Daily News from New York, New York on March 15, 1980 · 385
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Daily News from New York, New York · 385

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Saturday, March 15, 1980
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o S Q - w tn & m 2 J JifrfjM TjM MfM'Hi By CHUCK SIATER ond Bill GALLO Because Jimmy Clark missed airplane connections, he is alive today. Because Joe Frazier always avoids flying, his son is alive today. Because Dennis Armstrong had a ticket mixup, he too is alive today. Perhaps because he had a cold last month, Paul Palamino is not alive today. But Ronnie Shields is because he was sick last Monday. There are always quirks of fate surrounding a tragedy, circumstances where seeming chance literally makes a life and death difference. But there seemed to be an unusually large number of them surrounding the Polish airplane crash yesterday in which the 22-member U.S. national boxing team perished. JIMMY CLARK, considered by many the best amateur heavyweight in the U.S., was supposed to be on the ill-fated Soviet-made Ilyushun 62 jet The 24-year-old w ho recently lost a disputed decision to Cuba's two-time Olympic champion Teofilio Stevenson was supposed to have been on a flight from Philadelphia to New York at 3:45 p.m. Thursday to make connections for the trip to Poland but missed his plane. He tried to get on standby but no seats opened up. Then a third plane arrived late too late to make connections for Poland. "I was visiting my relatives in Coatesville (Pa.) and as a result of visiting my family I missed that plane," said Clark, a Coatesville native. Still, Clark hoped to make connections yesterday. He took a motel room near the Philadelphia airport Then came a morning call from his mother, Janet. "Jimmy. Jimmy, thank God you're there!" she said. "Jimmy. Jimmy, the plane crashed in Poland and everybody's dead." "1 LOVED THOSE people on that plane," said Clark. "It's just unreal, it's unconceivable that something like that would happen. "I'm still hoping there was some kind of mistake, that it really didn't happen. Anybody who means anything to me in boxing is gone. "When you think of the terror their heads in the pillows, knowing probably they were going to die .. Marvis Frazier, also considered by many our top amateur heavyweight, had similar thoughts and similar thanks. "I would've been on that plane if ft were up to me," he said yesterday by phone from Philadelphia, "but my pop decided that it wasn't a good idea for me to fly. "Pop doesn't like flying and hasnt been on a plane in a year and a half; he'll fly only in a great emergency." The son feels differently. "Me, I love flying," said Marvis. "but my father is the man of the bouse and he gave me an order not to go. I talked to my father on the phone this morning (the ex-heavyweight champ was in Knoxville. Teno, with his singing group) when he heard the news and he said 'See, son, I told you those planes will kill you. .... ..: 5. . ft A A .ft 8 mmnifwm - j i' ill " rs J - - ? 1 I- ' & , J. 1 i . - . j " - ' I- ' " ' "T 'I , f t .t . . r iioi-iiir'r-iri tut- iT-riiin -r rf --mmiihIi if r i -rtrrlmnii-i" y i 1? vn Marvis Frazier, who didn't make trip because of his father's aversion to flying, awaits news of the crash. "But with all due respect to my father, I feel that when the good Lord is ready he's' going to takejou, no matter what" - ONLY A TICKET snafu prevented Dennis Armstrong from being taken. Because he wasnt sent a ticket, the Tacoma boxer could not join the rest of the U.S. amateur boxing team on the flight to Poland. - "I was supposed to have been on that flight, but I guess I have to thank the Lord . . . praise the Lord for whatever he did in causing that mixup," Armstrong said. - "His ticket just didn't come in with the rest of the tickets for our boxing team," said Frank Wheeler, vice president of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Club from Deer Park, Calif., where the Ali fighters are in training. "I called our office and told them to cancel Dennis out of the Poland fights. It would be' too much hassle to find him another ticket" WELTERWEIGHT Ronnie Shields was supposed to box in Poland, too, but he got sick. "That was close," said Shields' trainer, Willie Savannah. "Ronnie was supposed to be on the trip. He was x confirmed. The team officials called Monday to give me the itinerary and that's when I had to tell them he was too sick to go." Paul Palomino was too sick to fight last month; it was only a cold, but it was fatal, as was a defeat by Ms friend David Rodriguez at the same time. Both fought in a local Los Angeles Golden Gloves tournament last month. "They were eliminated," said Johnny Flores, a Los Angeles Youth AC instructor. "Otherwise they would have been going to the Golden Gloves nationals next Tuesday and would not have been on that flight Palomino lost be default because he had a cold." LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT Tony Tucker was more fortunate. A recent arm injury forced him to forego the trip to Poland at the last moment. "He didn't call us or anything, he just came home from the airport in a cab," said Mattie Tucker, the 21-year-old boxer's mother. .- "I was supposed to go but I didn't feel up to it because of my health of late," said Dr. Edwin Campbell, the medical director of the N.Y. State Boxing Commission" who is also National Commissioner for Sports Medicine. "They spoke to me about going a few weeks ago and I had to beg of f." Edith Steeples, mother of Lemuel Steeples, the best known of the U.S. fighters on the plane, said a family friend had a premonition about the disaster. According to Mrs. Steeples, the friend phoned yesterday moring to tell her of a dream she had the night before about a plane crash. "Oh my God," cried Mrs. Steeples. "Maybe the Lord, was warning me." . - - Maybe Tom (Sarge) Johnson, the universally loved and respected coach who made Indianapolis the capital of amateur boxing, had been warned, too. - During the Korean war, Johnson coached boxing in the military. "So many of my boys were killed in Korea," lie once related, "that I stopped coaching for a while." , But he returned to the sport and the boys he loved. Yesterday he shared the fate of some of them. Gloom lispps ovQu Hlln CBSws . comissftiftion By TOM HAN RAH AN It wasn't supposed to be like this. The television cameras, the bright lights, the mikes they were supposed to be later, after the championships had been fought But with the deaths of 22 members of the U.S. amateur boxing team the mood before last night's 54th Golden Gloves Finals was terse, reflective and sad. "He was a dynamite kid, no if s, ands or buts about it" said George Hankins, coach of the Fort Apache Boxing Club. He knew George Pimentel well. Pimentel, 19, who lived in Queens, was one of the members who died in the crash of a Polish airlines plane near Warsaw Airport "He was just a super, super kid," was heard again and again as the 44 fighters competing in last night's finals gathered at Madison Square Garden for the weigh-in. "I was shocked," said Kenny Mitchell, who fought Pimentel five times, the last time in this year's semifinals, which Mitchell won. It was the fight of his life. And yesterday, as he stood on the scales weighing 119 pounds, he knew that no matter what happened in last night's finals that fie was lucky. - "I had dinner with him the day before he left," said Pedro Hernandez, another fighter in last night's Golden Gloves finals. "He was so excited. He wanted to go so bad, because he felt that once he stopped fighting he'd , never have the chance to travel again." "He was an ambitious kid," said Robert Lee, another coach in the Gloves who knew Pimentel well. "He wanted very badly to go to the Olympics. He had a sweet personality and he was a rare type who could get along with anybody." "I opened up the gym for him special last Sunday so he could get a workout," recalled Tommy Gallagher, of the South Queens Boys Club. "He sparred with Davey Sears, a 178 pounder." Other fighters promised to dedicate their efforts last night to the memory of Pimentel. "He was the nicest kid in the world," said Ramon Nieto. "And I'm gonna go out there tonight with him in mind." - Alex Ramos, who would have been on that ill-fated plane if it were not for the Golden Gloves and who was slated to fight Nieto in the finals, expressed similar feelings. "I thank God that I'm here tonight I feet very depressed especially because a lot of the AAU people didn't want me to fight in the Gloves. And if I had listened to them, I would have been on the plane too So it was with a bit of sadness that those who had , fought so hard to make the finals entered the ring last night - I ere is a chronchogical listing of air disasters involving major sports fi-I gures; 1331 Football coach Knute Rockne dies when his Kght plane crashes in Kansas cornfield. 1949 Marcel Cerdan. ex-middleweight champ, dies in crash in the Azores and 18 members of Turin. Italy, soccer team perish when their plane crashes into a cathedral. 1350 13 Brazilian athletes die in plane crash. - 1956 Baseball p!ayer Tom GastaH of the Oriotes and six members of the Czechos-tovafcian hockey team die in separate crashes. 1953 Seven members of Manchester United soccer team are killed in plane crash in Munich. Sports air disasters 1960 Eight members of the Danish Soccer Club die in an crash at Copenhagen and 16 members of California Polytechnic football team perish in a crash at Toledo, Ohio. 1961 The 17-member U.S. figure skating team is killed in a crash at Brussels, Belgium. 1 964 Baseball player Kenny Hubbs, the 1962 Rookie of the Year in the NL, dies in crash of his private plane in Provo, Utah. 1966 Golf pro Tony Lema and his wife die in crash of smalt plane near Lansing, Mich. 1963 Four members of Lamar Tech track team die in crash returning from the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. 1969 Ex-heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano dies in crash in Newton, Iowa, and tennis star Rafael Osuna is killed in crash In' Europe. 1970 Fourteen members of the Wichita State football team die when one of two charter planes carrying the team crashes tn Colorado on the way to Logan, Utah; 35 members of the Marshall football team are killed when itb plane crashes on approach to . the Huntington, W. Va.. airport 1973 Baseball star Roberto Clemente is killed in a crash off coast of Puerto Rico while on a goodwill mission to Nicaragua. 1975 Basketball player Wendell Ladner of Nets is killed in crash of a commercial airplane at New York's, Kennedy Airport and race car driver Graham HiH is killed in crash of a private plane in London. ' 1977 Fourteen members of Evansville basketball team and Coach Bob Watson are among 29 killed in crash of charter plane. 1979 All-star catcher Thurman Munson of the Yankees is killed when his private Jet crashes during a practice landing at Akron, Ohio, airport; 1 7 members of a Russian soccer team are killed when two passenger planes-collide over the Ukraine. 1980 LSU football Coach Bo Rein is killed when his private plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Portsmouth, Va.

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