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Monday, December 20, 2010

Mickey Pfleger, 'The Luckiest Person In The World,' Dies at 61

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 3:25 PM

click to enlarge Mickey Pfleger in his natural environment - BRAD MANGIN
  • Brad Mangin
  • Mickey Pfleger in his natural environment

If serendipity had a human form, it had to be Mickey Pfleger.

You may not remember Pfleger's name, but you may well remember his story. A series of events that led the ace freelance sports photographer to dub himself 'the luckiest person in the world' began just over 10 years ago on Nov. 12, 2000 at Candlestick Park. Pfleger's lucky break came when the Kansas City Chiefs' tight end Tony Gonzalez -- 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, fast as a wide receiver, and wearing armor that essentially transformed him into a human tank -- ran, full-speed, into him.

Pfleger died on Friday at age 61. But you're reading this obituary now and not a decade ago because of that horrific impact with Tony Gonzalez. In a twist even the most treacly of filmmakers would have considered too rich, the CT scan Pfleger received at General Hospital revealed a large brain tumor. Of course that tumor would never have been detected if not for a chance encounter with an NFL football player. In short, being flattened by Gonzalez saved Pfleger's life.

"One night, about 5 nights after surgery, while lying in my hospital bed, I had an incredible feeling, which is very hard to put into words. I knew, at that time, that my mind was working fine and that everything was very clear," wrote Pfleger shortly after his ordeal. "I was also getting many creative ideas. I don't remember a time in my life where my thoughts were so clear and precise. I was also given some really exciting visions into the future that I will be very excited to see if they come true. I really believe that they will."

click to enlarge Mickey Pfleger is down for the count after being bulldozed by Tony Gonzalez
  • Mickey Pfleger is down for the count after being bulldozed by Tony Gonzalez
It's uncertain if Pfleger was able to accomplish his newly instilled dreams. Complications of his surgery included seizures that left him unable to drive. He spent his last few years requiring live-in care before losing his fight with cancer on Friday. Life was hard. But he was able to live long enough to receive the compliments of the Bay Area's sports photography elite, who revered him. And he did see the birth of a grandson this year.

click to enlarge Mickey Pfleger's photo of Jerry Rice leaping into Steve Wallace's arms was used to commemorate the 49ers glory years on a postage stamp
  • Mickey Pfleger's photo of Jerry Rice leaping into Steve Wallace's arms was used to commemorate the 49ers glory years on a postage stamp
Services for Pfleger will be held sometime next month here in San Francisco. His son, Tai, is hoping to invite Tony Gonzalez to Pfleger's wake at Land's End.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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