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

Music

• In 1908, Jack Norworth wrote what is probably his greatest hit: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” He wrote the song after seeing in a subway an advertisement for a New York Giants baseball game. Surprisingly, he had never seen a baseball game before—and he didn’t see his first baseball game until 1942. According to Mr. Norworth, not seeing a baseball game wasn’t important: “So what? I’m a songwriter. That’s what I like to do. Going to baseball games doesn’t interest me a bit.” He was refreshingly candid about his abilities as a songwriter, estimating that he had written “more than 3,000 songs, seven of them good.” Two of the good ones were “Shine on, Harvest Moon” and “Meet Me in Apple Blossom Time.”

• Edward “Duke” Ellington learned how to play the piano as a result of a baseball accident. While he was playing baseball with a group of kids from the neighborhood, a player threw the bat after making a hit. The bat hit Duke in the head, and his mother decided that he would be safer inside the house, taking piano lessons, than outside, playing baseball. As an adult, Mr. Ellington became a giant in the jazz world.

Names

• Nate Archibald was six-foot-one, so as a player in the NBA, he was called “Tiny.” When coach Bob Cousy drafted Tiny to play for the Cincinnati Royals, he had never seen Tiny play, although he had heard much about his impressive basketball abilities. When Tiny met Mr. Cousy for the first time at the coach’s hotel room, Mr. Cousy was shocked by how small he was. Mr. Cousy said, “I knew he was little, but I didn’t know he was that little. Or that skinny. Or that baby-faced. I thought he was the bellhop.” When Tiny showed up by himself at the Madison Square Garden, at first the guard at the players’ gate wouldn’t let him through. Tiny told the guard that he played for the Royals, but the guard replied, “Sure, kid. And I’m the shortstop for the Yankees.” Mr. Cousy ended up telling the guard, “He’s one of my guys, but I don’t blame you for wondering about it. We haven’t even got a uniform that fits him yet. His number’s stuffed halfway down his pants.”

• Whitbread and America’s Cup sailor Dawn Riley sometimes ran into problems early in her career. She would show up on a boat, then discover the other sailors were expecting to sail with “Don” Riley. However, she was a good person to have along in an emergency. While she was sailing in an around-the-world Whitbread Race with an all-female crew, their boat developed rudder problems. Ms. Riley ended up using a hacksaw to create a temporary replacement rudder from a spinnaker pole. Despite the rudder problems, Ms. Riley and her teammates finished second in the race.

• Athletes can be honored in many different ways. Some athletes are honored by entire towns. For example, Ismay, Montana, is a small town that changed its name to Joe, Montana. In addition, Jim Thorpe was honored when the town where he is buried in Pennsylvania changed its name from Mauch Chunk to Jim Thorpe. Many players are honored when the team they played for retires their number, but Jackie Robinson was honored in 1997 (50 years after he broke the color barrier in modern major-league baseball) when EVERY major-league team retired his number: 42.

• Buck O’Neil, a third baseman in the Negro Leagues, acquired the rather strange nickname of “Nancy” from the great pitcher Satchel Paige. This is how it happened: Mr. Paige was entertaining two women in different rooms of the same hotel, and he mixed up the women’s names. Knocking on one woman’s door, he whispered, “Nancy? Nancy?” The door opened, and standing in the doorway was a woman whose name was not Nancy. She demanded, “Who is this Nancy?” Just then, Mr. O’Neil walked into the hallway. From then on, Mr. O’Neil was called Nancy.

• Jigoro Kano adapted the martial art of jujitsu into the sport of judo. In Russia, he demonstrated judo by facing a much bigger Russian fighter. He quickly threw the man, but he put his hand under the man’s head to cushion his fall and make sure the man was not hurt. For good reason, the 5-foot-4-inch-tall Mr. Kano was known as the Gentle Giant.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Money, Mothers

Money

• Babe Ruth occasionally got in trouble for breaking training and staying out too late. For example, in 1925, he was fined $5,000 late in the season for just those reasons. He also hit only .290—a low average for him. However, in 1926, he had a great season and hit .372. His manager, “Hug” Huggins, told him, “Babe, I admire a man who can win over a lot of tough opponents, but I admire even more a man who can win over himself.” Mr. Ruth replied, “That’s fine, Hug—do I get the fine back?” Mr. Huggins, who seldom wasted words, answered, “No.”

• If you pay for a ticket, you are entitled to express your opinion. After the Notre Dame football team was held to a tie by a much weaker team, a man accosted coach Knute Rockne and told him, “What’s the matter with your team? It stinks!” Mr. Rockne asked the man if he had paid to see the game. The man dug in his pocket and pulled out a ticket. Mr. Rockne looked at the ticket, then replied to the man, “You’re right. We stink.”

• Heavyweight champion Joe Louis lost very few fights, either as an amateur or as a pro fighter, but when he was an amateur, he lost a decision to Max Marek. No fool, Mr. Marek cashed in on his victory after Mr. Louis became a champion. Mr. Marek opened a bar and grill in Chicago, and he put a big sign out front inviting people to come in, enjoy themselves, and shake hands with Mr. Marek—“The Man Who Beat Joe Louis.”

• Famous racehorse Man o’ War was worth a fortune, and Texas oilman W.T. Waggoner wanted to buy the stallion from Sam Riddle and even offered a blank check as payment. Mr. Waggoner told him, “You go to France and bring back the sepulcher of Napoleon. Then go to England and buy the jewels from the crown. Then go to India and buy the Taj Mahal. Then, Mr. Waggoner, I’ll put the price on Man o’ War.”

• On June 3, 1932, New York Yankee Lou Gehrig hit four home runs in one game against the Philadelphia Athletics. This made him the first major-league player in the 20th century to accomplish such an impressive feat. Afterward, the other Yankees teased Mr. Gehrig, saying that he was costing the American League too much money due to replacing the baseballs he hit for home runs.

• One day, Muhammad Ali was speeding on a Los Angeles highway. A police officer stopped him and gave him a $100 speeding ticket. Mr. Ali immediately wrote a check and gave it to the police officer, who looked at it and said, “Mr. Ali, there’s been a mistake. The ticket is for only one hundred dollars. You made this out for two hundred dollars.” Mr. Ali replied, “I still have to come back.”

• Dodger co-owner Branch Rickey was tight with team money. Joe Medwick says that he once dominated the league in hitting, leading in 12 out of 13 hitting departments. Of course, he wanted a big raise. How did Mr. Rickey respond? By cutting Mr. Medwick’s salary by $5,000. Mr. Medwick asked, “How can you do this?” Mr. Rickey replied, “I expected you to hit .374 again.”

• Rube Foster was a tough manager in the Negro Leagues. He carried a pipe (for smoking) that he used to make signals, and when a player ignored his signal to bunt and instead hit a triple in a game, Mr. Foster was not happy. As soon as he could, he hit the player in the head with his pipe, and then told him, “As long as I’m paying you, you’ll do what I tell you.”

Mothers

• Martina Hingis’ mother (and coach), Melanie Molitor, raised her to be a tennis star. Not only did Ms. Molitor name Martina after her favorite tennis star, Martina Navratilova, but she also did everything she could to make her daughter interested in tennis. For example, when Martina was only two years old, her mother gave her a special tennis racket—a light one that was for adults but with a specially shaved-down handle that allowed Martina to grasp it. Ms. Molitor would throw tennis balls toward her daughter, and her daughter would try to hit them back. By age 10, Martina was embarrassed because she was beginning to beat her mother in tennis games and so she wanted to play left handed against her so her mother would win.

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Mishaps, Money

Mishaps

• Truett “Rip” Sewell once played minor-league baseball in Beaumont, Texas. He arrived when it was raining so hard that he couldn’t see the street from his hotel window, and so he didn’t even go to the ballpark. The next day, the manager, Del Baker, asked him, “Where the h*ll were you?” Mr. Sewell says, “I didn’t know it could rain on one side of the street in Texas and not on the other. It never even got cloudy at the ballpark.”

• Baseball manager Casey Stengel’s team was behind when an umpire wanted to call the game on account of darkness. Casey protested vigorously, saying, “Look, I’m sixty years old, and I can still see the ball!” To prove his point, he threw the baseball high into the air and attempted to catch it. The baseball smashed Casey’s nose, and the umpire ruled that it was too dark to play baseball.

• When Amy Grossman and Robert Davenport first started working together in pairs figure skating, it took time for them to get used to working together as a team. For a while, Robert’s chest was black and blue from frequent accidental contact with Amy’s blades. After a particularly bruising practice session, Robert told Amy, “I think I just lost my appendix or maybe it was a kidney.”

• During the Vietnam War, Arthur Ashe played some tennis in Saigon for the American troops. He was plenty nervous about being in a war zone, and when he heard some artillery, he dropped to the ground. However, the soldiers simply laughed and told him, “That’s outgoing artillery. You’ve got to learn to distinguish between the outgoing and the incoming.”

• When a batter popped up down the third-base line, both catcher Yogi Berra and third baseman Clete Boyer of the New York Yankees ran to catch it, but collided together, letting the ball fall safely to the ground. Clete asked Yogi, “What’s the matter, Yogi? Couldn’t you yell for it?” Yogi replied, “Sure, but I thought you could hear me waving at you.”

• In 1952, Notre Dame player Johnny Lattner played badly in a game against Purdue, fumbling five times. His coach, Frank Leahy, was not pleased. As punishment, he ordered that a special football—one with a handle for easy holding on to—be manufactured, and he ordered Mr. Lattner to carry it around campus.

• Yankee Joe Pepitone once hit what should have been a game-winning home run. Unfortunately, a referee called him out for not touching second base. Manager Ralph Houk ran out to protest the call, but the Yankee first-base coach told him, “Don’t argue too long, Ralph—he missed first, too.”

• Max Nicholas, the public relations head of the New York Yankees, once telephoned the great catcher Yogi Berra, waking him. Mr. Nicholas apologized, saying, “Sorry, Yogi. I hope I didn’t wake you.” Yogi replied, “Nah, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.”

Money

• Before comedian Don Knotts became famous, he and a friend went to New York to try—unsuccessfully—to make it big. While living in the YMCA, they met a guy and hung around with him. The guy said he needed $10 for bus fare to get home to Boston, and despite their very meager financial resources, Mr. Knotts and his friend lent the money to the guy, who promised that he would wire them the money when he got home. The guy did send a wire—it said, “SO LONG, SUCKERS!” Both Mr. Knotts and his friend did a fair amount of cursing, but they found out that the guy was only joking, as shortly afterward a wire with the money he owed them arrived. Years later, Mr. Knotts was playing in a golf tournament when a doctor watching him said, “Hey, Don. Can you lend me another ten dollars? I’ve got to get back to Boston.”

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Media, Managers, Mishaps

Media

• Professional baseball player Reggie Jackson really understood the media. One day, broadcaster Joe Garagiola interviewed him about a disagreement Mr. Jackson had had with George Steinbrenner, and he gave a long answer. Unfortunately, the answer was too long. However, Mr. Jackson felt that he couldn’t tell the complete story in a shorter time, so he arranged to stretch out his second at-bat in the game so his complete answer could be played on the air. During Mr. Jackson’s second at-bat, Mr. Garagiola stood up to let Mr. Jackson know the answer was being broadcast, and Mr. Jackson did such things as calling time and getting another bat. When the answer had been completely broadcast, Mr. Garagiola sat down, and Mr. Jackson hit a double.

• Golfer Payne Stewart earned a one-stroke lead at Spyglass Hill, and he knew that rain was forecast for the next day: Sunday. If it rained and golfers could not play, then he would be declared winner of the tournament. A TV reporter asked Mr. Stewart his thoughts on the situation, and Mr. Stewart said all the right things, such as that he was hoping for good weather and that he wanted to win the tournament by playing all the holes, not through a rainout. After the TV cameras were gone, fellow golfer Peter Jacobsen asked Mr. Stewart what he really thought about the weather. Mr. Stewart grinned and exclaimed, “Rain, baby, rain!”

• For many years, Jack Brickhouse was the broadcaster of Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. Of course, this meant that he watched many, many games of bad baseball in his life. Mr. Brickhouse said shortly before his death, “If every bad game I watched reduced the time I spent in purgatory, I would spend no time there at all.”

• Charlie Dressen, who used to be manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, once said, “The Giants is dead.” Later, when Mr. Dressen was fired as manager, a New York newspaper headline proclaimed, “Dressen are dead.”

Managers

• Babe Herman of the Brooklyn Dodgers was a favorite of manager Wilbert Robinson because he was a terrific hitter despite being a terrible fielder. Once, Chicago Cubs pitcher Kiki Cuyler hit a baseball down the right-field base line. Babe should have easily caught the fly, but he didn’t move until it landed—just in fair territory. Kiki ended up hitting a triple instead of making an easy out. Dodgers Hollis Thurston, a pitcher, and Paul Richards, a back-up catcher, witnessed the entire thing from the bullpen, and they thought that manager Robinson would finally bawl out his favorite player. No such luck. Instead, Robinson bawled them out: “Hey, you two! What were you doing in the bullpen—sleeping? Why didn’t you yell to Babe that Cuyler’s hit was going to be fair?”

• In 1931, Casey Stengel managed the Toledo Mudhens, a minor-league team that was stuck in last place. Because of their losing season, the players had little interest in baseball, so they dozed in the dugout during games. During one game, Casey asked an umpire if he had an alarm clock. Surprised, the umpire asked why he needed one. Casey pointed to his dozing players in the dugout and said, “The boys left a five o’clock wake-up call. I want to be sure they get woke up.”

Mishaps

• The greatest jockey ever was Willie Shoemaker, and the jockey who made the biggest blooper ever was also Willie Shoemaker. In 1957, Mr. Shoemaker rode a horse named Gallant Man in the Kentucky Derby, and he had the race won—all he had to do was to cling to his lead. Instead, he mistook the location of the finish line, raised himself up in the stirrups, and allowed his horse to slow down. A horse named Iron Liege raced by him and won by a nose. This was a major error, and Churchill Downs officials suspended Mr. Shoemaker for fifteen days because of “gross carelessness.” Nevertheless, Mr. Shoemaker bounced back, winning the Belmont Stakes five weeks later while riding Gallant Man. In fact, Mr. Shoemaker behaved so well after his remarkable blooper that his sportsmanship won him the Ralph Lowe trophy. This is all the more remarkable because Mr. Lowe owned Gallant Man.

***

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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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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Hitters, Honesty

Hitters

• Even the truly great athletes need to retire at last. George Brett, hitting sensation for the Kansas City Royals, once was asked what he wanted to do in his final at-bat. He replied, “I want to hit a routine grounder to second and run all out to first base, then get thrown out by a half-step.” Lots of people would love to hit a home run in their final at-bat, so why did Mr. Brett say he wanted to go out in this way? He explains, “I want to leave an example to the young guys that that’s how you play the game: all out.”

• Slugger Josh Gibson hit towering home runs in the Negro Leagues. In Pittsburgh, he once blasted a home run that went over the stadium walls and kept on going. It was such a shot that everyone soon heard about it, including umpires everywhere. The next day, he was batting in Philadelphia when a strong-armed fan hurled a baseball from a high seat onto the field, where an outfielder caught it. The umpire turned to Mr. Gibson and joked, “You’re out yesterday in Pittsburgh.” • Even the truly great athletes need to retire at last. George Brett, hitting sensation for the Kansas City Royals, once was asked what he wanted to do in his final at-bat. He replied, “I want to hit a routine grounder to second and run all out to first base, then get thrown out by a half-step.” Lots of people would love to hit a home run in their final at-bat, so why did Mr. Brett say he wanted to go out in this way? He explains, “I want to leave an example to the young guys that that’s how you play the game: all out.”

• Slugger Josh Gibson hit towering home runs in the Negro Leagues. In Pittsburgh, he once blasted a home run that went over the stadium walls and kept on going. It was such a shot that everyone soon heard about it, including umpires everywhere. The next day, he was batting in Philadelphia when a strong-armed fan hurled a baseball from a high seat onto the field, where an outfielder caught it. The umpire turned to Mr. Gibson and joked, “You’re out yesterday in Pittsburgh.”

• Just how strong a batter was Oakland Athletics player Jose Canseco? While taking batting practice before a game against the New York Yankees, Mr. Canseco checked his swing, stopping in the middle, but still managed to hit the baseball with such force that it soared over the right-field fence. Mike Pagliarulo, the Yankee third baseman, was amazed, saying, “He checked his swing and hit one of the longest shots I’ve seen.”

• While in the midst of a hitting slump in Chicago, Pete Rose boarded the Cincinnati Reds team bus only to run into a non-player who was disembarking after finding out that he had boarded the wrong bus. Mr. Rose told him, “If you can hit, stay on the bus.”

• When the great hitter Rogers Hornsby was working as a batting coach, a young player asked him for advice: “What would you do, Mr. Hornsby, if you got in a batting slump?” Mr. Hornsby replied, “When you have a lifetime average of .358, you don’t have any slumps.”

• Aaron Bimler once declined batting help from his father, St. Louis major leaguer Mike Bimler, saying, “That’s okay, dad. I’ll strike out on my own.”

Honesty

• Early in his career, African-American tennis great Arthur Ashe played a friend, Stan Smith, in a match. At an important point in the match, Mr. Smith hit a return that was controversial. The officials were indecisive about whether Mr. Smith had hit the ball before a second bounce, but Mr. Ashe asked Mr. Smith if he had gotten to the ball before the second bounce. Mr. Smith said, “I think I got it,” and Mr. Ashe told the officials, “Hey, if he thinks he got it, he got it.” Mr. Smith says, “That demonstrated his faith in me as a friend and my being honest.”

• DeeDee Jonrowe has competed as a musher in the Iditarod, a 1,049-mile dog sled race in Alaska. During one competition, she ran out of batteries for her headlamp and had to make a deal with another musher for some batteries. She promised not to pass him, and he gave her the batteries. She kept her word during the race. Ms. Jonrowe says, “When you’re out there for 10 days, you have to depend on each other and trust each other. You have to be as good as your word.”

***

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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.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Football, Friends, Gambling

Football

• Women do play professional tackle football, although probably no one makes a living—or even a profit—from it. For example, in 2006 the New York Sharks had an annual budget of $85,000. According to team owner Andra Douglas, about half of the budget “comes from the National Bank of Andra.” Players have to raise money to be on the team, and in 2006 the grand total of $5,000 went to the team’s six coaches. According to Ms. Douglas, this money “probably covered their gas and tolls.” Sponsors of the team tend to be, Ms. Douglas says, “mom-and-pop shops—people we know.” Obviously, everyone on the team is involved because of love of the sport.

• In 1940, the Chicago Bears battled the Washington Redskins for the world football championship. Just three weeks earlier, the Redskins had defeated the Bears, 7-3. This time, however, the Bears won in a stunningly lopsided upset, 73-0. The offense of the Bears was so powerful that late in the game, when the Bears were preparing to kick for yet another point after yet another touchdown, a referee begged them, “Look, fellers! Already, you’ve kicked so many balls into the stands that now we have only one left. How about passing or running with the ball for the extra point? Otherwise, we won’t have a ball to play with to finish the game.”

• On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland University 222-0 in a football game. Near the end of the game, the Cumberland quarterback, Ed Edwards, fumbled the ball and yelled at his teammates, “Pick it up! Pick it up!” Seeing the fearsome Georgia Tech players bearing down on the ball, Cumberland fullback Leon McDonald yelled back, “Pick it up yourself—you dropped it.”

• Someone once called in to speak to the coach of Louisiana State University football game on a talk show. The caller asked, “Who was that knucklehead who missed the field goal at the end of the game?” The coach was loyal to his players, and he replied, “One of the young men I coach, and we both are going to try to do better next time.”

• Although the forward pass in football became legal in 1906, at first it was not much used. However, in 1913, Notre Dame played against Army, a team with much bigger and much stronger players. Rushing was not effective against such a physically superior team, so the Notre Dame team started throwing the forward pass—and won, 35-13.

Friends

• Violinist Jacques Thibaud once made a hole in one—or at least he thought he had. After Mr. Thibaud died in an airplane accident in 1953, the truth came out. He had been playing golf with conductor Pierre Monteux, who walked ahead of the other golfers. Seeing that Mr. Thibaud’s ball was very near the hole, and knowing that no one could see him, Mr. Monteux picked the ball up and dropped it in the hole. Mr. Thibaud was so happy at having made a hole in one that Mr. Monteux could not tell him what he had done.

• In 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs to break the single-season home-run record set by Mark McGwire; however, by doing so, he lost a $100,000 bet. Early in the season, friend and teammate Shawon Dunston suggested that Mr. Bonds might break Mr. McGwire’s record that season. Mr. Bonds did not think that was possible, and Mr. Dunston suggested that if he broke the record then he could buy him a brand-new Mercedes-Benz. Mr. Bonds, of course, broke the record, and he did buy Mr. Dunston a $100,000 Mercedes Benz.

Gambling

• As a boy, writer Bill Barich was friends with another boy named Eddie Greco, who worked in a restaurant frequented by people who raced horses for a living. They gave Eddie tips—tips that paid off when gambling. Eddie passed the tips on to Bill, and Bill started gambling. Oddly, he discovered that when he placed a bet, no one at the gambling counter ever checked his ID to make sure that he was old enough to legally gamble; however, when he tried to cash in a winning ticket and pick up his winnings, the person at the gambling counter always checked his ID. This led to Bill looking around for a friendly adult to cash in his ticket—and NOT ask for a cut. (Uniformed sailors were very helpful in this regard.)

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Fishing, Food, Football

Fishing

• Fishing enthusiast Bill Barich and his friend Paul Deeds were having no luck catching trout at Hot Creek Ranch, although other fishermen were telling them about all the fish they had caught. Bill said, “They must have a secret.” Paul agreed, “Sure, they do. It’s called lying.” Actually, the two discovered the secret. By allowing a dry fly to become water-soaked and sink below the surface of the water, they could make it behave like an underwater lure known as a nymph—something forbidden at Dry Creek Ranch at that time of the season, but which was exactly the right lure needed to catch trout at Dry Creek Ranch at that time of the season. Dry Creek Ranch had no rules about allowing a dry lure to become water-soaked, so Bill and Paul enjoyed some very good fishing, indeed.

• Mark Anthony wanted to impress Cleopatra with his fishing ability, but unfortunately the fish weren’t biting, so he secretly ordered some fishermen to dive underwater and attach fish to his hook. With this aid, he was able to catch fish after fish in the presence of Cleopatra. However, Cleopatra understood what was going on, so she secretly ordered a fisherman to attach a salted fish to Mark Anthony’s hook.

• The ancient Chinese scholar and teacher Confucius took ethics seriously. He greatly enjoyed fishing, but when he fished, he declined to use a net, reasoning that its use gave him an unfair advantage over the fish.

Food

• Bill Veeck, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, was very good at thinking up promotions and publicity stunts. He once gave a woman fan 10,000 cupcakes and delivered them to her kitchen. Another time, he gave a dignified man six live baby pigeons. The dignified man managed to hold on to only three during the course of the game—one was in each hand, and the other was between his knees. To show appreciation for the man’s being a good sport, Mr. Veeck sent him a gift of 12 game birds, all ready for the oven. For one game, he let the fans call the plays. For that game, he held up cards suggesting various plays, and whatever sign the fans clapped loudest for was the play the manager called—the Brewers won the game!

• Softball player Dorothy “Dot” Richardson was fiercely competitive. In 1983, as a member of the UCLA softball team, she and the other members of the team hoped to defend their national championship title, but they came down with food poisoning. They lost the title game, but they played hard. Suffering from food poisoning, Dot hit a double, and then she vomited while standing on second base. Her coach, Sue Enquist, said about her, “She would not come out of the game. When you see someone with that kind of courage, it raises the entire team’s game.” In 1996 and 2000, Dot won Olympic gold as a member of the United States softball team.

• While touring the United States following her gold-medal-winning performance in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut’s favorite food was ketchup. She smothered hamburgers and eggs with entire bottles of ketchup and once ate pancakes and ketchup instead of pancakes and maple syrup.

Football

• Notre Dame football player George Gipp was athletically gifted in more than one sport. In a baseball game, he was ordered to bunt, but instead he hit a home run. Why? He explained that he didn’t want to spend much time standing on the bases because it was too hot. When he was a star football player, he talked to a newcomer to the varsity team, Roger Kiley, giving him a thrill because a star was noticing him. Unfortunately, Mr. Kiley dropped the first forward pass that Mr. Gipp threw to him in a game. Mr. Kiley hung his head, but Mr. Gipp told him, “Forget it. On the next play, I’m going to throw you a pass so soft that you couldn’t drop it if you tried.” Mr. Kiley caught the next pass and soon became a fine Notre Dame receiver.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Fathers, Fights

Fathers

• When he was growing up, Hank Aaron both had trouble in school and wanted to be a baseball player. At one point, he was suspended from school but did not tell his parents. Instead, he pretended that he was still going to school. He would enter the school at the front entrance but immediately exit through the rear door. Then he would go to a pool hall and do such things as listen to the radio so he could hear the games that Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers. One day, his father found out what he was doing and walked into the pool hall and took Hank out for an important talk. His father explained that each morning he gave Hank two quarters so that Hank could get a good lunch and concentrate on getting his education. Meanwhile, his father left home each day with only one quarter in his pocket for his lunch. That is how important Hank’s education was for Hank’s father—Hank’s education was more important than his father’s stomach. After the talk, Hank agreed to start attending a new school, and yes, he did graduate from the school.

• Professional boxer Muhammad Ali is a good father. When they were very little, his daughters Laila and Hana would get up early and make him a cup of “coffee.” They did this by pouring various edible liquids they found in the kitchen into a cup and taking it to him to drink. Being the good father he is, Mr. Ali drank every drop, kissed them, and praised them for the goodness of their “coffee.”

• After Ekaterina Gordeeva won the gold medal in pairs skating (with Sergei Grinkov) at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, her Russian father did what he always did when Ekaterina won an important award. He filled a glass goblet with champagne, put the gold medal in the goblet, and let family and friends take a sip to celebrate her victory.

• When Monica Seles was a little girl growing up in Yugoslavia and learning to play tennis, her father, a cartoonist, gave her lessons. He sometimes drew the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, a cat and mouse, on a tennis ball for her to play with. The cartoon characters reminded her that she must play competitive tennis as if she were a cat hunting a mouse.

• The Zamboni, which maintains the ice at skating rinks, may be the most favorite sports machine—it definitely has its fans. Just like the top skating stars of the National Hockey League, the Zamboni has had a trading card devoted to it.

Fights

• Major-league umpire Jocko Conlan saw a bad fight on the diamond in San Francisco—no one was hurt because everyone was fighting so badly. Daryl Spencer slid into Don Hoak at third base, they had words and started fighting, then the other players started fighting. Mr. Conlan looked around, and what he saw was pitiful. Players weren’t throwing punches; instead, it looked like they were hugging each other. He told the managers, “You know the rules in this league. Anybody who gets in a fight on the field has to leave the ball game. But if you can get these fellows back to the dugouts immediately, I won’t throw anybody out.” They did, and the game continued. After the game, reporters wanted to know why Mr. Conan hadn’t thrown any players out of the game. He replied, “If it was a good fight, I would have thrown a dozen of them out. But it was a lousy fight. I didn’t see one punch thrown. Why throw them out for not fighting?”

• On June 22, 1938, heavyweight champion Joe Louis fought a rematch against Max Schmeling, who had defeated him in 1936. One of Joe’s trainers asked before the fight how he felt. Mr. Louis replied, “I’m afraid.” The trainer asked, “Afraid?” “Yeah,” Mr. Louis said, “I’m afraid I might kill Schmeling tonight.” Mr. Lewis didn’t kill Mr. Schmeling, but he did knock him out two minutes and four seconds into the first round.

• After jockey Julie Krone won a race by 10 lengths, competing jockey Miguel Rujano whipped her across the face. With her ear bleeding, Ms. Krone told the bystanders, “Excuse me, I have to go hit somebody,” then she punched her attacker’s nose. Ms. Krone’s assertiveness paid off when she became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes, in 1993.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Buy

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