David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Audiences, Autographs, Birth

Audiences

• Believe it or not, changing your hairstyle suddenly can put you at a disadvantage in competitive gymnastics. In Moscow, at the 1958 World Championships, Soviet gymnast Polina Astakhova suddenly decided to change to a more fashionable hairstyle, so instead of pulling her hair back into a bun as she usually did, she wore pigtails decorated with blue ribbons. Unfortunately, because of the change in hairstyles, the audience did not recognize her and so they did not give her the burst of applause that can be so helpful in releasing adrenaline and influencing judges. Of course, as soon as she was able, she went back to her usual hairstyle, and the audience recognized her and gave her the usual ovation.

Autographs

• Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes once visited the troops in Vietnam to boost their morale. During one stop, he spoke to the troops, then asked if there was anyone from Ohio who was not able to be present because of duty. After finding out that an Ohio soldier was on guard duty in an unsafe zone, Mr. Hayes insisted that a helicopter take him to the soldier, where he attempted to autograph a photograph for the soldier but discovered that his only pen was out of ink. He told the soldier, “Come see me when you get home and I’ll finish signing the picture.” Three years later, the ex-soldier was attending Ohio State University. When he went to Mr. Hayes’ office, the coach wasn’t there, but the ex-soldier did leave his telephone number. After attending classes, the soldier went home and found Mr. Hayes waiting for him. Mr. Hayes finished signing the photograph, then stayed for a dinner of macaroni and cheese with the ex-soldier and his wife.

• Figure skater Carol Heiss won five gold medals at the World Championships, a silver medal at the 1956 Olympics, and a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. Oddly, to many people only one of those medals means anything. One day, at the Winterhurst Figure Skating Club in Lakewood, Ohio, a woman came in who didn’t know Ms. Heiss. They started talking, and the woman discovered that Ms. Heiss had won the silver medal at the 1956 Olympics. The woman said, “Oh, that’s too bad … what did you go on to do after that?” Ms. Heiss said that she had continued to compete and had won Olympic gold in 1960. Hearing this, the woman was suddenly impressed and wanted Ms. Heiss’ autograph. Ms. Heiss gave her the autograph, but she also told her, “I’m very proud of my silver medal in 1956. First time I made the Olympic team, and I’m on the podium.”

• As an 11-year-old, gymnast Shannon Miller finished second (behind Wendy Bruce) in the all-around competition in the Alamo Classic. Afterward, the pre-teen Shannon signed autographs for her adoring fans. In fact, when her father, Ron, went up to talk to her, other parents grew angry at him because they thought he was cutting in line.

• In 1992, Dominique Moceanu, then a member of the junior national gymnastics team, had her goal set to compete in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. When asked by fans to sign her autograph, she often wrote, “Dominique Moceanu, Atlanta Olympics, for sure!” She won a team gold medal in Atlanta.

• “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was one of baseball’s greatest hitters in the early 1900s, but he was also nearly illiterate and sometimes signed his name with an “X.” Frequently, fans would mail requests for autographed baseballs to his house, but it was his wife, Katie, who signed his name to the baseballs.

• Gordon Gee, the former president of the Ohio State University, looks like Lou Holtz, the coach of the Notre Dame football team. One day, someone asked Mr. Gee for his autograph, which he willingly gave. The fan looked at the autograph, then asked, “Who are you? I thought you were Lou Holtz.”

Birth

• When Russian ice skater Ekaterina Gordeeva was giving birth in New Jersey to her daughter (Daria), she was in terrific pain. Her doctor offered to give her a shot to make the pain go away, but she had to read and sign a form — written in English, of course — first. Ekaterina’s husband, Sergei Mikhailovich Grinkov, didn’t speak English, and because she was in such great pain, she wasn’t able to read the form (at that point, she wasn’t able to think in English anymore). Still, because she wanted the pain to go away, she signed the form, even though she was afraid that the form would maybe also make her car and her Rolex go away.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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