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

Names

• Several major-league baseball players, including Florida Marlin Alex Fernandez, Toronto Blue Jay Alex Gonzalez, New York Met Alex Ochoa, and Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez, once attended a Boys and Girls Club fund-raising event all at the same time. Mr. Gonzalez says, “Every time a kid said, ‘Hey, Alex,’ all four of us looked around.”

• Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of the 1970s consisted of such great players as Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. Many of these players had young sons who played catch together. These sons—including Ken Griffey, Jr., and Pete Rose, Jr.—were known as the Little Red Machine.

• In 1967, Kathy Switzer decided to run in the Boston Marathon, although it was not open to women. She sent in her application using the name “K. Switzer,” but when she arrived at the race site and officials discovered that she was a woman, they ripped her number off her back. She ran and finished the marathon anyway.

• Figure skater JoJo Starbuck got her nickname as a baby. Her real name is Alicia Jo, but when her mother tried to teach her to say her name, she couldn’t say “Alicia,” so she called herself JoJo Buckle instead. The JoJo part stuck.

• Yogi Berra once did a radio show with a friend of his, Jack Buck. After the show, Yogi was handed a check made out to “Bearer.” Yogi complained to Jack, “You’ve known me all this time and you still can’t spell my name!”

• Babe Ruth was such an American sports hero that during World War II, Japanese soldiers used to shout at American soldiers, “To h*ll with Babe Ruth!”

Olympics

• In 1904, Cuban Felix Carvajal decided to run in the Olympics marathon race that would be held in St. Louis—even though he was not a distance runner and had never run 26 miles and 385 yards before. The Cuban government would not pay his way to St. Louis, and he had no money, so he started to run around Havana’s great public square each day to attract the attention of people whom he asked for money to pay his way to the Olympics. He did get enough money, and he sailed to America. Unfortunately, he landed in New Orleans where some friendly people persuaded him to play a friendly game of chance, and all his money ended up in the pockets of the friendly people. Still, Mr. Carvajal was determined to compete in the Olympics. He ran all 700 miles to St. Louis, relying on the kindness of farmers and their wives to feed him and give him a place to sleep during his journey. When he arrived at the Olympics to compete in the marathon, people laughed. He was wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and shoes too heavy for a marathon. Still, an Olympian used scissors to cut off the bottoms of Mr. Carvajal’s long pants so they would be more suitable to run in. On August 20, the marathon began, and many runners wilted in the hot sun and dropped out of the race, but Mr. Carvajal ran on and on. Eventually, he finished the marathon—fourth. Mr. Carvajal did not become an Olympic marathon champion, but Felix the Fourth did become one of the Olympics’ most memorable athletes.

• When Tara Lipinski was two years old, she played in front of a TV that was tuned to the Olympics. Because she was so little, she didn’t pay much attention—until some athletes were awarded medals. Young Tara also wanted a medal. Like the athletes standing on a platform, she stood on a plastic tub in which she stored her toys. Her mother put a ribbon around her neck, similar to the ribbons that were put around the necks of the athletes, and she handed her some flowers similar to the flowers that were handed to the athletes. In 1998, Ms. Lipinski went through the awards ceremony for real after winning the gold medal in the women’s figure skating competition.

• When Sarah Hughes won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, she accomplished a major upset. She skated early in the long program, and she skated excellently. The crowd roared, and her coach, Robin Wagner, wanted her to wait a few extra moments before leaving the ice. She told Sarah, “Turn around. Close your eyes. Soak it in.” After winning the gold medal, Sarah slept with it, and when she met her family next, although she had not seen them for a while, they asked, “Where’s the medal? Where’s the medal?” She joked, “Hey, guys, what about me?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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