The 2000s saw the deaths of dozens of prominent figures in New York sports, far too many properly to memorialize here.
Below are 21 21st century passings who stood out for various reasons, presented in alphabetical order and with no disrespect to the many whose names aren’t listed but are part of fans’ memories forever.
Hank Bauer, Yankees
(July 31, 1922-Feb. 9, 2007)
His seven championship rings and 17-game World Series hitting streak spoke for themselves. So did his decisive three-run triple in the clinching Game 6 of the 1951 Series.
Roy Boe, Islanders/Nets
(Sept. 14, 1929-June 7, 2009)
As owner of the Nets and Islanders during key periods for those teams he was a pivotal figure in Long Island sports. Alas, he sold Roosevelt’s own Dr. J to the Sixers.
Rosey Brown, Giants
(Oct. 20, 1932-June 9, 2004)
From a 27th-round draft pick to a pillar at offensive tackle, Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a Hall of Famer and still arguably the Giants’ best offensive player ever.
Donn Clendenon, Mets
(July 15, 1935-Sept. 17, 2005)
After arriving in mid-season from Expos, he drove in four runs and scored two in the Mets’ NL East clincher in ‘69, then was the World Series MVP with three homers.
Dave DeBusschere, Knicks
(Oct. 16, 1940-May 14, 2003)
Hall of Famer was defensive rock for Knicks’ only two NBA title teams. Later, as an executive, he pumped fist in celebration upon winning draft rights to Patrick Ewing.
Tommy Henrich, Yankees
(Feb. 20, 1913-Dec. 1, 2009)
“Old Reliable’’ hit first walk-off home run in World Series history in Game 1 against Brooklyn in 1949. He also was at bat when Mickey Owen dropped third strike in ’41.
Rusty Kanokogi, judo
(July 30, 1935-Nov. 21, 2009)
After hardscrabble childhood in Coney Island, she became a women’s judo pioneer, lobbying for inclusion in Olympics starting in 1988, when she was U.S. coach.
Corey Lidle, Yankees
(March 22, 1972-Oct. 11, 2006)
Despite only three months as a Yankee, his death in a small plane crash in Manhattan shocked the sports world and led to new flight regulations over the East River.
Wellington Mara, Giants
(Aug. 14, 1916-Oct. 25, 2005)
The NFL’ss most respected figure was associated with the football Giants for eight decades, and was sent off with a St. Patrick’s Cathedral funeral for the ages.
Tug McGraw, Mets
(Aug. 30, 1944-Jan. 5, 2004)
Colorful personality won World Series with ’69 Mets and ’80 Phillies but is best remembered for his rallying cry during Mets’ pennant run in ‘73: “Ya Gotta Believe.’’
Bobby Murcer, Yankees
(May 20, 1946-July 12, 2008)
Fan favorite during lean seasons in Bronx later became popular TV broadcaster. His finest moment: starring in victory hours after Thurman Munson’s funeral in ’79.
Bob Murphy, Mets
(Sept. 19, 1924-Aug. 3, 2004)
Member of Mets’ original broadcast team with Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner offered recaps, happy and not so happy, for 42 seasons before retiring after 2003.
Al Oerter, discus
(Sept. 19, 1936-Oct. 1, 2007)
The Sewanhaka High alum won gold in the discus in four Olympics in a row: 1956, ’60, ’64 and ’68. He narrowly missed qualifying for the ‘80 U.S. team in a comeback.
Floyd Patterson, boxing
(Jan. 4, 1935-May 11, 2006)
Turned from troubled Brooklyn youth into Olympic gold medalist in 1952, then won heavyweight title in ’56 and won it back in ’60 – at the time an unprecedented feat.
Johnny Podres, Dodgers
(Sept. 30, 1932-Nov. 13, 2008)
After decades of waiting ‘til next year, the Dodgers beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the ’55 World Series behind Podres’ 2-0 shutout; he was named Series MVP at 23.
Phil Rizzuto, Yankees
(Sept. 25, 1917-Aug. 13, 2007)
Holy cow, what a run! After a Hall of Fame playing career with the Yankees, he spent 40 years on their broadcast team as a lovable homer for his hometown team.
Kyle Rote, Giants
(Oct. 27, 1927-Aug. 15, 2002)
An early knee injury kept the No. 1 overall pick in the ’51 draft from being as great as he might have been, but he was hugely popular with teammates and fans.
Johnny Sample, Jets
(June 15, 1937-April 26, 2005)
He was on the winning side of two iconic NFL games: The overtime 1958 title game for the Colts and Super Bowl III for the Jets, in which he intercepted pass.
Malik Sealy, St. John’s
(Feb. 1, 1970-May 20, 2000)
The No. 2 career scorer at St. John’s was in the middle of a productive NBA career when he was killed by drunk driver during his time with the Timberwolves.
Brad Van Pelt, Giants
(April 5, 1951-Feb. 17, 2009)
The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker was the Giants’ best player during the bleak 1970s, and was a bridge from their Yankee Stadium days to the Giants stadium era.
Tommy Agee, Mets
(Aug. 9, 1942-Jan. 22, 2001)
No one old enough to remember Game 3 of the 1969 World Series ever will forget Agee, whose home run and two catches in centerfield lifted the Mets to a 5-0 victory.