Kitson, Blast star in '80s, dead at 49 in Toronto

Popular player a key cog on 1983-84 MISL champs

Pro Soccer

August 27, 2005|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Paul Kitson, one of the more popular players from the Blast's indoor soccer glory days of the early 1980s, died yesterday morning in a Toronto hospital, one day after collapsing while coaching his youth soccer team.

No cause of death was known, and an autopsy was scheduled, a Blast spokesman said last night. The spokesman also said Kitson had not had any known health problems recently.

Kitson, 49, played on the 1983-84 Major Indoor Soccer League championship team and was known for the pet snake that he often had draped around his neck. Kitson also charmed Blast fans with a dance he did with the snake. He also coached the Maryland Mania for most of its one-season bust in the outdoor A-League in 1999.

"Paul was more than a soccer player," former Blast teammate Billy Ronson said last night. "He was a personality. We used to kid him about living off Stan [Stamenkovic] at the far post."

Ronson said he played only a few months with Kitson before the midfielder/forward was traded, and Ronson remembers his reaction to being asked by coach Kenny Cooper if "I could fill his big shoes."

Ronson answered, "I don't know, but I want No. 7 [Kitson's number]."

Kitson played three seasons for the Blast (1983-86) and ranks 10th on the original Blast all-time scoring list with 165 points. He scored 94 goals and had 71 assists in 129 games.

The Kitson era marked a time when the Blast was a major event in the city, with the team often playing before sellout crowds.

Kitson is the fourth member of those Blast teams to die at a young age, following Stamenkovic, Michael Reynolds and Domenic Mobilio.

Kitson returned to Baltimore often in recent years when the team held Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and was also a favorite with current Blast fans.

Funeral arrangements had not been completed as of last night.

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