Oakland A's reliever Pat Neshek took the mound on Oct. 6, 2012, in the ALDS vs. the Tigers just days after the death of his newborn son. Gehrig Neshek was born without trouble on Oct. 2, and the new family celebrated Wednesday afternoon as the Athletics beat the Rangers to win the AL West title. That evening — just 23 hours after his birth — Gehrig suddenly stopped breathing, dying as baffled doctors tried to save him. "I know it sounds like a cliche, but I really felt like there was someone watching over me and helping me throw that last pitch," Neshek said after Game 1, fighting back tears. "That was the best slider I've thrown all year." After striking out Austin Jackson to end the seventh inning, Neshek made his way off the field, looked toward his wife and reached up to touch the "GJN" patch on his right sleeve — a patch worn by all of the Athletics to honor Gehrig John Neshek's short life.
In 2010, the Virginia women's lacrosse team had to put the tragedy of teammate Yeardley Love's death (allegedly at the hands of men's team member George Huguely) behind them and somehow focus on the NCAA tournament. Both the men's and women's teams wore T-shirts in memory of Love before their games, and both opened with tournament victories. The men defeated Mount St. Mary's, 18-4 while the women beat Towson, 14-12. The Virginia lacrosse squads join the following list of teams and individuals who played on after tragedy.
Bo Kimble and Loyola Marymount
While playing in a West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal game, Loyola Marymount University star Hank Gathers (left) collapsed on the court and died, the result of a genetic heart muscle disorder. The tournament was canceled and LMU was awarded the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the regular-season title. Once there, the Lions went on a magical run, routing heavily favored Michigan and reaching the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion UNLV. In each game, Gathers' teammate Bo Kimble (right), shot his first free throw left-handed to honor his fallen friend.
Just two days before the start of the women's figure skating competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canadian national champion Joannie Rochette's mother died suddenly of a heart attack. Rochette chose to compete in her mother's honor … and did she ever do mom proud. After setting a personal best in the short program, Rochette held on to win bronze and was later awarded the first Terry Fox award for her inspiring performance in the face of adversity.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Just hours after highly touted Angels prospect Nick Adenhart made his 2009 season debut, pitching six shutout innings against the Oakland A's, the 22-year-old was killed when the car in which he was riding was hit by a drunk driver. After initially struggling on the field following the tragedy, the Angels recovered and went on to win the American League West. After clinching the division, the team would spray Adenhart's jersey with champagne, then head back out onto the field to have its picture taken in front of an outfield wall memorial honoring their former teammate.
Hours after the world marveled at the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, tragedy struck the Games. Todd and Barbara Bachman, the parents of former U.S. Olympian Elisabeth Bachman and the in-laws of the U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon (center), were attacked while visiting the Drum Tower, a centuries-old tourist attraction. Todd Bachman was fatally stabbed, while his wife suffered "life-threatening" wounds. McCutcheon would miss the first three matches of the tournament, but would return to lead the Americans to gold.
On April 6, 1995, Ben Crenshaw served as a pallbearer for Harvey Penick, his longtime coach and noted golf author. On April 7, the 59th Masters began. Playing with a heavy heart — and a 43-year-old back — Crenshaw was hardly considered a contender to win a second green jacket. But playing with what he called "a 15th club" in his bag, Crenshaw paid homage to his former teacher, edging Davis Love III by a stroke to become the second-oldest Masters champion ever.
The day Brett Favre's father died of a heart attack, the Green Bay Packers quarterback met with his team and told them he had no intention of abandoning them on the eve of their most important game of the season — a Monday night showdown with the Oakland Raiders with playoff implications. Favre then proceeded to throw for 311 yards and four touchdowns … in the first half. He would ultimately complete 22 of 30 passes for 399 yards, while guiding his team to a 41-7 win that Irvin Favre undoubtedly would have enjoyed.
On Nov. 14, 1970, 37 members of the Marshall University football team and most of the coaching staff were killed in a plane crash while returning from a game against East Carolina. Marshall almost didn't field a team in the 1971 season, but after receiving a special dispensation from the NCAA to let freshmen play and encouraging athletes from other sports to join the team, new head coach Jack Lengyel guided the Thundering Herd to a last-minute win over Xavier in the team's first home game after the tragedy.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his victory lap at the 2001 Pepsi 400, he got on the in-car radio and announced to his crew, "Y'all know who that's for, guys." You better believe we all knew. It was for Dale Earnhardt Sr., who had died on that very track less than five months earlier. And in true Intimidator fashion, Junior charged from sixth with six laps back to claim the emotional win.