David Stern and Don Larsen died on Jan. 1, 2020, and the year never let up. It seemed like once a week , we shook our heads at the obituaries of sports figures — sports giants, in many cases — coming across the news wire or social media feeds or in e-mails from Star Tribune writers. A sad year if there ever was one, 2020 repeatedly delivered difficult news to sports fans. Legends were lost. Some at 100 (Sid Hartman), some much too young (Kobe Bryant at 41). The Star Tribune's Joel Rippel, an editor on the sports desk, has studied Minnesota sports for decades. Rippel compiled a remembrance here of notable lives we lost in both Minnesota sports and the sports world at large. Our tribute:
"I have followed the advice that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life," Sid wrote in his column that appeared on his 100th birthday, March 15, 2020. "Even at 100 I can say I still love what I do." That says a lot about Sid, who worked (or not, according to him) for over 75 years and became arguably as influential as any media member in American sports history. He died Oct. 18 at the age of 100. Hartman had more than 21,000 bylines in his newspaper career, which began in 1944 with the Minneapolis Times, including one in the morning paper on the day he died. He also was a regular voice on WCCO radio for more than 60 years. One name is all anyone needed to say — Sid — for this one-of-a-kind.
Remembered in Minnesota
Other notable deaths in the sports world with ties to Minnesota (listed chronologically):
Chris Doleman: A Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end with 150½ career sacks who spent 10 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Vikings, Doleman died Jan. 28 at age 58.
Tarvaris Jackson: The starting quarterback in the 2007 season and part of 2008 during his five seasons with the Vikings, Jackson died in an auto accident April 12 at age 36.
Orv Bies: Bies, a teacher and coach before almost 20 years as an administrator for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), died April 17. He was 93.
Milt Sunde: A Minneapolis native who played guard for the Vikings for 11 seasons after playing for the Gophers, Sunde died April 21 at age 78. He later coached high school girls' basketball and was an assistant coach at Augsburg.
John Teerlinck: The longtime NFL assistant coach, who was with the Vikings for three seasons, died May 10 at age 69. When former Vikings star John Randle went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, he chose Teerlinck as his presenter.
Rose-Mary Utne: The Iron Range native, who as a teacher and coach started the girls' track and field program at St. Louis Park High School in 1973, died June 10. She was 93.
Dick Garmaker: A consensus All-America basketball player for the Gophers who went on to play six NBA seasons, died June 13 at 87. His 24.8 scoring average in Big Ten games is the best in school history.
Loyal "Bud" Chapman: A Minnesota Golf Hall of Famer who earned international fame as the artist behind "18 Infamous Golf Holes," Chapman died July 9 at age 97.
Lute Olson: An Augsburg graduate who started his 52-year basketball coaching career at Mahnomen, Minn., High School, died Aug. 27 at age 85. Olson led the Iowa for nine seasons and Arizona for 25, winning the 1997 NCAA championship with the Wildcats.
Joe Laurinaitis: Wrestling professionally for the WWF and WCW under the moniker Road Warrior Animal, Laurinaitis died Sept. 22. He was 60.
Ron Perranoski: A lefthanded relief pitcher for 13 major league seasons who led the American League in saves in 1969 and '70 with the Twins, Perranoski died Oct. 2 at age 84.
Bob McDonald: The winningest coach in Minnesota high school sports history died Oct. 14 at the age of 87. McDonald, who had a 1,012-428 record in 59 seasons as a basketball coach, spent 53 seasons at Chisholm, leading the Bluestreaks to 11 state tournaments and three state titles.
Matt Blair: A second-round draft pick out of Iowa State who became one of the top linebackers in Vikings history, Blair died Oct. 22 at age 70. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection over his seasons in Minnesota.
Julio Becquer: Becquer, who spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins organization, died Nov. 1. Becquer, whose pinch-hit grand slam was one of the highlights of the Twins' inaugural 1961 season, was 88.
Nancy Darsch: An assistant coach for the Lynx for three seasons after coaching Ohio State to four Big Ten women's championships, Darsch died Nov. 2 at the age of 68. Darsch was the head coach of the New York Liberty in the WNBA's inaugural game (against Los Angeles) in 1997.
John Hankinson: One of the top quarterbacks in Gophers football history, Hankinson died Nov. 20 at age 77. He held 10 school passing records at the end of his senior season in 1965.
Jimmy Robinson: The longtime Minnesota basketball referee, who was the first Black official to work a high school state tournament game, died Nov. 30 at age 88. Robinson also was one of the first Black officials to referee Big Ten Conference games.
Tom Hanneman: A Twin Cities sports broadcaster for nearly five decades, Hanneman died Dec. 17 at age 68. He worked for WCCO for 16 years before being joining the Timberwolves as a sideline reporter and play-by-play announcer, then became a studio host for FSN.
ACROSS THE NATION
Kobe Bryant: Bryant, 41, was Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali or Mickey Mantle for a generation of sports fans — fans of all sports, not just basketball. His approach to competition — the Mamba Mentality — transcended the NBA. A cocky player, a rival and an imperfect teammate and human, Bryant was far from universally loved at the top of his game. After his retirement, though, we saw different sides of the 18-time All-Star. He was a father of four girls, a supporter of women's sports, a giver. He always will be remembered for winning — four NBA titles in 20 seasons, fourth-leading scorer in NBA history — but the images of Kobe together with Gianna, his 13-year-old daughter who along with seven other people were also killed in that Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Southern California, will stay with us, too.
(other notables listed chronologically)
Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game (for the Yankees in 1956) in World Series history, died Jan. 1. He was 90.
David Stern, the NBA commissioner for 30 years who helped the league become popular internationally, died Jan. 1. He was 77.
George Perles, who coached Michigan State to two Big Ten football titles and a Rose Bowl victory in 1988, died Jan. 7 at age 85.
Willie Wood, a defensive back on five Green Bay Packers championship teams and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Feb. 3. He was 83.
Mickey Wright, who won 82 tournaments, including 13 majors, after joining the LPGA in 1955, died Feb. 17. Wright, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was 85. Only Minnesotan Patty Berg won more LPGA majors (15).
Henri Richard, who played on 11 Stanley Cup champions in 20 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, died March 6 at age 84.
Curly Neal, who played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 seasons, died March 26 at age 77.
Tom Dempsey, an NFL kicker for 11 seasons despite being born without toes on his kicking foot, died April 4. Dempsey booted a then NFL-record, 63-yard field goal in 1970. He was 73.
Bobby Mitchell, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of three players who helped integrate the Washington NFL franchise in 1962, died April 5. He was 84.
Al Kaline, who spent his entire 22-year major league career with the Detroit Tigers and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, died April 6 at the age of 85.
Willie Davis, a defensive end on five NFL championship teams with the Packers in the 1960s and a member of the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s, died April 15 at 85.
Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, died May 4 at age 90. He coached the Miami Dolphins to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, with the 1972 team going 17-0 and the 1973 team beating the Vikings for the title.
Phyllis George, a pioneer among female sportscasters, died May 14. She was 70. George, who was hired by CBS to do sports in 1975, worked on "The NFL Today" and covered horse racing for the network.
Bob Watson, a two-time All-Star during 19 seasons as a player and the first Black general manager of a World Series champion (the New York Yankees in 1996), died May 14 at 74.
Jerry Sloan, who played 11 NBA seasons before a 30-year coaching career in the league (26 as head coach), died May 22 at age 78.
Eddie Sutton, the Hall of Famer who led three schools to the Final Four and became the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA tournament, died May 23 at age 84.
Wes Unseld, one of the top 50 players in NBA history and a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, died June 2 at age 74.
Johnny Majors, who won 185 games in 29 seasons as a college football coach, died June 3 at age 85. Majors, who coached Pittsburgh to the national title in 1976, started his head coaching career at Iowa State.
Lou Henson, who coached Illinois for 21 seasons during his 43 years as a college basketball coach, died July 25. He was 88.
Pete Retzlaff, a North Dakota native and South Dakota State product who became a prolific pass-catcher in 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, died Aug. 21 at age 88.
John Thompson, who became the first Black head coach to win a major collegiate title when he led Georgetown to the 1984 NCAA championship, died Aug. 30 at age 78.
Tom Seaver won 311 games during his 20 seasons in the major leagues and helped the Mets win the World Series in 1969. The Hall of Fame pitcher died Sept. 2 at age 75.
Lou Brock, who had 3,023 hits and led the NL in stolen bases eight times during his 19-season major league career, died Sept. 6 at 81. Brock spent only one season in the minor leagues, with the St. Cloud Rox in 1961.
Gale Sayers, the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1965 and a five-time All-Pro selection for the Chicago Bears before his NFL career was cut short by injuries, died Sept. 23. He was 77.
Bob Gibson, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner won 251 games — all with the Cardinals — during his 17-season, Hall of Fame career, died Oct. 2. He was 84.
Whitey Ford, whose .690 winning percentage is best among pitchers with more than 200 victories, died Oct. 9. A lefthander who spent 16 seasons with the Yankees, Ford was 91.
Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame infielder who was a key member of the Cincinnati Reds' back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and '76, died Oct. 11. He was 77.
Herb Adderley, who was drafted as a running back by the Packers before becoming a Hall of Fame cornerback, died Oct. 30 at 81. He played on six championship teams.
Tom Heinsohn, who was associated with the Boston Celtics for nearly 50 years as a player, coach and broadcaster, died Nov. 9. He was 86.
Paul Hornung, a Heisman Trophy-winning fullback at Notre Dame in 1956 who helped the Packers win four NFL championships in a six-year span, died Nov. 13. He was 84.
Diego Maradona, the soccer star who played in four World Cups and led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, died Nov. 25. He was 60.
Rafer Johnson, the decathlon gold medal winner at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, died Dec. 2 at age 86.
Pat Patterson, a professional wrestler for 27 years — including five for the Minnesota-based AWA — died Dec. 2. He was 79.
Dick Allen, a seven-time All-Star and 1972 American League MVP who hit 351 home runs over his 15 major league seasons, died Dec. 7. He was 78.
Kevin Greene, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and defensive end who finished his career with 160 sacks, died Dec. 21. Greene was 58.
K.C. Jones, who played on eight Boston teams that won NBA titles and coached the Celtics to two more, died Dec. 25. He was 88.
Phil Niekro, who threw a knuckleball to win 318 games in his 24-year major league career, died Dec. 26. He was 81.