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


• 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!”


• 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?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Friends, Gays and Lesbians


• Ernestine Schumann-Heink had a problem when she first met Maurice Grau of the Metropolitan Opera Company — she did not have clothing fine enough for such an important meeting with such an important man. Fortunately, Lillian Nordica came to the rescue and lent her a silk dress — with a train — that made the necessary statement: The person wearing this dress is a prima donna. Later, Ms. Schumann-Heink embarrassed Ms. Nordica by thanking her publicly for the loan.

• Albert Einstein was a friend to the Curie family, including both Marie and her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie. One day, Mr. Einstein and Ms. Joliot-Curie were talking about particle tracks, as Ms. Joliot-Curie’s daughter, Hélène, drew near them. Soon, young Hélène showed Mr. Einstein the “particle tracks” she had drawn. Mr. Einstein looked at the drawing, then told Ms. Joliot-Curie, “If you don’t watch out, she’ll become a theoretical physicist!” Hélène did.

• Tenors Richard Tucker and Luciano Pavarotti were friends. After a performance by Mr. Tucker, Mr. Pavarotti called to congratulate him, saying, “I just can’t believe it. I had to call you. You’re still the top tenor in the world — a phenomenon.” Whenever Mr. Tucker left a dressing room that would next be occupied by Mr. Pavarotti, he used to write on the mirror this message: “Buona fortuna.”

• Madame Giulietta Grisi once decided to commit suicide, so she ran to a river so she could drown herself. Fortunately, a friend followed her and convinced her not to drown herself — making the argument that she would be disheveled, muddy, and unglamorous when her body was fished out of the river.

• Children’s picture book creator Ezra Jack Keats never had children of his own, but that was OK because his friends had children. Often, he would ask a friend, “Can I come and see how children climb out of a pillowcase?” or “I’m going to the zoo — can I borrow a child?”

• Stan Laurel always had a great respect for his friend Oliver Hardy’s talents as a comedian. Whenever Mr. Laurel watched one of the great comedy team’s movies, he laughed at Mr. Hardy’s antics, not at his own.

Gays and Lesbians

• Some lesbians have unusual coming-out stories. One lesbian told her abusive stepfather that she was a lesbian, and he immediately told her to get out of the house or he would give her a beating worse than the ones he had previously given her. Her straight siblings decided to take advantage of the situation to also get out of an abusive home — her straight brother immediately told their abusive stepfather that he was gay and a month later her straight sister told him that she was a lesbian. The lesbian adds, “My stepdad started to catch on, though, when my mother told him she was a lesbertarian.”

• Lesbian comedian Kate Clinton has a niece named Grace. One day, Grace and a friend were playing together, and Grace’s mother heard Grace say, “Let’s pretend we’re gay!” Her friend asked, “What’s gay?” Grace explained, “It’s when two girls get together, dance, and have fun.” While watching the March on Washington in 1993, Grace asked her mother, “Now tell me again, Mom, why do ungay people not like Aunt Kate?”


• Moravian soprano Maria Jeritza believed in causing a commotion and being talked about. When Beverly Sills was a child vocalist, she sang at a party where she met Ms. Jeritza, who presented her with a gold toothpick, saying, “You must become a character. You must make people talk about you. After we have all eaten, you pick your teeth with this gold toothpick, and you’ll see — everybody will be talking about you.”

• Diamond Jim Brady loved to eat. He once ate a box of chocolates that came from the small Boston firm of Page and Shaw. He loved the candy and ordered several hundred boxes for himself and as gifts for his friends. Unfortunately, the business was too small to handle such a large order. Therefore, Diamond Jim gave them an interest-free loan of $150,000 so they could expand their candy-making capacity.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Money, Mothers


• In 1978, running back Preston Pearson and his Dallas Cowboys lost in the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. As it happened, Mr. Pearson and his wife lived in Pittsburgh, and he gave his check for playing in the Super Bowl to his wife to deposit in a Pittsburgh bank. The bank teller looked at the size of the check, then told Mrs. Pearson that she was entitled to a free gift, although she might not want it. She didn’t. The free gift was a recording of the Pittsburgh Steelers fight song.

• Spanish painter Francisco Goya could be both generous and shrewd with his money. When his brother wanted to borrow money from him, Mr. Goya recognized that often relatives are very slow in repaying money borrowed from other family members. Therefore, Mr. Goya gave the money to a friend and told him to lend it to his brother without telling his brother the true source of the money.

• When movie critic Roger Ebert was a child, he met J.C. Penney, the founder of the famous department store. Mr. Penney, then an old man, gave young Roger a penny and some financial advice — if you want dimes and dollars to take care of themselves, you need to take care of pennies and nickels. Roger saved ten cents, then he went to see a movie for nine cents. This left a penny, which he promptly invested in an all-day sucker.


• When Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Kerri Strug was in the fourth grade, she spent six months working on a science project: a biosphere in a large aquarium. Unfortunately, when her brother drove her and her science project to school, he had to hit his brakes to avoid a collision with another car. The aquarium shattered, destroying six months of work, with dirt, water, frogs, and fish scattered everywhere. Fortunately, her mother was able to bring Kerri another aquarium, and they put the science project back together. However, Kerri told her mother, “This is the worst day of my life.” Her mother then said something wise and wonderful: “I’ll be happy if this is your worst day.” (For the worst day, it wasn’t so bad — Kerri’s science project won second prize.)

• Soprano Beverly Sills stopped singing and taking voice lessons after giving birth to two children with handicaps. Muffy, her daughter, was a happy child, but she suffered from deafness. Peter, her son, suffered from mental retardation. Ms. Sills devoted much time to her children, but eventually her husband thought that it would be best if she did more than look after and help their children. Therefore, for her 33rd birthday, he gave her 52 round-trip airplane tickets between Boston, where they lived, and New York, where Estelle Liebling, her voice teacher, lived. Ms. Sills began taking voice lessons again, and she began singing in public again.

• Children’s book writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor grew up during the Depression, when money was hard to come by. Entering kindergarten, she had only two dresses: one with red checks and one with blue checks. Her mother told her that if she alternated the dresses, wearing one the first day and the other the second day and so on, then everyone would think that she had more dresses than she really had. This made young Phyllis think how clever her mother was.

• Nancy Stanford sat in a rocking chair to read a story to a group of first graders who sat at her feet. As she read the story, she felt a small hand rub her ankle, then her calf. Rather than disturb story time, she decided to continue reading the story to its end, then reprimand the child rubbing her leg. At the end of the story, she looked down, and a little boy told her, “Your leg feels just like my mother’s.” She did not reprimand the child.

• Ezra Stone played the part of teenager Harry Aldrich on The Aldrich Family radio program. Following World War II, because space was lacking, he shared his dressing room with singer Jo Stafford. One day, his mother came to visit and was surprised to find his dressing room closet filled with frilly feminine garments. Mr. Stone, a happily married man, had to convince his mother that he was not keeping a mistress on the side.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Buy

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