Milan Stitt

Playwright and educator

Milan Stitt, 68, a playwright best known for "The Runner Stumbles," a drama about a fateful encounter in 1911 between a Catholic priest and a nun, died Thursday of liver cancer at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York.

Since 1997 he had been head of the dramatic writing program at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama, which announced his death. He was chairman of the playwriting program at Yale University from 1987 to 1993.

Stitt reworked "The Runner Stumbles" many times before he settled on a version that was produced at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1974. A revision was staged in Stamford, Conn., the next year and then it landed on Broadway for an extensive run starting in 1976. It was later made into a Stanley Kramer film starring Dick Van Dyke and Kathleen Quinlan.

Stitt was born Feb. 9, 1941, in Detroit and studied at the University of Michigan, earning a bachelor's degree in 1963. He received a master's of fine arts in 1966 from Yale, where he began working on "The Runner Stumbles."

After college he held various writing, publicity and theater jobs. Following the success of "The Runner Stumbles," he worked as literary manager of the off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company.

Among his other writing credits were "Back in the Race" and "Labor Day."

Alf Pike

N.Y. Rangers player and coach

Alf Pike, 91, a member of the New York Rangers' 1940 Stanley Cup championship team who later coached the club, died March 1 in Calgary, Canada, the team said.

Pike joined the Rangers organization as a 19-year-old junior player in 1937 and made his NHL debut two years later in Detroit against the Red Wings. As a rookie on the championship team, Pike had eight goals and nine assists in the regular season and three goals and one assist in 12 playoff games. That team was the last Rangers club to capture the Stanley Cup before the 1994 squad won it.

"I'll never forget that year," Pike said. "In the opener of the Cup finals against Toronto, I accidentally kicked in Toronto's tying goal and then scored the winner in 15:30 of sudden death."

Pike played 234 NHL games over six seasons, all with New York, before he returned to his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to pursue a coaching career.

The forward, nicknamed "The Embalmer" because he had worked at a funeral home during the off-season, scored 42 career regular-season goals and added 77 assists. He had four goals and two assists in 21 playoff games.

Pike rejoined the Rangers organization as coach of its junior team in Guelph, Canada, in the early 1950s. He was promoted to Rangers coach during the 1959-60 season, replacing former teammate Phil Watson, and stayed through the 1960-61 season.

Pike's NHL career was interrupted by World War II, which caused him to miss the 1943-44 and 1944-45 seasons while he served in the Canadian military.

David S. Phelps

Professor of archaeology

David S. Phelps, 79, the archaeologist who unearthed a 16th century gold signet ring while exploring ties between native people and the doomed English colonists who first tried to settle the Outer Banks of North Carolina, died Feb. 21 at Fort Pierce, Fla. The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., reported his death this week but did not give the cause.

Phelps was professor emeritus of anthropology at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

The ring proved to have no apparent link to the 1587 English colony that vanished from Roanoke Island. But it was the first evidence that Sir Walter Raleigh's explorers had contacts with the Indians.

Phelps found the ring and other artifacts in 1998 near Croatan, now known as Buxton. He had retired from the university's Coastal Archaeology Office in 1996 but remained affiliated with the school. When he moved to Florida in 2000, he took the ring with him but returned it to the university in 2006.

-- Times staff and wire reports