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Jim Shoulders, 79; the 'Babe Ruth of rodeo' also starred in beer ads

Obituaries | PASSINGS

June 21, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Jim Shoulders, 79, who built his name as a rodeo cowboy and achieved added fame as a beer pitchman, died Wednesday at his ranch near Henryetta, Okla. He had a longtime heart ailment, his son Marvin Paul Shoulders said.

Often called the Babe Ruth of rodeo, Jim Shoulders won 16 world championships, the most of any rodeo cowboy, and was a charter member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Years after riding his final bull in 1970, Shoulders starred in popular TV commercials for Miller Lite with former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin, who yelped to Shoulders, "I didn't punch that doggie!"

Shoulders, who was born in Tulsa in 1928, was 14 when he entered his first rodeo and was 21 when he won his first world title in 1949. He ended up with five world championships in all-around, seven in bull riding and four in bareback.

Shoulders was "the best rodeo cowboy ever," said Jim Bainbridge, a spokesman for the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Shoulders, who broke his nose, pelvis, collarbone and legs over the years, downplayed the injuries he suffered riding bulls.

"They hadn't invented concussions back then," he would say. "Back then, when you got knocked out, they threw a pail of water on you."

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