David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Gambling, Gifts, Good Deeds, Hitters

Gambling

• In its early days in the United States, bowling was a gambling game called “ninepins.” Low-lives played ninepins, so a law was passed against the game. Getting around the law, however, was easy. Bowling fans simply added a 10th pin and played tenpins, which was not against the law.

Gifts

• On New Year’s Eve of 1974, a press conference was held to announce that Jim “Catfish” Hunter would start pitching as a member of the New York Yankees. Of course, as a star major-league pitcher, Catfish had signed a big contract to play for the Yankees—over the next five years, the Yankees would pay him almost $4 million. A reporter quickly figured out that Catfish would earn approximately $19,331.25 for each game he pitched. At the press conference, the Mayor of New York City gave Catfish a gift: a new fishing pole. It cost $13.21.

• Before Kristi Yamaguchi competed with her partner, Rudi (later spelled “Rudy”) Galindo, in pairs skating at the 1990 United States National Championships, a former world pairs-skating champion named Tai Babilonia presented her with a special gift—an earring in the shape of a heart. The gift was meant to give young Kristi good luck. It worked, for Kristi and Rudi won their second straight national championship.

• When Jennifer Capriati was a young tennis player, her father, Stefano, sometimes gave her gifts. For example, he would give her a gift if she lost a tennis tournament—after all, he thought, winning is its own reward.

Good Deeds

• Bill Corum wrote a human-interest story about Babe Ruth in the June 23, 1927, edition of the New York Evening Journal. A boy named Billy Kennedy had been very ill, and so his father had written to Babe, asking him to send Billy a baseball autographed, “From Babe to Bill.” Babe immediately sent the autographed baseball—and this telegram: “TELL BILLY FOR ME THAT HE MUST GET WELL AND STRONG AND COME TO BOSTON TO SEE ME PLAY.” Billy did get well, and he did go to Boston, where he hoped to see Babe hit a home run. Babe failed to hit a homer that day, but he promised Billy, “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll hit two to make up for it.” The following day, Babe kept his promise.”

• Ohio sportscaster Jimmy Crum once visited Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes in the coach’s office, where he noticed that Woody had a toy: an erector set. Mr. Crum asked Coach Hayes, “Coach, are you going through a second childhood?” Coach Hayes, who spent a lot of time visiting ill children and was planning to give away the toy to an ill child, explained, “There’s a boy over at University Hospital who is an Ohio State fan.” Coach Hayes then grabbed the lapels of Mr. Crum’s jacket and said, “If you say one f**king word about this, I’ll kick you in the *ss.” (Mr. Crum waited until Coach Hayes had died, then he told other people about this.)

• The parents of figure skater Scott Hamilton ran out of money and were unable to support his training any further. Fortunately, a wealthy couple who owned the Denver skating rink at which famous coach Carlo Fassi worked volunteered to pay all of Mr. Hamilton’s expenses if he moved to Colorado and trained with Mr. Fassi. In return for their generosity, the couple requested that their names never be revealed. In 1984, Mr. Hamilton won an Olympic gold medal in men’s figure skating.

• Babe Ruth often came early to Fenway Park in Boston, where he would spend an hour bagging peanuts to be sold by children during the game. When he left, he would throw $10 or $20 on the table and tell peanut vendor Thomas Foley, “Take care of the kids.”

Hitters

• On October 1, 1932, Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees played the Cubs in Chicago. In the top of the fifth inning of the third game of the World Series, the Babe took a called strike, then raised one finger. Two balls were called, and Babe swung for strike two. The Chicago bench jeered at him, as they had throughout the game. But the Babe lifted two fingers and told the Chicago bench, “It takes only one to hit it.” He then hit the next pitch for a home run—his fifteenth in a World Series. The Yankees went on to win the Series.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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