Two Sunday mornings the past six months and two times the news of a shocking death of a promising, young baseball player. On September 25, 2016, young pitching phenom Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins died in a high-speed boat accident. Today, the news of Kansas City pitcher Yordana Ventura’s death in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.
It’s tough when these young and talented athletes die before their time. It’s especially rough when one of the deceased in from your team. Ventura was a Kansas City Royal. He was an extremely talented young pitcher who was just beginning to mature and settle in as a top-notch major league pitcher. He will be truly missed by all of us in the Royals Nation.
These deaths always bring back a wave of my memories of the other young athletes whose early and untimely deaths still weigh heavily on me. Thurmon Munson, captain and catcher of the hated New York Yankees. Young Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals. Roberto Clemente who died in a plane crash delivering humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico. Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals, Len Bias of Boston Celtics. The list of those we lost early is long and heartbreaking.
Every untimely athlete’s death leads me one particular death that still makes me sad today. The death of Joe Delaney on June 29, 1983. Joe Delaney was a running back who, in his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, looked like he was the long-awaited savior to a fan base who had waited a decade for a spark of hope. He was personable, he seemed to be a great kid and a great teammate, and he was an incredible talent at running back.
The news of his death that summer day was like a shot to the chest. I was just out of high school and I broke into tears. It was more than just hearing that one of your sports heroes had passed away, though. It was hearing your sports hero died while attempting a rescue of three boys drowning in a pond—even if he didn’t know how to swim himself. Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star wrote a great remembrance of Joe Delaney a couple of years ago. It is worth a few minutes to read and remember.
My condolences and prayers go out to the family of Yordana Ventura and to his Royals family. We will remember him for his smile and his enthusiasm for the game. He will always return to our thoughts when we think about the 2015 World Series Title.