LONDON -- Alan Ball, the youngest member of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup, died after trying to put out a fire in his garden. He was 61.
Mr. Ball had collapsed outside his home, Hampshire police said yesterday. Mr. Ball apparently died of a heart attack during the night while trying to stop a compost heap fire, his son Jimmy said.
When he was 21, Mr. Ball was a key player for coach Alf Ramsey's "Wingless Wonders" team that beat West Germany 4-2 in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium . He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 for services to soccer.
"He was probably the best player that day, and if it had not been for his impact, the result could have been totally different," former teammate Bobby Charlton said.
"He was a sensational little player with great touch and great vision," Charlton said. "He had great close control and although he wasn't a fast player, he didn't need to be. He could see things clearly and always made the right decisions."
Mr. Ball is the second member of the 1966 team to die. The captain, Bobby Moore, died of cancer in 1993.
England players will wear black armbands before their first game at the new Wembley Stadium in honor of Mr. Ball.
Mr. Ball made 72 international appearances for England. The midfielder began his career at Blackpool and later played for Everton, Arsenal, and Southampton. He also played in the North American Soccer League with the Philadelphia Fury and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Blackpool players will observe a minute's silence before Saturday's game with Scunthorpe and wear black armbands. There will also be a minute of silence before Everton's Premier League game against Manchester United on Saturday.
Former Southampton teammate Kevin Keegan remembered Mr. Ball as a caring person who was "the life and soul of the party."
"I played with him when he was 38," Keegan said. "I had already been European Footballer of the Year twice, but he could teach me things that I'd never even thought about."