David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Children

Children

• Parents can embarrass even future celebrities. As a young boy, Oscar De La Hoya was sent to the grocery store to buy food with food stamps. This horribly embarrassed him, and he waited 45 minutes for the other customers to leave before he would pay for his purchase. When the grocery store cashier asked why he had waited so long to pay, he replied, “Because I have these food stamps.” After he had earned millions of dollars as a boxer, Mr. De La Hoya carried a food stamp in his wallet to remind himself of his origins. In addition, when he was 16, Oscar stayed out past his curfew even after first his mother, then his father, had called him. Suddenly, his father—dressed in a bathrobe—ran out of the house and started screaming at him. Today, Mr. de La Hoya says, “I was never more embarrassed in my life—which was the reason he did it.”

• When Gwen Jocson was 15 years old, she wanted to learn to ride horses, so she went to a neighbor’s pasture where two horses were grazing, climbed up on a gentle horse, and hung on as the horse walked around the pasture. A few days later, she climbed up on the other horse—which was not gentle. This horse galloped around the pasture and crashed through a fence. When Gwen was found, she was unconscious. After young Gwen revived, the owner of the horses asked if she was scared. Gwen replied, “Scared of what?” Hearing that, the horses’ owner gave her some jobs to do around the horses—and some riding lessons. (The owner of the horses was Bobbie Brostoff, a well-known and well-respected teacher of riders on the jumper circuit.) During her career as a jockey, she rode 763 winners.

• Carol Heiss was a natural at skating—both roller and figure. When she was age three and a half, her parents bought her some roller skates. After putting the skates on, young Carol held on to her father’s hand for a while as she skated, then suddenly let go of his hand and skated away from him, shocking both of her parents. The following winter, when her parents decided to let her have figure-skating lessons, the first instructor they took her to watched young Carol skate, then gave them back their money, saying that she was already too advanced for him to teach her. She became World Champion in ladies’ figure skating from 1956 through 1960, and in 1960 she won an Olympic gold medal.

• Growing up during the Great Depression in Morgantown, West Virginia, comedian Don Knotts and his childhood friends used to sneak into West Virginia football games. Before one game, they were having trouble getting in, as the gates seemed to have overly vigilant guards. Fortunately, they noticed the football team, wearing regular clothing since they dressed in the field house for games, going into the stadium. They joined the team and enjoyed themselves while the fans cheered the football team until someone yelled, “Those kids! Grab those godd*mned kids!” They took off running and successfully disappeared into the stands as the crowd now cheered for them.

• When he was a kid, Hank Aaron, as you would expect, played lots of baseball and softball games. He also practiced on his own. For example, he would practice hitting bottle caps with a broom handle—something very difficult to do. He would also spend hours throwing a ball on a roof and catching it when it fell down. Another game he perfected was throwing a ball high over his house and racing to the other side of the house so he could catch it before it bounced off the ground. Mr. Aaron felt that hitting bottle caps really improved his hitting: “The way one of those things will dip and float, you’ve got to jump out and get it, and that’s the way I always hit a baseball.”

• Figure skater Tara Lipinski started out as a roller skater, but she changed to skating on ice when she was six years old. Her first time on the ice, she was as awkward as every other first-timer—for a while. Her parents thought that she was ready to quit, so they offered to take her out for hot chocolate, but Tara stayed on the ice. When her parents returned after taking a short break, they discovered that Tara had made the transition to ice skating and was flying around the rink as if she had been ice skating for years. In 1998, Tara won an Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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