David Bruce: Baseball Anecdotes

• On 9 July 2003, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon made a mistake and actually could have — unintentionally — hurt someone. The “Sausage Race” was being held; this is a race that features people wearing costumes depicting Bratwurst, Hot Dog, Italian Sausage, and Kielbasa. As a joke, Mr. Simon bopped “Italian Sausage” on the head with his bat. (The “head” of the sausage was above the head of the person wearing the sausage costume.) “Italian Sausage” fell and tripped “Hot Dog.” As a result, Mr. Simon was suspended and was fined. “Italian Sausage” was actually a woman named Mandy Block. She asked Mr. Simon for the bat he had used to bop her. Mr. Simon autographed the bat and gave it to her along with an apology. By the way, Ms. Block was interviewed many times as the incident became a media sensation. She said, “From my point of view, it’s crazy because I am not used to like being interviewed or anything. I’m like, ‘I’m just a sausage, guys. It’s not a big deal. I’m fine.’” A man named Mark Johnson had an unusual take on the situation: “He’s a professional athlete. He should be a role model. I think they should dress him up as the Hot Dog in the sausage race. Nobody ever likes the Hot Dog.”

• On 28 September 1941, the last day of the season, Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams had a mighty task ahead of him. He was batting .3995, which was .400 when rounded up. No one had hit .400 or better in the American League since Detroit Tiger Harry Heilmann had hit .403 in 1923, and no one had hit .400 or better in the National League since New York Giant Bill Terry had hit .401 in 1930. Mr. Williams could have a batting average of .400 for the season just by sitting out the last two games—a doubleheader—of the season. Instead, if he played both games, he would likely come to bat at least eight times, meaning that he would need at least four hits to keep his .400 batting average. Actually, Mr. Williams did not think that he had a .400 batting average. He said, “I figure a man’s a .400 hitter, or he’s not.” To Mr. Williams, a .3995 batting average was not a .400 batting average. He played in both games and made six hits (including four hits in five at-bats in the first game), raising his batting average to .406.

• A small gift can mean a lot—especially when it is given to you by your favorite major-league baseball player. During warm-ups before a July game in Fenway Park, young fan Dylan Sylvia was taking a photograph on his cell phone of his favorite player: Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. Mr. Beckett noticed him taking the photo and walked over and gave him a souvenir: a baseball. Dylan was very happy, jumping up and down with excitement and showing the baseball to his father. Dylan said, “It was awesome having Josh Beckett come and hand me the ball.” Actually, Dylan was so overwhelmed by the gift that he started crying. His father, Shannon, said, “I was very surprised. I didn’t think he [Dylan] was going to act like that. I thought he would jump around and go crazy. I didn’t think he was going to be so emotional—that it meant so much to him—but it did. It was a good moment.”

• Pittsburgh Pirate Willie Stargell started a number of chicken restaurants in Pittsburgh, including one in the Hill District, an impoverished area. Mr. Stargell’s restaurants were tuned in to his games, and whenever he hit a home run people in his restaurants got free chicken. Pittsburgh Pirate radio broadcaster Bob Prince used to wish for a Stargell home run by saying on the air, “Spread some chicken on the Hill, Will.” By the way, Mr. Stargell started the Stargell Foundation, which works toward finding a cure for sickle-cell anemia. When he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from St. Francis College for his humanitarian work, he joked, “I guess this means I’m a doctor now. Does anyone want to volunteer for surgery?”

• Baseball pitching great George “Rube” Waddell was definitely an eccentric. Occasionally, he would leave the dugout during a game in order to follow a passing fire truck so he could watch the fire. As a joke, he would sometimes “catch” his own foot instead of the baseball, but he was such a good pitcher that normally he got the next batter out on strikes. By the way, he was a kind man who carried bags of peanuts in the pockets of his baseball uniform so he could throw peanuts to kids watching the game.

• Louis “Sweet Lou” Johnson, a Dodger, claimed to have three ears. In a way he was right. While playing baseball in Mexico, he lost part of an ear when a tire blew out on the team bus. After the ear was found, the trainer made an incision in Sweet Lou’s stomach and stitched the ear there to keep it alive until it could be reattached. However, Sweet Lou never bothered to get the ear reattached and so he claimed to have three ears.

• Actor Peter Falk got cancer of the eye—retina blastoma—when he was three years old, and doctors removed one of his eyes to stop the cancer. The operation was successful, and he lived a long time. While in high school, he played baseball. Once, he was called out at third base. He felt that he had been obviously safe, so he took out his glass eye and gave it to the third-base umpire, saying, “You’ll do better with this one.”

• Baseball great Mickey Mantle once golfed with Don Cherry and kept flubbing shots. When Mr. Mantle hit the ball in a creek, he destroyed his club—a 3 iron. Later, when he hit the ball 200 yards out of bounds, he destroyed his club—another 3 iron. Mr. Cherry asked about the duplicate 3 irons, and Mr. Mantle said, “I got six of them.” Mr. Cherry asked, “How come you got six 3 irons?” Mr. Mantle replied, “Because I hate them.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.









John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce





William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce




Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:A Retelling in Prose


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