David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Horse Racing, Husbands and Wives, Language, Media

Horse Racing

• The first woman to get a license to race horses as a jockey was Kathy Kusner. After a long, hard effort, she received a jockey’s license from the Maryland State Racing Commission in early 1969. Following that breakthrough, acquiring licenses for other states came easily. Ironically, Ms. Kusner was not the first woman to race horses as a jockey. While appearing in a horse show, she broke a leg when her horse fell on top of her after a failed jump. This allowed Diane Crump to become the first woman to race as a jockey when she competed on February 7, 1969, at Hialeah.

• After jockey Julie Krone was bucked from a horse and broke her ankle, she was still determined to race although her foot was in a cast. After all, she had won more races than the other jockeys at Monmouth Park in New York with two weeks left in the season, and another rider needed only 10 victories to catch up to her. Therefore, Ms. Krone tore off her cast and had her doctor put on another cast that would fit in a riding boot, and she continued to race and won the riding title at Monmouth.

Husbands and Wives

• The first date of professional boxer Laila Ali (Muhammad Ali’s daughter) and her assistant trainer and manager Johnny “Ya Ya” McClain did not go well. When the waitress took his order, McClain said, “I like my coffee like my women—light and sweet.” The result? Mr. McClain says, “Laila thought I was an obnoxious jerk.” Apparently, Mr. McClain improved as she got to know him better: They were married on August 27, 2000. He proposed in a different restaurant, and a nearby couple who overheard the proposal sent them two glasses of champagne. Because Ms. Ali was in training for a fight, Mr. McClain drank both glasses.

• Nineteenth-century cartoonist Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman often took his art supplies along on fishing trips. During one such expedition, a bull appeared and Mr. Zimmerman took off running, leaving behind both art supplies and fishing supplies. Whenever Mr. Zimmerman had to draw a scene such as the one he had endured, he would relive the scene in his mind, then draw it. During one such mental reenactment, his wife asked, “Heavens! Why are you making such faces?” Mr. Zimmerman replied, “Don’t disturb me, please. I’m being chased by a bull.”

Language

• Father Hennessy attended many practices of the Notre Dame football team, which was coached by his friend Knute Rockne. At some of these practices, Mr. Rockne exercised a remarkable talent for profanity, and at one point he let loose an oath that was so profane that everyone near the good priest looked at him to see what he would do. Father Hennessy merely raised his eyes heavenward and said “Glory be to God! There goes Rockne saying his prayers again!”

• Hank Aaron could defuse arguments with humor. During one of his at-bats, a pitch was ruled a ball by the umpire, and Cincinnati Reds catcher Smokey Burgess strenuously disagreed. It looked like a major situation was developing between the catcher and the umpire, but Mr. Aaron told Mr. Burgess, “Kindly do not agitate the arbiter. He can’t be as pluperfect as you.” Both the catcher and the umpire laughed, and the game resumed.

• Kim Zmeskal was among the first group of little girl gymnasts to train at Bela Karolyi’s gym in Houston, Texas. When she became skilled enough to begin training with Mr. Karolyi himself, she found it difficult to understand his heavy Romanian accent. In fact, she says that when he spoke to her, she would be thinking to herself, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me,” but she would smile anyway.

Media

• Jackie Robinson was fiercely competitive, and he kept up to date about what people were saying about him and the Dodgers in the newspapers. For example, in his final season, he read that New York Giant chief scout Tom Sheehan had said, “The Dodgers are over the hill. Jackie’s too old, Campy’s [Roy Campanella] too old, and [Carl] Erskine, he can’t win with the garbage he’s been throwing up there.” Both Mr. Robinson and Mr. Erskine read that quote, and the truth is, Mr. Erskine was feeling old. However, that day he threw against the Giants a no-hit, no-run game, due in part to a magnificent catch that Mr. Robinson made of a baseball that Willie Mays hit to third base. After the game, Mr. Robinson went to the Giants’ dugout, waved the newspaper clipping in Mr. Sheehan’s face and said, “How do you like that garbage?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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