BLETHER: Rocky Marciano and Tony Lema died in air crashes

Tony Lema at The Open in St Andrews, 1964
Tony Lema at The Open in St Andrews, 1964

BwB has recently been giving samples from the Readers’ Queries file in the old Sporting Post.

SP Query – On April 21, 1990, ‘Scotty and Betty’ asked:

How did Rocky Marciano die and what was his record?

Also what was his real name?

How did golfer Tony Lema die and in which year did he win The Open?

SP Answer – Born Rocco Francis Marcheganio, Rocky Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969.

He was undefeated in 49 major fights, winning 43 by KO.

Lema (below) won The Open at St Andrews in 1964.

He also died in a plane crash in 1966.

On August 31, 1969 (the eve of his 46th birthday), Marciano was a passenger in a small private Cessna 172 heading to Des Moines, Iowa.

Pilot Glenn Belz tried to land the plane at a small airfield outside Newton, Iowa, but the aircraft hit a tree two miles short of the runway.

Also in the plane was Frankie Farrell, 28, the oldest son of Lew Farrell, a former boxer who had known Marciano since childhood.

All three were killed on impact.

Following the PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club, Akron, in late July, Lema and his wife Betty chartered an airplane to fly them to an exhibition tournament south of Chicago, the Little Buick Open at Lincolnshire Country Club in Crete, Illinois.

The twin-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, piloted by Doris Mullen, ran out of fuel and crashed into a water hazard short of the seventh green of the nine-hole Lansing Sportsman’s Club in Lansing, about a half-mile north-west of their destination.