• Astronaut Sally Ride was very competitive in tennis. While still attending a small private girls’ high school in California, she often played against the headmaster, who once got past her a particularly difficult shot, then made the mistake of showing off. Sally responded by hitting three drives in a row straight at his head. While competing at Swarthmore College, she was champion of Eastern Intercollegiate Women’s Tennis two years in a row. In fact, Ms. Ride was so good that Billie Jean King thought she could turn professional. However, Ms. Ride evaluated her tennis skills, then decided to stick to science. On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space.
• Called the Last Great Race on Earth, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a race among sled dog teams through 1,049 miles of Alaskan wilderness and villages. After Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the race in 1985, and after Susan Butcher won it in 1986, 1987, and 1988, T-shirts appeared bearing this slogan: “Alaska. Where men are men and women win the Iditarod.” (Ms. Butcher received a lot of encouragement from native Alaskan women as she attempted to win the Iditarod. As she passed their villages, the women told her, “Do this for us.”)
• In 1947, golfer Babe Didrikson competed in the British Women’s Amateur tournament, where a British woman asked her if she were worried that Americans were jinxed at the tournament—after all, such fine American players as Glenna Collett and Virginia Van Wie had played at the tournament but not won. Babe replied, “I didn’t come here to lose.” In fact, she didn’t lose. She defeated the Scottish champion, Jean Donald, thus becoming the first American woman to win the British Women’s Amateur tournament.
• At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, American gymnast Mary Lou Retton won the all-around competition with a vault that scored a perfect 10. Under the rules of the time, she did not need to attempt a second vault, but she did—and earned another perfect 10 score.
• Oakland Athletics scout Camilo Pascual really wanted the team to draft Jose Canseco in 1982. Unfortunately, professional baseball teams, including the Athletics, regarded Mr. Canseco as not being big and muscular enough to play in the major leagues, so for round after round he was undrafted. Finally, Mr. Pascual pulled out his wallet and threw it on a table, saying that he believed so strongly in Mr. Canseco that he would pay his signing bonus himself. Then and only then did the Athletics draft Mr. Canseco and offer him a contract. Later, they were glad they did. Mr. Canseco put on weight and grew muscular, and he drove in many, many game-winning runs for his team. In addition, in 1988, Mr. Canseco became the first major-league player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one season. After Mr. Canseco became such a big success, Mr. Pascual, whose own remarkable major-league career as a pitcher included two 20-win seasons in a row, joked that he would be remembered as “the guy who signed Jose Canseco.”
• Yankee pitcher Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler quickly learned that Yankee manager Ed Barrow was a tough negotiator when it came to player contracts. As a very young pitcher, Spud once received a contract that was for the exact same salary that he had earned the year before, although he had been promoted higher in the Yankee farm system. However, he felt that he was due for a raise, so he mailed the contract back with this letter: “I thought that the Yankees were a fair organization and would increase my pay as I moved up in baseball. But, if this is how baseball is run, maybe I should get out of it. Unless I get a raise, don’t bother to return the contract. Just write me a letter.” Quickly, the contract and a letter arrived. The contract did NOT include a raise, and Mr. Barrow’s letter said, “Unless you affix your signature to this contract, don’t bother to return it. Just keep it as a souvenir of your brief career in organized baseball.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Buy