The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

Here are the first 10 anecdotes from my book The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes (Kindle book for sale at 99 cents):

Activism

  • Jackie Robinson, the African American who integrated modern major-league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was an activist long before he became famous. As a boy, he and his friends would sometimes go to the movie theater and sit in the white-people-only seats. When that happened, the police would arrive to get them out of those seats. Later, while he was playing with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, his team’s tour bus pulled up at a gas station in Oklahoma. African Americans were allowed to buy gas there, but the men’s restroom bore this sign: “WHITE MEN ONLY.” Mr. Robinson walked to the restroom, and the gas station owner told him that he couldn’t use that restroom. Mr. Robinson then said, “Take that hose out of the tank.” The gas station owner did not want to lose any business, so he allowed Mr. Robinson to use the restroom. After that, the Kansas City Monarchs never bought gas at a gas station where they weren’t allowed to use the restroom. As Mr. Robinson explained, “This is America, man.”[1]
  • Women’s sports and women athletes have not always been respected. For example, in the 1960s (well before Title 9) at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Catherine L. Brown used to teach field hockey on a field that was also used by ROTC cadets. Sometimes, the ROTC cadets would act as if the women athletes were invisible and march onto the field—even during games. On one occasion when this happened, the ROTC cadets were standing at attention—meaning that they could not move—so Ms. Brown ordered the game to continue, and she rewarded each woman athlete who managed to hit the legs of an ROTC cadet with the ball.[2]
  • For a very long time, the Kenilworth Hotel in Miami, Florida, did not allow Jews to stay there. Finally, in 1960, some Jewish sportswriters covering the New York Yankees’ spring training trip were allowed to integrate the hotel’s guest list. Leonard Shecter, a man with a sharp mind and acid tongue from the New York Post, hired a bellman to walk throughout the hotel and yell, “Paging Stanley Isaacs.”[3]

Age

  • In 1948, African-American pitcher Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians and became the oldest rookie in the major leagues at age 42. He had made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues, but until Jackie Robinson broke the color line, no black athletes played in the major leagues. Indians shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau strongly supported integrating the major leagues, but he wondered whether Satchel was too old to play major-league baseball. Therefore, Mr. Boudreau put Mr. Paige through a workout to test his skills. First, Mr. Boudreau caught several of Mr. Paige’s pitches; nearly all were in the strike zone. Next, Mr. Boudreau, who was almost a .400 hitter at the time, tried to hit Mr. Paige’s pitches. Mr. Paige threw 20 pitches, and Mr. Boudreau failed to make solid contact with any of them. Shortly thereafter, the Indians offered Mr. Paige a contract. By the way, Mr. Paige’s career as a major-league pitcher was long-lived. In 1965, when Mr. Paige was 59 years old, Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, brought Mr. Paige in to pitch three innings as a way to boost attendance. In three innings, Mr. Paige allowed one hit and no runs, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead; unfortunately, the Athletics lost the game, 5-2, to the Boston Red Sox.[4]
  • Elwin “Preacher” Roe was one sports star who knew when it was time to quit. He was a good pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1940s and 1950s, and when catcher Roy Campanella knew that Preacher was pitching, he would say, “They can cut the middle of the plate out and throw it away—ol’ Preach ain’t gonna use it.” Preach had more than control; he also had a good fastball that he called his burner. However, one day he was on the mound facing Stan Musial. Preach says, “I was old, I was tired, and I was facing the best hitter in the National League. I reached back to get the last bit of good stuff I had. My burner got away from me and was heading right for Stan’s head.” Then came the moment when Preach knew it was time to quit: “Fellows, I had time to yell ‘Look out!’ three times before it got there.”[5]

Animals

  • Australian scuba diver and underwater photographer Valerie Taylor has an unusual ability to make pets of sea creatures. For example, she once befriended two moray eels that she named Harry and Fang. She fed them, and the moray eel named Harry—who was as big as Ms. Taylor—actually allowed her to carry him to the ocean’s surface to show him to her human friends. This is not recommended—Harry bit two other scuba divers.[6]
  • In 1990, after Susan Butcher won the 1,049-mile-long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska for the fourth time, she and one of her husky dogs, Granite, went to Washington, D.C., where they met then-President George Bush. Her dog was as much a celebrity as Ms. Butcher. Letters addressed to “Mr. Granite” were delivered to Ms. Butcher, and he drank expensive bottled water from France and ate his ground beef off a silver platter.[7]
  • Drag racer Christen Powell can accelerate from 0 to 100 mph faster than perhaps anyone, but when she races, she carries a purple platypus Beanie Baby, which she puts inside the firesuit that is intended to protect her in case of an accident. Ms. Powell is a feminist. Occasionally, someone asks her if she wants to be the fastest woman on the track. She replies, “No, I want to be the fastest person on the track.”[8]
  • As a competitor in the first All Girl Rodeo, Texas cowgirl Fern Sawyer decided to ride a bull one night when all the cowgirls who would normally ride the bulls were injured—she simply felt that the crowd should have the opportunity to see a cowgirl riding a bull. She rode the bull, but she broke her hand in nine places. No, she wasn’t bucked off—she broke her hand gripping too hard.[9]

Autographs

  • When Sarah Hughes won the gold medal in ladies’ figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, she received a few perks. Another gold medalist in ladies’ figure skating, Dorothy Hamill, asked Sarah to sign a copy of Time magazine—the one with Sarah’s photograph on the cover. (Time was prescient when it put Sarah’s photograph on its pre-Olympics issue—Sarah was a definite underdog in the competition.) She signed it, “Dorothy, thank you for all the inspiration. Love, Sarah.” The State of New York also gave her license plates that read “TRPL TRPL” to honor her two record-breaking triple-triple combinations in the Olympics long program—even though 16-year-old Sarah had not yet learned how to drive.[10]

[1] Source: Carin T. Ford, Jackie Robinson: “All I Ask is That You Respect Me as a Human Being,” pp. 18, 45-46.

[2] Source: Ohio University Emeriti Association, compilers, Ohio University Recollections for the Bicentennial Anniversary: 1804-2004, p. 14.

[3] Source: Steve Jacobson, Carrying Jackie’s Torch, pp. xviii-xix.

[4] Source: David Shirley, Satchel Paige, pp. 68, 81-83.

[5] Source: Carl Erskine, Carl Erskine’s Tales from the Dodger Dugout, p. 10.

[6] Source: Hillary Hauser, Scuba Diving, pp. 18, 20.

[7] Source: Ginger Wadsworth, Susan Butcher: Sled Dog Racer, pp. 58-59.

[8] Source: Tina Schwager and Michele Schuerger, Gutsy Girls, pp. 109, 111, 114.

[9] Source: Candace Savage, Born to Be a Cowgirl: A Spirited Ride Through the Old West, p. 55.

[10] Source: R.S. Ashby, Sarah Hughes: America’s Sweetheart, pp. 102, 111.

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