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Decade of Sports: Saying Goodbye

As we count down to 2010, we're recounting some top moments in 10 categories from the last 10 years. Today, Tom Weir suggests the top people and things that have left the scene since 2000.

Dale Earnhardt

In NASCAR, nothing was worse for a driver than checking the rearview mirror and seeing "The Intimidator." Also known as "The Man in Black," Earnhardt attracted one of NASCAR's most loyal followings because of his aggressive racing style.

He won seven series championships, tied with Richard Petty for the most all time.

Earnhardt's death in a final-lap crash at the Daytona 500 in February 2001 forced the racing circuit to take a hard look at safety measures, and NASCAR began to require head and neck restraints.

Body suits for swimmers

In a sport where Olympic medals commonly are decided by fractions of a second, the obsession with tight-fitting, no-drag suits became paramount.

But they also played havoc with the record book and made the ever-faster times being produced in the pool seem irrelevant. In 2008 alone, 108 world records were set.

The bodysuits, made from polyurethane, were ridiculed as "doping on a hangar" or "Speedo surfboards."

On July 25, 2009, the international governing body announced that full-body suits would be banned in 2010. Then, men's competitive suits will go only from the waist to the knees and women's suits won't be allowed to go past the shoulders or below the knees.

John Madden

The Hall of Fame coach is still with us. He's just not in the broadcast booth anymore.

Madden coached the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI, but he gained more fame and knowing exactly when to limit explanations to a simple "Boom!" or "Pow!"

He popularized use of the telestrator, gave us the All-Madden Team and became the first major sports broadcaster to make stops at CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. He won 15 Emmys and had a streak of covering games on 476 consecutive football weekends that ended in the 2008 season.

Madden announced his retirement on April 16, 2009, saying, "It's time."

Curse of the Bambino

The Boston Red Sox supposedly had failed to win a World Series since 1918 because they were jinxed after selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in December 1919.

Before selling Ruth, the Red Sox had won five World Series. But from that point through 2003, their only Series appearances came in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, and each time they lost in seven games.

But when the Red Sox broke through in 2004, they did it in style, overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

The House That Ruth Built

The former ballpark at East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx can lay claim to being the world's most famous sports venue.

It was "The House That Ruth Built," built in 1923 for $2.4 million.

It also was home to Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

The Yankees played in 37 World Series there. The 1958 NFL championship, often referred to as the league's greatest game, was played there. Popes celebrated three Masses there, and there were numerous championship boxing matches.

Ted Williams

The "Splendid Splinter" died at the age of 83 on July 5, 2002. And he has stayed in the news because of notoriety stemming from his son's decision to have the body of baseball's last .400 hitter frozen.

Williams had a love-hate relationship with sportswriters, who didn't vote him the MVP in either of the two seasons he won the Triple Crown.

Besides his .344 career batting average, "Teddy Ballgame" also was known for never complaining about the two wartime stints he served as a Marine Corps pilot, depriving him of five seasons in his prime.

Automatic Cooperstown credentials

For decades, baseball's unwritten rules included the understanding that anyone who had 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or 300 pitching victories eventually would win a place in the Hall of Fame.

Revelations about the use of performance-enhancing drugs changed that.

Mark McGwire (583 career home runs) hasn't come remotely close to induction in his first three years on the ballot because of suspicions he used PEDs.

And there's an expectation that Rafael Palmeiro (569 homers, 3,020 hits), Barry Bonds (762 homers), Sammy Sosa (609 homers) and Roger Clemens (354 victories) all will face uphill struggles to get into Cooperstown, because of PED allegations or suspicions.

Perfect score in skating

Protests and suspicions erupted when a Russian team won the 2002 Olympic gold medal in the pairs event over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she had been pressured to favor the Russians, part of a deal to get judging help for a French ice dancing team. "Skategate" led to the judge's suspension, the Canadian team's "upgrade" to co-gold medalists and the abolition of the 6.0 scoring system. It was replaced by the Code of Points. Now, technical marks are awarded for each element and there's no such thing as a perfect score.

Arena Football League

Born in 1987, the indoor version of pro football died after 22 seasons in December 2008 when owners voted to cancel the 2009 season. It was partly a victim of the recession, and came to a halt even though attendance, television ratings and merchandise sale had increased the previous year.

Playing football in basketball and hockey arenas was the brainchild of James F. Foster Jr., a former executive with the NFL and USFL who patented the game. Foster got the idea while attending a Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star game. The first Arena Football game was played in 1987, between the Pittsburgh Gladiators and Washington Commandos.

The 85-foot-by-200-foot dimensions were the same as a standard NHL rink, and that smallness made for nearly unlimited offense.

Privacy

There was a time when many sports figures had a wink-wink relationship with the rest of the world.

The stories about groupies were kept hushed, and the public images of superstars tended not to get sullied unless athletes stepped outside the law.

But it's a new age with the advent of blogs and the realization by tabloids that fallen sports heroes also can boost circulation.

Photos of Grady Sizemore in various states of undress wound up on the Internet recently. And Tiger Woods, Rick Pitino and Steve Phillips all had details of extramarital affairs revealed at length in the past year.

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