ESPN recently listed the most shocking moments in Professional Football and of the top three, the Detroit Lions had second and third place (Alex Karras suspension and Chuck Hughes death respectively). Only the OJ Simpson trial ranked higher. Unfortunately the Lions have had more than their fair share of disasters and death, probably more than any other professional team (although I have not researched any other teams).
The Lions are the only professional football team to have a player actually die while on the field during a game. I remember watching this game with my father and about 15 minutes or so after the game it was announced that Chuck had died. Total shock. They have had both a player and a coach die while working in their gardens (these were active players, not retired seniors).
Below are other deaths and disasters that have plagued the Lions in the last 50 years.
Died when his boat capsized after one of the passengers tried to throttle forward in an attempt to pry loose the anchor. The Lions held a memorial service for him on March 21, 2009.
Suffered paralysis while making a tackle, the same day Barry Sanders broke the 2000 yard mark for the year.
Died in the off season while working in his yard by a truck who’s driver had fallen asleep.
Paralyzed on the field on what looked like a routine play during the Lions most successful season since the curse went into effect.
The Lions 1987 First Round Pick Broke his neck and was convicted of negligent homicide in an alcohol related automobile crash that killed 3 teens.
Hopes were high that Superbowl Winning Coach McCafferty would develop the Lions into a Superbowl winner, but he died of a heart attack while working in his yard during the off season.
Died on the field while returning to the huddle in the final two minutes of a Bears upset win over the Lions
Kennedy Assasination & Bill Ford purchase of Detroit Lions share front page of newspaper on the same day – Nov 23, 1963
Died in the off season of a heart attack after his rookie season
A year after Bill Ford was voted Lions President, The Ford Rotunda (The fifth most popular tourist attraction in the country) burned down.
After 27 years of being the Lions mascot, William Baker was found dead on a sidewalk near Woodward Avenue.