David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — People with Handicaps

People with Handicaps

• Cordell Brown, who has cerebral palsy, is the founder of Echoing Hills Village, Inc., a non-profit organization that runs a summer camp and residences for adults with handicaps. He became a lifelong fan of football, in part because several Cleveland Browns players in training camp played with him and other children with handicaps while he was receiving treatment at Bowling Green University. Later, Mr. Brown became manager of his high school team, but because of his cerebral palsy, which made him uncoordinated, it was quite an experience for him to carry water to the team during a time out. Frequently, he arrived completely soaked and with no water at all left in the bucket.

• Doctors can’t explain why Carol Johnston was born with only one arm, but she didn’t let it stop her from becoming an All-American gymnast. Called “Lefty,” Ms. Johnston won silver medals on balance beam and floor exercise at the 1978 United States national gymnastics championships in Seattle, Washington. (She was almost late for her performance on the beam, because she was eating chocolate ice cream.) Ms. Johnston said, “I’m not supposed to be a gymnast physically, but no one told me that mentally. No one said I couldn’t be creative with one arm.” So she became creative with one arm — creative enough to become a famous gymnast.

• On August 19, 1951, Bill Veeck pulled a notable publicity stunt for his baseball team, the St. Louis Browns. He hired a little person — formerly known as a midget — to bat for his team. The little person wore a uniform that belonged to the seven-year-old son of a team vice president, and he used a toy bat. Because of his tiny strike zone, the little person walked in four pitches, and a real baseball player was sent in to run for him. On his uniform, the little person wore the smallest number ever given to a professional baseball player: 1/8.

• Congressman Morris K. Udall had a glass eye, the result of an accident and a botched operation when he was a child. In college, he played center in basketball and during one game, he played extremely well, scoring 24 points. When he came out of the game, a sportswriter who came from the town of the opposing team told him, “Udall, you are a liar. No one shoots like that with a glass eye.” Mr. Udall took his glass eye out of its socket and handed it to the sportswriter, saying, “Mister, I haven’t been able to see much out of this one — you try it.”

• Kitty O’Neil, a stunt woman on TV’s Wonder Woman series, broke the land speed record for women on December 6, 1976, in the Alvord Desert in Oregon. She drove a rocket car named the Motivator, breaking the old record of 308 miles an hour by over 200 miles per hour — her new record was almost 513 miles an hour. After she finished her historic drive, she climbed out of the Motivator to the cheers of the crowd. However, Ms. O’Neil didn’t hear the cheers — she is deaf.

• Central Ohio TV sportscaster Jimmy Crum once covered a bowling tournament for children who are handicapped mentally or physically. One small girl with Down’s syndrome kept trying to get the bowling ball down the lane, but ball after ball went into the gutter. Finally, one bowling ball went straight down the center of the lane — and the girl was ecstatic. Mr. Crum congratulated the girl, and she put her arms around his neck, hugged him, and said, “I love you, Mr. Man.”

• At the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona, Spain, Jackie Joyner-Kersee won a gold medal in the heptathlon. However, after she clinched heptathlon gold in the 800-meter race, she was forced to delay her victory lap because an asthma attack made it difficult for her to breathe. Fans chanted her name, and finally she was able to take her victory lap and shake hands with some of her fans.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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