroke at age 45 and Red Auerbach, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Celtics to nine NBA championships. He died Oct. 28 at 89.

THE HONOUR ROLL

- Former CFL coach Joe Faragalli died April 10 at 76.

- The death of Yankees' pitcher Cory Lidle in an October plane crash shocked the baseball world.

- Johnny Sain, a three-time all-star who teamed with Warren Spahn to make up one of baseball's most fabled pitching tandems, died Nov. 7. He was 89.

- Bo Schembechler, one of college football's legendary coaches died Nov. 17.

- Buck O'Neil, baseball's charismatic Negro Leagues ambassador who barnstormed with Satchel Paige and inexplicably fell one vote shy of the Hall of Fame, died Oct. 6. He was 94.

- Byron Nelson, whose 11 consecutive tournament victories in 1945 stand as one of sports' most lasting records, died Sept. 26. He was 94.

- LPGA founder and winner of a record 15 women's majors Patty Berg died at 88 after battling Alzheimer's.

- Jamie Astaphan, the doctor who gave Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson the steroids that cost him an Olympic gold medal died of a heart attack. He was 60.

- Steve Stavro, former chairman of the Toronto Maple Leafs died of a heart attack in April at age 78.

- Four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher died Aug. 5 of complications from a bone marrow transplant. She was 51.

- In July, golfer Al Balding, whose victory at the 1955 Mayfair Open in Sanford, Florida, was the first in the U.S. by a Canadian, died of cancer at age 82.

- Ference Puskas, whose brilliance led Hungary to an Olympic soccer gold in 1952 died in November.

- Former major league umpire Eric Gregg, known for his big personality, extra-wide strike zone and oversized frame, died June 5, a day after a massive stroke. He was 55.

- Former NFL fullback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward died May 7 after a 7 1/2-year fight with a brain tumour.

- Former pitcher, Steve Howe, whose career was derailed by drug abuse, died April 28 when his pickup rolled over in Coachella, California. He was 48.

- Willie Pep, Hall of Fame boxer and one of the best fighters of the 20th century died in November.

- Annis Stukus, the legendary CFL figure, died at his home in Canmore at age 91.

- May 11, former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson, died at age 71.

- Grey Cup winner and Hall of Fame hockey referee Red Storey died in a nursing home March 15 at age 88.

- Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion died of stomach cancer in an Atlanta hospital in March at the age of 75.


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