The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes

Here are the first 10 anecdotes from my book The Funniest People in Sports: 250 Anecdotes (Kindle book for sale at 99 cents):

Activism

  • In 1966, women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. Fortunately, an “uppity” woman did not let that stop her. Roberta Gibb (Bingay) (a rather apt last name) traveled to Boston by bus from California to compete. Of course, she was not allowed to stand at the starting line, so she hid in some bushes near the starting line, and when the male runners raced by, she joined them. At first, she wore a hooded sweatshirt to help disguise her gender, but soon she got too warm and took off the sweatshirt. Ms. Bingay ran the marathon in three hours and twenty-one minutes, finishing 124th in a race in which 415 men competed. Ms. Bingay’s running the Boston Marathon had positive results. The following year, another woman ran the marathon unofficially, and in 1972, women were finally allowed to compete officially in the Boston Marathon.[1]
  • Tennis star Billie Jean King led a boycott of the United States Lawn Tennis Association by women tennis players. The boycott occurred for a very good reason: the inequality of prize money won by male and by female tennis players. For example, in the 1970 Pacific Southwest Championships, the male champion won $12,500, while the female champion won only $1,500! The boycott worked. Billie Jean King and the other women tennis players competed in a new tennis tournament sponsored by Virginia Slims cigarettes, and they forced the USLTA to recognize the Virginia Slims Invitational.[2]
  • In 1971, an unusual raffle was held — the winner got to send 5,000 dead fish to the polluter of his or her choice. The dead fish came from Escambia Bay, and they died in a giant fish kill caused by pollution. Holding the raffle for the huge bottle of dead fish at the Pensacola (Florida) Interstate Fair was the Bream Fisherman Association.[3]
  • In 1973, African-American tennis star Arthur Ashe played in a tournament in South Africa, which then practiced a form of segregation known as apartheid. Before he would play in the tournament, Mr. Ashe demanded that the audiences watching it be integrated.[4]

Alcohol

  • While Bo Jackson attended Auburn University, he played both baseball and football. During a baseball game at the University of Alabama, a beer truck was parked just beyond the fence around the outfield. Several people, including the driver, were standing by the truck, drinking beer and yelling insults at Mr. Jackson throughout the early innings of the game. Mr. Jackson stopped the insults by hitting a home run that bounced off the side of the truck.[5]
  • At a caddie tournament at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews in Scotland, first prize was a turkey and second prize was a bottle of whiskey. Andrew “Andra’” Kirkaldy and his brother, Hugh Kirkaldy, were ahead of the pack at the last hole. To win the tournament, Hugh needed a five, but instead he deliberately took seven, saying, “Andra’ can have the turkey — the bottle of whiskey is more in my line!”[6]

Animals

  • Canadian figure skater Toller Cranston once lived in a house in a very bad part of Toronto. On the street outside his house, prostitutes freely worked their trade. One day, Mr. Cranston’s pet dog, Minkus, an English setter, turned up missing. Mr. Cranston was frantic, and as he searched the neighborhood, he enlisted the help of every prostitute and every street person he could find. He remembers one Danish prostitute telling a john who tried to buy her wares, “I can’t. I’m looking for a dog,” as she teetered down an alley on stiletto heels. Eventually, the dog, which had been stolen, was found, and Mr. Cranston had a cocktail party for all the prostitutes and street people who had helped him in the search. At the party, all the guests — men and women — were on their best behavior, saying, “Can I pass this?” and “Can I wash that?” Even though the house was filled with works of art — Mr. Cranston is an artist and he was a collector — nothing was stolen.[7]
  • In 1971, Bill Pickett became the first African American to be inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, which is located at the Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr. Pickett invented the rodeo event known as bulldogging, in which a cowboy grabs a steer by the horns, twists them, and forces the steer to fall to the ground. Mr. Pickett’s style of bulldogging was different from that used today. He used to grab the steer by the horns, bite into its upper lip, then throw himself to the ground. Invariably, the steer would follow. He came up with this idea by watching dogs handle longhorn cattle, which often hid in brush where a cowboy could not lasso them. The dogs would bite into the steer’s upper lip and hold the steer until the cowboy arrived. Today, biting into a steer’s upper lip is banned as being cruel to the steer.[8]
  • Back in the 1970s, a race tracker was envious of jockey Mary Bacon’s car, a Toronado, so he asked her, “You got some man supporting you to be able to afford a car like that?” Ms. Bacon worked hard riding horses to be able to afford that car, so she replied, “Yeah. He’s got four legs and he’s standing in barn 43. Name’s John the Hiker. All you got to do is hit him on the *ss and he runs. You hit a two-legger in the *ss and he just stands there.”[9]

Audiences

  • As a competitor, the most extraordinary moment of figure skating that Toller Cranston ever saw involved a very ill Bob McAvoy and his pairs partner, Mary Petrie. Mr. McAvoy’s dream was to go to the World Championships, and he had the opportunity to do just that in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, in 1970. Unfortunately, he became very ill on the plane trip to Yugoslavia and went straight to a hospital as soon as he arrived. Nevertheless, he forced himself to compete on the ice. The first half of the performance went well, but then Mr. McAvoy’s illness caught up with him, making him weak, and he dropped his partner on the ice as he himself fell. The two lay on the ice for a few seconds as their music continued playing, then they got up, bruised and bleeding from their fall. Mr. McAvoy made a gesture to his partner that asked, “Would you like to continue?” Ms. Petrie did, and at this point the audience came alive, cheering them on with such enthusiasm that they skated the performance of a lifetime, followed by an enormous ovation from the crowd. Their scores reflected their fall, but Mr. Cranston says, “It was a moment when skating took a back seat to integrity, sportsmanship, and the belief that nothing is impossible to a willing heart.”[10]

[1] Source: Betty Millsaps Jones, Wonder Women of Sports, pp. 52-54.

[2] Source: Julian May, Billie Jean King: Tennis Champion, pp. 36-37.

[3] Source: Donald J. Sobol, Encyclopedia Brown’s Book of the Wacky Outdoors, p. 49.

[4] Source: David K. Wright, Arthur Ashe: Breaking the Color Barrier in Tennis, p. 61.

[5] Source: Ron Knapp, Sports Great Bo Jackson, p. 28.

[6] Source: Richard Mackenzie, A Wee Nip at the 19th Hole, pp. 98-99.

[7] Source: Toller Cranston, Zero Tollerance, pp. 205-208.

[8] Source: William R. Sanford and Carl R. Green, Bill Pickett: African-American Rodeo Star, pp. 10-12, 28, 38.

[9] Source: Lynn Haney, The Lady is a Jock, p. 173.

[10] Source: Toller Cranston, Zero Tollerance, pp. 197-201.

 

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