Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The shock of death, Part 1

When I mean by the title of this blog, I don't mean something like an electric chair or being electrocuted. I'm talking about when someone dies suddenly and you're left in utter disbelief that it actually happened. So what is the deal? This past Saturday, Hollywood actor Bill Paxton passed away from complications following heart surgery at the age of 61. It's weird noticing that a few days prior, I saw a scene of him on the CBS show, Training Day, and then seeing he died a few days later.

While 61 is not young, it's not really old, either. The thing is Paxton's passing is similar to what happened to comedian Rodney Dangerfield in 2004. Although much older at 82, Dangerfield went for heart surgery and died from complications. I'm no expert on medical knowledge, but the impression I get is this. As you get older, your heart starts to get weaker. There are certain things that you can't do compared to 30 to 50 years earlier. I think surgery is a lot more harder for someone at the ages of people like Paxton and Dangerfield. You don't know how that body is going to react.

That being said, people grow up watching certain films and have that big shock of finding out someone died. It's not just them. It's also people who worked with the person that passed. Considering the work Paxton did for over 30 years, there was a love for this guy throughout the people that worked for him. Was it shocking? Yes. This actor should have lasted another 15 to 25 years.

With that in mind, there are some people who should have stayed alive today. In Hollywood, I think Phil Hartman, who was murdered in May 1998, would have lasted another 30 to 35 years. That was during a dark period for Saturday Night Live, losing alumni Chris Farley six months earlier and then Hartman. Still, it's one of those things that is shocking to this day. A lot of people talk about musicians as well. There's that group that make it to the age of 27 and something bad happens to where they wind up on a coroners' table. You look at some of the names like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse and you are just bewildered by the fact they are gone. They were on top of the world with their songs and bands, it makes no sense to go off to a different path and resort to taking drugs or committing suicide.

With sports, I don't think anything will ever top the death of baseball player Thurman Munson in a plane crash in 1979. When you think dark moments for any sports, this takes the cake. Munson was one of the biggest names for not only Major League Baseball, but also the New York Yankees. He and a handful of others were bringing success back to a team that struggled for a decade before making it to three straight World Series appearances, winning two of them. He was a tough cookie and he was capable of getting hits and playing well behind the plate as a catcher. When it comes to shocking deaths in a sport, it comes mostly when the player is currently playing or in the early stages of retirement.

Sticking with baseball, this past September saw the death of Jose Fernandez, a star pitcher for the Miami Marlins. He was on a boat that crashed and ultimately killed him and two others. It was something that you couldn't believe would happen. Those tears were real when Don Mattingly spoke at the press conference discussing Fernandez. I wish it was the only time this ever happened, but it happened in 1993 with Steve Olin and Tim Crews. The Cleveland Indians were hopeful on bringing in some good pitching to help out their starters. One night, they were on a boat along with former Met Bobby Ojeda. They crashed into a pier and died from their injuries. Ojeda survived, but didn't do much in the very late stages of his career. These were guys in these two examples that were a big deal to the sport and put in the effort to play well as anybody else in the league.

Still, it can happen to anybody. A prime example is Nick Adenhart. A young prospect for the Los Angeles Angels in 2009, he started his first game of the year in decent fashion following a lackluster 2008 season where he only appeared in a few games and was in the minors for most of the year. After that game, he never pitched again as he was killed by a drunk driver when it hit the car he was in. It took not only his life, but two others. The drunk driver had prior incidents involving alcohol, and today serves a 50 plus year sentence on six felonies including murder and drunk driving. Ultimately, the guy got what he deserved and, personally, should rot in prison. But that doesn't dampen the shock and pain that happened to Adenhart. It was a life gone too soon. Who knows what could have happened. The Angels could have had a great pitcher for a good seven to ten years.

This blog has got me thinking about some of the stuff that happened in other sports, it would be too much for one blog itself. Stop by Thursday for part 2 where I look at some shocking deaths in other sports like basketball.

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