David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes — Umpires, War

Umpires

• In the Pacific Coast League, San Diego catcher Del Ballinger protested a called strike by umpire Gordon Ford by pulling out a pistol, pointing it to the umpire’s chest, and firing three times. Mr. Ford’s face went white until he realized that the pistol was a harmless toy cap pistol. Of course, Mr. Ford threw Mr. Ballinger out of the game, but that didn’t mean he was without a sense of humor. When the next player came up to bat, Mr. Ford frisked him to see if he was carrying any hidden weapons.

• Umpire Clarence “Pants” Rowland once called out Babe Ruth on a close play at third base one day, but he also praised him, helping him up, brushing off his uniform, and saying, “Great slide, Babe, but he just had you.” The Yankee players wondered why Babe didn’t argue the call, but Babe explained, “What could I do? I thought I was safe, but the guy was dusting my clothes off and telling me what a great slide I made. What could I say to him?”

• Umpire Beans Reardon once made a mistake. Richie Ashburn slid into second base and Billy Cox attempted to tag him. Beans yelled “Safe,” but at the same time he flung his arm in the “Out” gesture. Mr. Ashburn asked, “What the hell does that mean?” Mr. Reardon replied, “Richie, you know you’re safe. Billy, you know he’s safe. But 30,000 fans see my arm. Richie, you’re out.”

• In 1939, Bob Dillinger was batting in the Western League when he thought the umpire made a bad call by calling a ball his second strike. Mr. Dillinger took off his glasses, then handed them to the umpire, who shocked him by putting them on and yelling “Play ball!” The next pitch came, and the umpire yelled “Strike three,” then handed the glasses back to Mr. Dillinger.

• Greg “the Bull” Luzinski was a big man and a major hitter in the major leagues. Umpire Eric Gregg once called a strike on him, and when the next pitch went across the plate at roughly the same spot, he called, “That’s two.” The Bull raised the bat above his head and asked, “Two what?” Mr. Gregg looked at the baseball bat and the Bull’s massive build and replied, “Too high.”

• Charlie Grimm, manager of the Chicago Cubs, once got angry with umpire Charlie Moran — so did several of his players. As his players stormed out to argue the call with umpire Moran, Mr. Grimm told them, “The first person to lay a finger on this blind old man will be fined 50 bucks.”

Uniforms

• When Elfi Schlegel was competing in gymnastics at the University of Florida, football running back Neal Anderson, who played for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, was a frequent visitor to the gymnastics practices. He had a good reason for working on his tumbling: After scoring a touchdown, he would perform a back flip in the end zone while still dressed in his football uniform.

• Football player O.J. Simpson has a big head — literally. When he started playing for the Buffalo Bills, he couldn’t practice hard because no helmet would fit him. One of his old college helmets had to be brought in from his alma mater — the University of Southern California.

War

• During World War II, many major league baseball players such as Joe DiMaggio went into the Armed Forces, and people weren’t sure that major league baseball could continue during the war. To ensure inexpensive sports entertainment during the war, Philip K. Wrigley (owner of the Chicago Cubs and manufacturer of the chewing gum) started the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. When the teams lined up on the baseball field for the singing of the national anthem before a game, they always lined up in a V formation because “V is for Victory.”

• Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won several medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and won the hearts of fans worldwide. Her father, Valentin, was only 15 when Nazi soldiers came into the village he lived in near Kalinkovich in Belorussia. Despite his age, he participated in some of the ambushes the Soviets laid against the Nazis, and he helped set up mines that destroyed Nazi trains and motor vehicles.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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