Far too many dead to bring out

2020 took the famous, the not-so-famous, and plenty other things that we cherish.

  1. Kobe Bryant — (1978–2020) — Another fierce competitor, he shot daggers into the net to defeat his opponents and daggers at his teammates who didn’t carry their weight. Athletes who come along when you’re a little bit older don’t always impact you the way they do when you remember them from your youth. I felt I got to understand the impact of Kobe by watching both of my sons’ shock and disbelief at his passing.
  2. Bob Gibson — (1935–2020) — If the stare down from the mound didn’t intimidate you, the high “chin-music” would most certainly grab your attention. He famously told battery mate Tim McCarver when McCarver came out to the mound to talk to his pitcher to, “Shut-up and get back behind the plate,” reminding his now startled battery mate that, “The only thing you know about good pitching is that you can’t hit it.”
  3. Edward “Whitey” Ford — (1928–2020) — The “Chairman of the Board” knew how to win the big game, and pitching for the Yankees during their glorious heydays in the 1950s and ’60s gave Whitey an opportunity to demonstrate his big game bonafides year-after-year. Ford was the Yankees’ “ace” for over 15 years, and broke Babe Ruth’s World Series scoreless inning streak. He would pitch the Yankees to 11 World Series appearances and six titles, including in 1961 when he was the series MVP. The pride of Astoria took hay-seed Mickey Mantle under his wing and taught him how to live it up in the big city, which didn’t work out all that well for Mantle or his liver.
  4. Don Shula — (1930–2020) — The only coach in NFL history to achieve an unbeaten and untied season of perfection with his Miami Dolphins, including a 14–7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII, was despised in the Hoffman household as he and “the fish,” tormented our beloved Jets seemingly every season throughout the 1970s and ’80s. The Jets did achieve an all-time smackdown of Shula in the famed 1969 Super Bowl, but that was when he was coaching the Baltimore Colts, before he had truly established himself as “Mr. Dolphin.” Since it’s customary to salute your opponents once they’ve been vanquished, let me just say this to the late and ledgendary coaching great: “Here’s to you, you mother-fu#&er!”
  1. Chadwick Boseman — (1976–2020) — What stamina this man demonstrated acting almost up to the end of his life as he suffered from the debilitating effects of colon cancer. Boseman was excellent as Jackie Robinson in ’47, as well in so many other pictures, but for many he will simply be remembered as the “Black Panther” where he proved that an African-American superhero movie could break the box-office.
  2. David L. Lander — (1947–2020) — Yes he bravely fought MS, and he was the extremely recognizable voice of “The Weasel” in Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” but for me and so many others, he will always be “Squiggy” from Lenny and Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley, the only real reason to turn into that show.
  3. Alex Trebek — (1940–2020) — I’m not sure that there was a more impactful death than the passing of the host of Jeopardy. Seemingly every night throughout my adult life, there was Trebek telling us to answer in the form of a question, how to pronounce words in French, and leaving us with a reassuring, “So long everybody” at the end of every broadcast. He who will be missed by all. “Who is: Alex Trebek?”
  4. Diana Rigg — (1938–2020) — While the millennials may have wondered who the old lady was who brilliantly portrayed the cunning Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones, those of us who were a little older and a little bit wiser remember her as the incredibly sexy Emma Peel on the ’60s classic The Avengers.
  1. Charley Pride — (1934–2020) — He played country music down in Dixie despite segregation, and became a legend in the world of Country Music, paving the way for Darius Rucker and many others.
  2. Trini Lopez — (1937–2020) — I gave Trini a major shout-out a few months ago (https://blog.timesunion.com/hoffmanfiles/trini-linda-and-the-go-gos/46310/), and he deserved every ounce of it. A Latin American folk singer, Trini Lopez lit up our massive turntable in North Massapequa allowing my father a rare instance of relaxation as he pondered what would be possible if he indeed had a hammer.
  3. Charlie Daniels — (1936–2020) — People think I’m crazy when I tell them that Southern Rock, including The Charlie Daniels Band was huge on Long Island when I was coming of age in the mid-to-late 1970s. While Charlie Daniels was a fantastic fiddle player as well as guitarist, he became a pop superstar, for a year or so anyway, when his mega-hit Devil Went Down to Georgia came out and dominated the airwaves on the radio. Perhaps if there’s a Hell, and old Charlie perhaps wasn’t the best behaved individual that ever lived, he might find himself face-to-face with Satan. My guess is that Daniels would say something along the lines of, “Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again, I told you once you son-of-a-bitch I’m the best that’s ever been.”
  4. Kenny Rogers — (1938–2020) — Not only did I see this stiff get lit up in the Kingdome when he was with the Yankees by the Seattle Mariners, he unforgivably walked in the winning run against the Braves in the 1999 NLCS in game six while pitching for the Mets. Oh wait, never mind, this is the singer. So I’m not exactly a Kenny Rogers fan, but his big hit, Through the Years, kind of became my parent’s song, and my mother would always cry when it played, which of course made my father uncomfortable, but that’s a story for another day between me and my therapist.
  1. John Lewis — (1940–2020) — If only he had lived to see his beloved state of Georgia vote for President-elect Joe Biden, what a wonderful parting gift for one of the last of the great civil rights champions to receive and reflect upon. Like his mentor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he arrived at the mountaintop and saw the promised land, even though he didn’t get there with us.
  2. Herman Cain — (1945–2020) — He came from the deep South, attended and graduated from the famed African-American school, Morehouse College, the same school that Martin Luther King attended, and became an extremely successful businessman. He sojourned into politics as a member of the Tea Party, and even looked like he might grab the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 with his call for a “9–9–9” tax plan. Unfortunately he attended a Trump rally in Oklahoma City this past summer without a mask and succumbed to COVID-19. Another victim of the “hoax.” (https://blog.timesunion.com/hoffmanfiles/death-by-ignorance/46289/)
  3. Jean Kennedy-Smith — (1928–2020) — The last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy-Smith became a diplomat who helped forge peace in Northern Ireland. She might also be the last surviving person to have had a meal with all of the original Kennedy brood. I wonder how she did on those little quizzes that old man Joe Kennedy used to test his children with in between his hookups with Gloria Swanson.
  4. Donald Trump’s Presidency — (2017–2021) — Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Now that I think of it, his marriage will most likely suffer the same fate. Hey, it could have been worse. Had he won, I would have had to have listed “Democracy” as yet another fatality of 2020.

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