Categotry Archives: Sports


Najai Turpin


Categories: Media, Sports

nturpin.jpgNajai Turpin, a contestant on the new NBC reality show, “The Contender,” committed suicide on Feb. 14. He was 23.

The Philadelphia native was an aspiring middleweight boxer known as Nitro. Described in his show bio as soft spoken and polite, Turpin cared for his younger brother, sister, niece and nephew after his mother died in 2000. At 5 feet 5 inches and 151 lbs., Turpin had a career record of 13 wins, 1 loss and 9 knockouts.

Before landing a spot on the new TV series, Turpin did construction work in the mornings and toiled at a Philadelphia restaurant in the evenings. Early Monday, he shot himself in the head with a small caliber semiautomatic weapon while sitting in a parked car outside the gym where he trained. His girlfriend, Angela Chapple, had just exited the vehicle when he took his own life. Turpin left no suicide note.

In the week before his death, Turpin twice left a boxing camp because he couldn’t focus on his training. Although Chapple has declined all interview requirests, she put out a statement that said the couple had “more love than issues.” Turpin is survived by his 2-year-old daughter, Anyae.

“The Contender” is a 13-episode series that follows the personal and professional lives of 16 boxers vying for a $1 million prize. Network executives said Turpin’s untimely death will not delay the show’s debut on March 7 or alter its ending. All of the show’s bouts have already been taped, except for its live championship, which will take place in May.

Turpin is not the first reality show contestant to take his own life. In 1997, Sinisa Savija, a participant on the Swedish version of the show “Survivor,” committed suicide after he was voted off the island. Last summer, Jose Maria, the winner of the first Portugal edition of the show “Big Brother,” threatened to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. Two policemen eventually hoisted him to safety.


Max Schmeling

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Categories: Business, Military, Sports

mschmeling.jpgMaximilian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling, the German boxing legend who twice squared off against world heavyweight champion Joe Louis, died on Feb. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 99.
Born in Uckermar, Germany, Schmeling was a self-taught boxer with a powerful right-handed punch. He turned pro in 1924 and won the German light heavyweight title three years later. Known as the “Black Uhlan of the Rhine,” Schmeling was the first German, and European, to become the heavyweight world champion when he beat Jack Sharkey in 1930. Sharkey won the title back in 1932 on a disputed decision.
Although he was not a member of the Nazi Party, Schmeling was touted in propaganda as a symbol of Aryan supremacy. When he squared off with the undefeated Louis in 1936, the fight took on mythic proportions in the boxing and political arenas. In the 12th round, Schmeling knocked out the “Brown Bomber.” Louis’ defeat sparked riots in Harlem; one man who had bet on Schmeling was later hospitalized with a fractured skull and multiple stab wounds.
At their rematch in 1938, the tables turned and Louis knocked Schmeling out two minutes and four seconds into the first round. En route to the hospital, Schmeling’s ambulance had to make a detour to avoid the celebratory street parties. Schmeling returned to Germany on a stretcher two weeks later, still healing from two broken vertebra.
Despite the differences in their races and nationalities, Schmeling and Louis remained friends for many years. Schmeling occasionally gave money to the Louis family, and even paid for the American boxer’s funeral in 1981.
Schmeling was drafted into the military and served as a German paratrooper during World War II, but he didn’t support the Third Reich’s ethnic cleansing efforts. He refused to fire his Jewish-American manager Joe Jacobs, or divorce his wife, actress Anny Ondra, and marry a member of the “master race.” He also hid two Jewish boys in his hotel apartment and helped sneak them out of the country.
After the war, the nearly destitute Schmeling resumed his boxing career. He fought until 1948 before retiring at the age of 43 with a record of 56-10-4 and 39 knockouts. His life was chronicled in the bestselling 1977 autobiography, “Max Schmeling.” In 1992, the pugilist was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Schmeling used his fight proceeds to buy Coca-Cola distributorships in Germany and became wealthy bottling and distributing the soft drink. Through the Max Schmeling Foundation, he gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the elderly and the poor.
Listen to the Ringside Broadcast of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling Rematch
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Reggie White


Categories: Religious Leaders, Sports

rwhite.jpgAn ordained minister and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Reginald Howard White was known as the “Minister of Defense.”
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive end spent 15 years playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers before retiring in 2000 as the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks (198). Buffalo’s Bruce Smith broke White’s record in 2003.
An All-American lineman at the University of Tennessee, White joined the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League in 1984. When the USFL folded a year later, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native was drafted by the Eagles, where he contributed to Philadelphia’s “Gang Green” defense for eight years.
White was one of the plaintiffs in a class action antitrust lawsuit that led to the unrestricted, free agency system. In 1993, he was the first major black player to sign with Green Bay as a free agent, a deal worth $17 million over four years. His signing, along with a trade for Brett Favre, was credited with helping the Packers reach the Super Bowl championship twice, including a win over New England in 1997. White also set a Super Bowl record by making three sacks.
White missed only one game during his last 12 seasons and started all but three games during that same time period. He was elected to the Pro Bowl 13 times, and named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
Off the field, White encouraged inner-city youths to stay in school and avoid drugs. He founded the Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment ministry and served as the associate pastor at the Inner City Community Church in Knoxville, Tenn. The church was burned down in 1998, and racial epithets were left at the scene.
Two months later, White’s image was tarnished when he gave a speech to the Wisconsin State Assembly that promoted ethnic stereotypes and referred to homosexuality as “one of the biggest sins in the Bible.” Although he later apologized, his comments cost him commercial endorsements and a chance to be a television commentator at CBS.
In later years, White moved away from the evangelical form of Christianity that once inspired him to hold prayer meetings in the locker room. He began studying the Torah and the Bible in its original Hebrew, and told the media he was less interested in the tenets of organized religion than he was in being involved with “the Jewish Messiah who died for my sins.”
White died on Dec. 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 43.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Barry Corbet


Categories: Hollywood, Sports, Writers/Editors

bcorbet.jpgJ. Barry Corbet, a member of the first American team to climb Mount Everest, died on Dec. 18 of natural causes. He was 68.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Corbet attended Dartmouth College on and off for several years. Academia didn’t suit him so he became a climbing guide and ski instructor in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Ever the adventurer, Corbet traveled around the world and tackled many tough climbs, including Mount Tyree (15,919 feet), the second highest peak in Antarctica.
In 1963, Corbet joined Al Auten, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld in making the first ascent of Mount Everest’s west ridge. Corbet gave up his chance to summit with the other climbers because he assumed he’d be back someday. Five years later, however, he was paralyzed from the waist down in a helicopter crash near Aspen, Colo.
After the accident, Corbet worked as a filmmaker and advocate for the disabled. He produced or co-produced dozens of movies, and edited New Mobility, a magazine that covers disability issues. Corbet also wrote several books (“Options: Spinal Cord Injury and the Future,” “Spinal Network: The Total Wheelchair Resource Book”) and took up whitewater kayaking.
A double black-diamond ski run on Rendezvous Peak in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is named after him. “Corbet’s Couloir” features a wicked 10-foot drop that challenges skiers and snowboarders alike.


Harry Danning

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Categories: Sports

hdanning.jpgHarry Danning, an All-Star catcher for the New York Giants, died on Nov. 29 of natural causes. He was 93.
The Los Angeles native was only 22 when he made his major league debut in 1933. Danning was the backup receiver to Gus Mancuso until 1938 when he became the Giants’ regular catcher.
Known as Harry the Horse (after a character in the Broadway play “Guys and Dolls”), Danning caught for 801 games and was behind the plate for five games in the 1936 and 1937 World Series. He was named to four National League All-Star teams (1938-1941) and was voted the best catcher in baseball in 1940. Danning was a .300 hitter in three consecutive seasons; his career batting average was .285.
After 10 seasons with the Giants, Danning turned in his uniform and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served during World War II, but was unable to resume his baseball career because of arthritic knees. Instead, he became a minor league coach, then worked as a car dealer, a newspaper and magazine distributor and an insurance executive.
Danning was the oldest living Jewish major leaguer and a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the New York Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. His older brother, Ike Danning, who played for the St. Louis Browns, died in 1983.
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