• At the 1956 Olympics, Austrian skier Anton “Toni” Sailer almost did not get to skate in the downhill race. As he was tightening his boot straps, one of them broke, and no one on his team had a replacement. In an act of remarkably good sportsmanship, an Italian team trainer gave Mr. Sailer a strap. Mr. Sailer won the gold medal.
• One Halloween, basketball player Michael Jordan had to play an out-of-town game for the Chicago Bulls. Since he didn’t want the neighborhood children to miss out on any Halloween candy, he put this sign on his apartment door: “Dear Kids, I’ll Be Back In Three Days If You Want Trick Or Treat.”
• Jay Kirke got hits in the major leagues until the opposing pitchers found out he couldn’t hit a curve ball. After that, of course, he saw nothing but curve balls and was soon sent down into the minor leagues — where he also saw nothing but curve balls. In one game, however, an opposing outfielder, who was intent on throwing out a man, made a wild throw — right at Mr. Kirke, who was waiting to bat. Mr. Kirke, instead of getting out of the way of the ball, swung his bat and hit the ball as hard as he could. Of course, the umpire ruled interference on the play. When Mr. Kirke’s manager asked him what he had been thinking, he replied, “That’s the first ball I’ve seen in months that didn’t have a curve. I just couldn’t resist hitting it.”
• Sometimes a major-league pitcher will get a little of his own back by throwing a knock-down pitch at a lesser hitter after the big bats have roughed him up. In one 1947 game, the New York Giants — a hard-hitting ball team — got three home runs in a row by Sid Gordon, Johnny Mize, and Walker Cooper. The next batter was Buddy Blattner — definitely not one of the big bats on his team. Mr. Blattner bit the dust twice on knock-down pitches, made his usual out, then returned to the dugout. Mr. Cooper said to him, “I’ll say one thing, Blattner — they really respect you.”
• New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra was a bad-ball hitter, meaning that he could connect with bad pitches and make a hit off them. Once, with two out in the bottom half of the ninth, two runners on base, and the Yankees behind by two runs, Mr. Berra hit a pitch that was close to his ankles for a game-winning three-run home run. When the losing pitcher was asked if he knew of a way to get Mr. Berra out, he replied, “Yeah. With a pistol.”
• When the New York Yankees were playing in Chicago, the game was tied in extra innings and Yankee traveling secretary Mark Roth worried about whether the game would end in time for the team to catch the train. Babe Ruth heard Mr. Roth expressing his worries, and he told him, “Don’t worry, Mark. We’ll make that train. I’ll fix that.” Going up to bat a few minutes later, Babe hit a game-winning home run. The Yankees caught the train.
• As a bad-ball hitter, Yogi Berra would swing at bad balls and get hits off them. While he was playing Triple A baseball with the Newark Bears in 1946, his manager tried to get him to stop swinging at baseballs not in the strike zone. The manager said, “Yogi, next time you’re up, think about what you’re doing.” After striking out in three pitches, Mr. Berra decided, “You can’t hit and think at the same time.”
• “Shoeless Joe” Jackson claimed to have hit the world’s longest home run. According to Mr. Jackson, he hit a home run out of a baseball park in his native South Carolina. The baseball landed in a Southern Railroad rail car that was traveling by the ballpark. Later, the baseball was found in the rail car in Washington D.C. — 500 miles away from where Mr. Jackson had hit it.
• Hank Aaron came up to bat in the 1957 World Series, and the opposing catcher, Yogi Berra, told him, “You got the bat facing the wrong way. Turn it around so you can see the trademark.” Mr. Aaron replied, “Didn’t come up here to read. Came up here to hit.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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