The sports community is mourning the loss of two athletes that had taken the world by storm.
On Sunday morning, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident at age 24. He was an ace on the mound for the Marlins, pitching with one of the most infectious attitudes in baseball. He was a 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2016 MLB All-Star, overcoming Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Sunday also saw the loss of legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who passed away at 87 years of age. While many know him because of his famous half iced tea, half lemonade beverage, he was a stud on the links for more than five decades. “The King” finished his career in 2006 with 62 PGA Tour victories, good for fifth all-time, as well as seven major championship titles. He was the first television sports star, turning pro in the 1950s, and was a key catalyst in popularizing golf around the world.
While both of these athletes played in vastly different time periods, their impacts will have a lasting effect in their respective sports, as well as the entire sports community in general. One may have passed at an old age and the other at a young age, but they both played their games with the same amount of passion and grit. Both inspired thousands, even millions of young athletes, fans, and those who grew up in their shoes.
Palmer played throughout the middle and late 20th century into the 21st century. The world around him continued to change, from wars to U.S. presidents, to pop culture itself. He, along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, made up golf’s “Big Three.” With events starting to be televised, he was recognized across the country and over international waters.
Palmer’s legacy is one that will live on forever, being named in 2000 as the sixth-best golfer of all-time, and being one of the 13 original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He will continue to be remembered in pop culture and the media, and of course within the golf community with the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational being played annually each spring.
Fernandez has not had the time to create the legacy that Palmer did, but he impacted the game of baseball in his own special way. A Cuban immigrant after multiple attempts at defection by age 15, Fernandez made waves across the nation shortly after being drafted. He played with a passion that was seemingly unmatched, taking the field with a constant smile and being excited to wear a baseball jersey.
Being a Cuban-born athlete playing in Miami, the Cuban-American community, especially in South Florida, was also excited to see one of their own dominating some of the league’s best hitters. Many current players were left in tears the past few days, knowing that Fernandez could have been one of the best pitchers for years to come and had so much ahead of him. Sadly, he is no longer living his American Dream.
Throughout the past few days, it has been heartwarming to see the waves of support given to all of those affected by these losses. While Palmer’s has not gone unnoticed, there has been a high amount of coverage on the Fernandez side, given the tragic circumstances of a player and person who was so young. The tributes by the Marlins, several players, and the league as a whole show that everyone has each other’s backs and MLB has created a family-like atmosphere that cannot be broken.
We grieve in the losses of Arnold Palmer and Jose Fernandez. While the two lead different careers in their respective sports, it can be said that both of these people will have lasting legacies that will not soon be forgotten.
Matt Lamb is a broadcasting and visual media major from Howell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.