• Underneath their colored stockings, professional baseball players wear white sanitary hose. Why? In and before 1905, players wore only the socks bearing the colors of their team. However, in 1905, a player sliding into second base cut Napoleon Lajoie’s foot. The dye from his colored socks seeped into the wound and he came down with a bad case of blood poisoning. He survived and continued to play baseball, but as a precautionary measure players began to wear white sanitary hose.
• While playing at the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament in Vail, Colorado, baseball great Yogi Berra split his pants. The crowd was amused to see that Mr. Berra was wearing Yogi Bear undershorts.
• In figure skating, people fiercely compete to get the best coach. The mother of a young figure skater once telephoned Frank Carroll, who has coached Michelle Kwan, at 2:30 a.m., although he was asleep and had to get up at 4:30 a.m. The skating mother explained, “I thought this was the only time that I could get through to you.” Mr. Carroll responded by living without a telephone for the next three years.
• Michelle Kwan is a United States and World Champion figure skater. From her coach, Frank Carroll, she has learned to keep going after a fall — even during practice. According to Mr. Carroll, a fall can be the most important part of a practice, because it may be the only time you ever practice continuing to a strong finish in your program after recovering from that particular fall.
• A Notre Dame basketball team played badly, trailing 15 points at halftime. Coach George Keogan angrily and methodically ripped each player apart at halftime, going from one to the other in order. Finally, he looked at Marty Peters and asked, “What have you got to say for yourself?” Mr. Peters replied, “Only this, coach — I haven’t gotten into the game yet.”
• Bob Zuppke coached the football Illini for years. In a discussion of football rules, someone described a play and asked whether the officials had made the right call. Before answering, however, Mr. Zuppke asked, “Which team made the foul — Illinois or the other one?”
• A baseball player named Thurman Tucker, a White Sox outfielder, looked a lot like the famous comedian Joe E. Brown. One day, Mr. Brown watched a game in which Mr. Tucker went to bat 9 times, but made only one hit. After the game, Mr. Brown went to the White Sox clubhouse, where he told Mr. Tucker, “Look, if you’re going to look like me, hit like me.” Mr. Tucker replied, “I’m afraid that’s just what I’ve been doing.”
• Groucho Marx once captained a charity baseball game between the Comedians and the Actors. He ordered Jack Benny to step up to the plate and hit a home run, but Mr. Benny promptly struck out. This caused Groucho to resign, complaining, “I can’t manage a team that won’t follow instructions.”
• When Jackie Gleason was a struggling nightclub comedian, famous ice skater Sonja Henie walked in during one of his performances. Mr. Gleason handed her an ice cube and said, “Do something.”
• The longest winning streak ever in college sports — 131 straight games in the 1950s — is held by the Flying Queens of Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas. This team, coached by Harley Redin, did a Harlem Globetrotter-type warmup before games, and they were so famous that the school bought them a private plane so they could perform exhibitions across the country. In 1958, the Flying Queens played Nashville Business College in the AAU championship game, and Nashville Business College won, despite a valiant come-from-behind effort by the Flying Queens. With 15 seconds left on the clock, the game definitely lost, and many players on the team crying because their 131-game winning streak was over, Coach Redin called time out. He told his players — tears streaming from their eyes — in the huddle, “I called time out so I could tell you this. I want you to go back out there and lose. And I want you to lose with the same kind of class that you’ve won with for the past five years.” This is the moment the players on the team most remember — and remember as thrilling.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Buy