• The world-famous opera singer Leo Slezak was a stamp collector. He once met a man who told him that he too was a stamp collector and that he could show Mr. Slezak some interesting specimens. Intrigued, Mr. Slezak took the stranger’s card and later visited him. Unfortunately, it turned out that the stranger wasn’t a stamp collector at all, but had contrived this as a way to get a celebrity to visit him and his family. Having trapped Mr. Slezak into visiting him, the stranger asked for free tickets to a concert and then tried to sell him insurance. After that, Mr. Slezak kept his hobby a secret from the public.
• Baseball scoreboards put up tons of information, including the batting average of the batter. In 1986, St. Louis Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog decided that this was hurting the team — four of his regular players were embarrassed because they were hitting under .200. However, the idea didn’t work. Fans noticed that the scoreboard was no longer displaying batting averages, so whenever a player came to bat, a fan would hold up a placard bearing that player’s batting average.
• George Majerkurth was an early umpire whom many fans loved because of his fighting ability. Once, a baseball fan who didn’t like him threw a soda pop bottle at him. The fan missed, but Mr. Majerkurth picked up the bottle, threw it, and hit the fan in the shoulder. On another occasion, Mr. Majerkurth got into a fight with a fan and punched him. As a result, he was fined, but the other fans took up a collection to pay his fine.
• Carol Klein was a young superfan who followed a singing group called the Tokens all over Brooklyn. Wherever the Tokens were performing, young Carol was sure to be there. Tokens member Neil Sedaka even wrote a song titled “Oh! Carol” and dedicated it to her. Years later, Carol Klein had become singer/songwriter Carol King, and she wrote a song titled “Oh! Neil” and dedicated it to him.
• Saul Bellow had a well-hidden house in Vermont, which was a retreat away from everything — until a member of The Saul Bellow Society tracked him down. Mr. Bellow was busy writing one day in his woodsy studio when he looked up to see a woman who began to describe how she had tracked him down. However, Mr. Bellow was not interested in the details — he ordered her off his property.
• Umpire Beans Reardon once made a mistake. Richie Ashburn slid into second base and Billy Cox attempted to tag him. Beans yelled “Safe,” but at the same time he flung his arm in the “Out” gesture. Mr. Ashburn asked, “What the hell does that mean?” Mr. Reardon replied, “Richie, you know you’re safe. Billy, you know he’s safe. But 30,000 fans see my arm. Richie, you’re out.”
• In 1961, the Philadelphia Phillies lost 23 straight games. As the baseball players departed from a plane in Philadelphia following a lengthy road trip, they found some fans waiting for them. Pitcher Frank Sullivan advised his teammates to “leave the plane in single file. That way they can’t get us with one burst.” Fortunately, the fans weren’t there to wreak havoc; instead, they welcomed the players with a show of support.
• The poet John Greenleaf Whittier disliked celebrity hunters. Once he was in a store talking with the owner when a woman came in and asked if he could tell her when the famous poet John Greenleaf Whittier lived. Mr. Whittier pointed to his own house, which was across the street. Then he made sure to keep away from his house until the celebrity hunter had left the vicinity.
• At the 1978 World Championships, gymnast Kurt Thomas won a gold medal in floor exercise — thus winning the United States its first gold medal ever at this level and becoming an instant celebrity. Immediately, he began receiving lots of fan letters from 12- and 13-year-old girls who had developed crushes on him. Each of these letters was answered — by Kurt’s wife, Beth.
• Back when Harry “Steamboat” Johnson was umpiring in the minor leagues, fans were much more violent than they are now. After one game in which the home team lost after a player hit a home run but failed to touch first base, fans surrounded Steamboat, who calmly pulled out a knife and used it to clean his fingernails. The fans decided not to engage in violence.
• For many years, Soviet athlete Albert Azaryan was the Lord of the Rings in men’s gymnastics. At a national championship tournament, a woman arrived late at the gym and asked, “When is Azaryan performing on the rings?” When she learned that he had already performed his routine, she started crying and explained, “But I only came here because of him.”
• Gymnast Vera Cáslavská of Czechoslovakia won 18 gold medals at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics Games. During an interview, a reporter asked her about her hobbies. She said that she collected postcards, and within three days after the interview appeared, fans had sent her 3,500 more postcards to add to her collection.
• After winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, women’s gymnastics teammate Amy Chow became a major celebrity. While attending her first year at Stanford University, she was forced to take her name down from her room in the dormitory because so many students were stopping by to congratulate her on her gold medal.
• On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob and Laura Petrie lived at 448 Bonnie Meadow Road in New Rochelle, New York. This was the real-life address of series creator Carl Reiner — except that he changed the number slightly so that fans of the series wouldn’t stop by and knock on his door.
• Customs vary from culture to culture. While Alexandra Danilova and Alicia Markova were dancing in Rio de Janeiro, fans would wait by the stage door after the performance. To show their appreciation for a fine performance, the fans threw firecrackers at the ballet dancers’ feet.
• Mickey Mantel was loved by his fans. When he retired, he received more than 50 scrapbooks as gifts from fans who had kept them during his baseball career.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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