5 Philly athletes who faced untimely deaths

As fans, family and friends take part in a celebration of Roy Halladay’s life Tuesday at the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla.,  a week after the former pitcher died in a plane crash, we take a look back on the lives of five other Philadelphia athletes who also died young.

Jerome Brown

  • Born: 1965
  • Died: 1992 (age 27)
Camera icon File Photo
During the 1988 season, Reggie White and teammates Jerome Brown (99) and Todd Bell (52) shared a laugh at practice with head coach Buddy Ryan.

Jerome Brown was the Philadelphia Eagles’ star defensive tackle in the early 1990s, the anchor of a defensive line still remembered for its ferocity and depth. The Eagles drafted Brown with their No. 1 pick — ninth overall — in the 1987 draft. He played six pro seasons, earning Pro Bowl berths in 1990 and in 1992.

But on June 25, 1992, as Brown sped down wet side roads in his hometown of Brooksville, Fla., with his 12-year-old nephew, his Corvette skidded out of control and hit a tree. Both Brown, and his nephew, were killed. Brown was 27.

Hank Gathers

  • Born: 1967
  • Died: 1990 (age 23)
Camera icon Kendall Wilkinson
Dobbins Tech’s Hank Gathers (left) and Bo Kimble in 1985.

Philadelphia was rooting for Hank Gathers in 1990. Despite having chosen to grow his star-power at Loyola Marymount University instead of a Big Five school, the 6-foot-7 center was one of us. Raised on the busted and broken courts in North Philadelphia, Gathers rose to stardom with friend Bo Kimble at Murrell Dobbins Technical High School, winning the Public League title in 1985. After a brief stint at the University of Southern California, the duo transferred to Loyola and flourished under former La Salle University head coach Paul Westhead’s run-and-gun offense.

At the height of his power, Gathers collapsed during the first half of a West Coast Conference tournament game on March 4, 1990. An autopsy later revealed that Gathers suffered from an abnormal heartbeat. He was 23.

Andre Waters

  • Born: 1962
  • Died: 2006 (age 44)
Camera icon Al Pereira/WireImage
Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters during the Eagles 17-14 victory over the Washington Redskins on Nov. 28, 1993, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Andre Waters found a home in the city of underdogs. Signed in 1984 by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Cheyney State University, the undersized defensive back quickly endeared himself to fans for his hard-hitting style and tough-guy persona. He also garnered a reputation around the league as a cheap-shot artist, famously earning the nickname “Dirty Waters.” Naturally, the city loved him. After 10 season in Philadelphia, he finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals in 1995.

What came next, a leading forensic pathologist attributed to brain damage suffered during his career: Waters, a father of three, died of a self-inflicted gunshot on Nov. 20, 2006, in Tampa, Fla. His death came three days before Thanksgiving. He was 44.

Pelle Lindbergh

  • Born: 1959
  • Died: 1985 (age 26)
Camera icon Bruce Johnson / For the Philadelphia Daily News
Pelle Lindbergh at practice in 1985.

Pelle Lindbergh was the next one: The chosen successor to hall of famer Bernie Parent, and the goalie who would help guide the Flyers and the city to future Stanley Cup titles. The native of Sweden joined the Flyers in 1980; at the time, he was the only star European goalie in the NHL. Combining a flashy playing style with a playboy lifestyle, he won the hearts of Philly fans who would routinely fill the Spectrum with cheers of “Pel-le, Pel-le, Pel-le.” In the 1984-85 season, he won the Vezia Trophy, bestowed upon the best goalie in the NHL, and led the Flyers to the final round of the Stanley Cup finals.

But on Nov. 10, 1985, he slammed his bright red sports car into a concrete wall in front of an elementary school in Somerdale, Camden County. Tests taken in the hospital emergency room showed Lindbergh’s blood alcohol content at .24 percent. He was declared brain dead, and taken off life support on Nov. 15. He was 26.

Ed Delahanty

  • Born: 1867
  • Died: 1903 (age 35)
Camera icon File photo
The Phillies’ Ed Delahanty.

Which brings us to one of baseball’s first great power hitters and superstars, Ed Delahanty, who played for the Phillies from 1888 to 1889, and then again from 1891 to 1901. During his second act, he was routinely one of the top three power hitters in the league, and held the team record for most consecutive games with a hit (31)  for 106 years, until Jimmy Rollins broke it in 2005. In 1902, he was among a group of National League stars who protested the newly created salary cap and bolted for the upstart American League. He joined the Washington Senators, winning that year’s American League batting title. (Some historians dispute that claim, which would make him the only player to win both the American League and National League crowns.)

But in 1903, with the team underperforming, and Delahanty’s penchant for collecting debt and his fondness for alcohol increasing, he abruptly left the team after a loss in Detroit. Hoping to catch on with a National League team, he boarded a train for New York. After drinking heavily, he allegedly became intoxicated and disorderly, and was kicked off the train. He decided to walk across a bridge connecting Buffalo with Canada near Niagara Falls, and he either fell or jumped off the bridge. He was 35.

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