David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Animals, Autographs, Automobiles

Animals

• Australian scuba diver and underwater photographer Valerie Taylor has an unusual ability to make pets of sea creatures. For example, she once befriended two moray eels that she named Harry and Fang. She fed them, and the moray eel named Harry—who was as big as Ms. Taylor—actually allowed her to carry him to the ocean’s surface to show him to her human friends. This is not recommended—Harry bit two other scuba divers.

• In 1990, after Susan Butcher won the 1,049-mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska for the fourth time, she and one of her husky dogs, Granite, went to Washington, D.C., where they met then-President George Bush. Her dog was as much a celebrity as Ms. Butcher. Letters addressed to “Mr. Granite” were delivered to Ms. Butcher, and he drank expensive bottled water from France and ate his ground beef off a silver platter.

• Drag racer Christen Powell can accelerate from 0 to 100 mph faster than perhaps anyone, but when she races, she carries a purple platypus Beanie Baby, which she puts inside the firesuit that is intended to protect her in case of an accident. Ms. Powell is a feminist. Occasionally, someone asks her if she wants to be the fastest woman on the track. She replies, “No, I want to be the fastest person on the track.”

• As a competitor in the first All Girl Rodeo, Texas cowgirl Fern Sawyer decided to ride a bull one night when all the cowgirls who would normally ride the bulls were injured—she simply felt that the crowd should have the opportunity to see a cowgirl riding a bull. She rode the bull, but she broke her hand in nine places. No, she wasn’t bucked off—she broke her hand gripping too hard.

Autographs

• When Sarah Hughes won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, she received a few perks. Another gold medalist in ladies’ figure skating, Dorothy Hamill, asked Sarah to sign a copy of Timemagazine—the one with Sarah’s photograph on the cover. (Time was prescient when it put Sarah’s photograph on its pre-Olympics issue—Sarah was a definite underdog in the competition.) She signed it, “Dorothy, thank you for all the inspiration. Love, Sarah.” The State of New York also gave her license plates that read “TRPL TRPL” to honor her two record-breaking triple-triple combinations in the Olympics long program—even though 16-year-old Sarah had not yet learned how to drive.

• Nineteenth-century cartoonist Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman once made a special trip to get the autograph of John L. Sullivan at the boxing great’s saloon, but unfortunately, Mr. Sullivan was not there that day. However, Mr. Sullivan’s valet offered to give him a photograph of the great boxer. When Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that he had hoped to get Mr. Sullivan’s autograph, the valet said, “That’s all right. I’ll write his autograph on it. I often do.”

• When Dorothy Hamill was almost eleven years old, she trained at Lake Placid, New York, where one day a famous skater watched her with great concentration. After the practice was over, young Dorothy recognized the skater and asked him to write in her autograph book. He wrote, “To dear Dorothy / I’m sure you will be great one day. / Toller Cranston.” In 1976, she won an Olympic gold medal in ladies’ figure skating.

Automobiles

• Chuck Klein of the Philadelphia Phillies hit four home runs in one game on July 10, 1936, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This made him the first National League player in the 20th century to accomplish such an impressive feat. His home-run hitting turned out to be expensive for Phillies owner William Baker. Mr. Klein hit so many baseballs out of the Phillies ballpark that he was a menace to car windshields. Mr. Baker paid for each windshield that Mr. Klein’s home runs smashed. Eventually, Mr. Baker ordered a 15-foot-high screen erected on top of the Phillies’ right-field fence.

• At the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Alberto Tomba, aka Tomba la Bomba, of Italy had more than the usual reasons to want to win a gold medal—his wealthy father had promised to buy him a Ferrari if he was victorious. And he was victorious, performing two spectacular runs in the giant slalom to win gold. After his victory, he immediately telephoned his father. After his father picked up the phone, Alberto requested, “Make it a red one.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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