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Not to Be Forgotten
MARK BECHTEL
December 28, 2009
From a right-leaning quarterback to a bass-playing power forward to a clotheshorse coach, the sports figures who died made marks that will last for ages—even those who passed away far before their primes
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December 28, 2009

Not To Be Forgotten

From a right-leaning quarterback to a bass-playing power forward to a clotheshorse coach, the sports figures who died made marks that will last for ages—even those who passed away far before their primes

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Arturo Gatti, 37

If not the best boxer of recent vintage (he was 40--9), the relentless Gatti was among the most exciting. Four times he was involved in Ring magazine's Fight of the Year, including in 2003, when he took a unanimous decision from welterweight Mickey Ward despite breaking his right hand in the fourth round. Gatti, who held titles in two classes, was found dead in a hotel room in Brazil in what authorities ruled a suicide.

Doc Blanchard, 84

Called "that berserk water buffalo" by a New York Times writer, Blanchard was Mr. Inside to Glenn Davis's Mr. Outside in Army's famed backfield of the mid-1940s. He bulled for 1,908 career yards and was the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy, in 1945. His military commitment kept him from playing professionally, but the honors kept coming: He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his 113 combat missions in Vietnam.

Robert Enke, 32

Enke, who was likely to be Germany's starting goalkeeper at the 2010 World Cup, took his own life, six years after he began treatment for depression. His two-year-old daughter, Lara, died in 2006, and he and his wife, Teresa, adopted a baby last May. According to Teresa, Enke lived in fear that his new daughter would be taken from them if his depression became public. In November he threw himself in front of a train 200 yards from Lara's grave.

Mark Fidrych, 54

In July 1976 the Michigan legislature introduced a resolution calling for the Tigers to give their rookie pitcher making $16,500 a raise. Unlike the recent debate over the wisdom of lawmakers spending time on the BCS, there was no outrage, because the pitcher was Mark Fidrych, and in the summer of '76 everyone loved the Bird. With a sinking fastball and a nasty slider, the lanky 21-year-old with the Harpo Marx hair tormented American League hitters, talked to baseballs and groomed the mound like a manic gardener. Nowhere was he more beloved than in Detroit, where his refusal to take himself too seriously—"All I'm lookin' for mainly is to play pool and the pinball machines and, maybe, dance," he said—meshed with the city's blue-collar tastes. The Bird won 19 games and the league's ERA title as a rookie, but his fall was almost as swift as his ascent: Knee and shoulder injuries limited him to just 10 more victories. He retired to his farm in Northborough, Mass., where he was killed in April when his clothes became entangled in the moving parts of a truck he was repairing.

Chris Henry, 26

Suspended for half of the 2007 season and cut by the Bengals for repeated off-field incidents, the talented 6'4" receiver was given another chance when Cincinnati re-signed him in August 2008. Henry battled injuries, catching 19 passes in '08 and 12 in '09 before a broken forearm ended his season in November. He died on Dec. 17 when he fell from the back of a moving pickup truck during a dispute with his fiancée.

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