Lots of loss in 2018–with 347 days to go
Tuesday night, Washington State backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment in Pullman with a gunshot wound in his head. It was discovered Hilinski killed himself with a shotgun.
Hilinski backed up Luke Falk, who became the Pacific-12 Conference’s all-time leading passer in 2017. However, Hilinski had his moment during the season, leading the Cougars to a comeback victory over Boise State in triple overtime in September.
Hilisnki isn’t the most notable person who has passed away within the first 18 days of 2018, but it’s one of the most tragic deaths.
The biggest loss in the sports world was that of Keith Jackson, the legendary college football play-by-play announcer, as well as the first play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football on ABC in 1970.
Jackson passed away at age 89 last Saturday, silencing one of the last surviving voices of football’s early years on television.
Jackson’s death came on the heels of the passing of Dick Enberg, the longtime NBC play-by-play man, in late December.
The last remaining old-time play-by-play man left is Jack Whitaker, who turns 94 later this year. Whitaker was one of the play-by-play men for CBS during Super Bowl I, and he is the ONLY living play-by-play man from any of the first 21 Super Bowls. Al Michaels is the only other Super Bowl play-by-play announcer from any of the first 34 games still living. Michaels will call his tenth for NBC February 4.
Enberg broadcast eight (XV, XVII, XX, XXIII, XXVIII, XXVIII, XXXII) for NBC from 1980-97, taking over as NBC’s Super Bowl voice from the great Curt Gowdy.
Some of the other big names we’ve lost so far in 2018:
- Brendan Byrne, former two-tern Governor of New Jersey and the original namesake of the arena at the Meadowlands (now the Izod Center).
- Carmen Cozza, football coach at Yale from 1968-96. He will be best remembered for the last game of his first season, when the Bulldogs squandered a 29-13 lead by allowing Harvard to score 16 points in the game’s final 42 seconds to secure a tie. The headline in the Harvard Crimson the following Monday read “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”. Cozza’s first Yale team featured Calvin Hill, who went on to a very productive NFL career with the Cowboys and Browns.
- Jerry Van Dyke, actor best known for his role Luther Van Dam on the ABC series Coach.
- John Young, astronaut who walked on the moon during Apollo 16 in 1972 and also flew on the first space shuttle mission with Columbia in 1981.
- Bruce Hood, longtime National Hockey League referee. Hood was in charge of Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals when Bobby Orr scored 40 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Blues and clinched Boston’s first Stanley Cup since 1941. Hood was forced to retire in July 1984 after he was severely criticized for not controlling a game between the Nordiques and Canadiens earlier that year which featured numerous brawls.
- John Tunney, former U.S. Representative and Senator from California, son of heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney, who defeated Jack Dempsey in two legendary bouts in the 1920s. Tunney, who held the seat now occupied by Diane Feinstein, died the same day as Jackson.
- Doug Harvey, Baseball Hall of Fame umpire who officiated in the National League from 1962-92. He was nicknamed “God” by several players. His tight zone was the tightest of all NL umpires during his tenure–he did not give an inch off the black of home plate.
- John Spellman, Governor of Washington 1981-85, the last Republican to hold the office.
- Jo Jo White, Basketball Hall of Famer who was an All-American at Kansas and a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics. His number 10 hangs from the rafters at TD Garden with teammates Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Don Nelson, along with all the other Celtic legends like Bird, Russell, Cousy and many others. Paul Pierce joins that fraternity next month.
- Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer for the Irish band The Cranberries, who had a smash hit in 1993 with “Linger”.
- Edgar Ray “Preacher” Kilien, one of the masterminds of the murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner in June 1964. I don’t think anyone shed a tear. I certainly didn’t. Too bad he only had to spend 12 1/2 years at Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. He should have been there 40 years before that. Hopefully he joined Cecil Price, Alton Wayne Roberts and all the other evil doers in a special corner of hell.
Time marches on. I’m sure this list will grow in 2018. Hopefully nobody I care about makes it.