Did the First Song About Baseball Come Out Before the Civil War Even?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: The first published baseball song pre-dates the Civil War!

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is now over one hundred years old. And yet, that’s not even CLOSE to the oldest song about baseball!

Read on to see what was the first song ever published about baseball!
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Did Angry Edmonton Fans Burn Chris Pronger’s Furniture After He Was Traded?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about hockey and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.

HOCKEY URBAN LEGEND: Angry Edmonton fans burned Chris Pronger’s furniture after he moved away from Edmonton upon being traded.

Chris Pronger had a long career in the National Hockey League (NHL). He’s still technically under contract with the Arizona Coyotes, although he has not played since 2011 due to severe concussion symptoms, and since he’s 41, it is unlikely that he ever WILL play again, but I guess we’ll find out someday. Anyhow, the six-time All-Star defenseman was such a great player that he actually won the league’s Most Valuable Player award (called the Hart Trophy) in 2000, the first defenseman to win it since 1972!!

A star player for the Hartford Whalers and the St. Louis Blues, Pronger spent the majority of his career as a star in St. Louis. That was where he won his Hart Trophy. However, following the NHL labor dispute in 2005, a new salary cap system was put into place and the Blues could no longer afford Pronger. So they dealt him to the Edmonton Oilers. After signing a five-year contract with the Oilers, Pronger helped lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season with the team, where they lost the series in the seventh game.

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Pronger caused some controversy, however, when he asked to be traded after the season ended.

As you might imagine, fans in Edmonton were quite stunned. They get this big star, he signs a long-term deal, he helps them get to the seventh game of the finals and then he demands to be traded?

Edmonton agreed to his trade request, and dealt him to the Anaheim Ducks (where he eventually led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship in his first season there, further turning the screws in Oiler fans’ hearts).

Pronger spoke about the reaction of Oiler fans on Jim Rome’s syndicated radio show.

“Yeah, there’s obviously a few things that didn’t set well with me, for instance, taking the furniture that I had in my house and burning it, and having a ‘Burn Chris Pronger’s Furniture Day,’ that really did sit well with me very much. They burned my kid’s crib and things like that. When you hear stories like that it doesn’t sit well.”

Did that actually happen?
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An Owner Correctly Predicted His Stadium Would Be Home to the World Series of 1926…It Just Wasn’t His Team!

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: An owner correctly predicted that his stadium would be home to a World Series by 1926 – he just predicted the wrong team!

Guarantees and bold predictions are nothing new in sports and they really tend not to be remembered all that much (who really remembers Patrick Ewing guaranteeing that the Knicks would win Game 7 against the Pacers in 1995?). Really, unless the guarantees or bold predictions come TRUE, they’re forgotten. But when they DO come true, then we have a different story.

That was the problem with Philip DeCatesby Ball – he made a correct prediction, but his correct prediction looked awful for him!
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Were Leicester City Chances of Winning the Premier League Really 5,000 to 1?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about soccer/football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The chances of Leicester City winning the English Premier League were 5,000 to 1.

The Leicester City Football Club (the “Foxes”) shocked the sports world recently by winning the English Premier League this year, despite having never once winning the top honors in the Premier League or Division One (which was what the predecessor to the Premier League). Before winning the championship this year, their highest placing was second place once…in the 1928-29 Division One season!!

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It’s a remarkable achievement. People have been making a big deal out of the odds of them winning the championship. Gambling houses were paying out the victory on 5,000 to 1 odds. So if you bet a pound, you’d win 5,000 pounds. Thus, this is one of the greatest longshots in sports history.

However, the question then becomes, were their actual chances of them winning the title really that low?
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How Did a Bookkeeper Who Had Never Played Organized Baseball Become a Hall of Famer?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A series of fortuitous events turned an 18-year-old bookkeeper who had never played organized baseball into a Hall of Famer.

With the fact that both Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, two of the best baseball players of the 1940s (or really any decade), hailed from California, it is somewhat easy to forget that in the early days of professional baseball, California was a bit of a no man’s land. From the beginnings of professional baseball up through the first quarter of the 20th Century, baseball did not venture much further west than St. Louis. Of the first 39 inductees into the Hall of Fame, the furthest west any of them were born were a fellow we talked about last week, Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was born in the middle of Nebraska (two other players were born in Kansas and Texas, respectively, but both were on the far east sides of their states).

The first California-born player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame was the fortieth inductee, Frank Chance (of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame).

So the geographical odds were already against San Francisco native Harry Heilmann, and yet, through a series of fortuitous breaks that occurred when he was 18 years old (and working as a bookkeeper) Heilmann made his way from never playing organized baseball to being a professional ballplayer, then a Major Leaguer and, eventually, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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How Did a Lawsuit Lead to the Dallas/Houston Governor’s Cup?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The annual Governor’s Cup game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston team from the AFC began due to a legal settlement.

In the early days of the existence of the American Football League, then a rival to the National Football League, there were many battles over college players. In fact, the existence of the AFL was, in many ways, one of the biggest boons to players’ salaries in the history of professional football. Until the AFL came along, there was no way of truly demonstrating how much a given player was worth on the open market because there WASN’T an open market. Once the AFL came along, they were desperate for relevance, and the quickest way to get to relevance was to get star players. So the AFL paid through the nose for the best of the college graduates. As a result, salaries soared. One of the reasons the NFL was willing to merge with the AFL was that they couldn’t afford to continue fighting with the AFL for players.

One of these players was Ralph Neely, the standout offensive tackle from the University of Oklahoma. The beginning of his professional career led to a great battle between the two pro teams from Texas, the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL and the Houston Oilers of the AFL.
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How Did Trying to Prove He Could Dunk a Basketball Ruin a Pitcher’s Career?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A top closer had his career de-railed by an attempt to show how he could dunk.

Cecil Upshaw was a major part of the success of the 1969 Atlanta Braves, who made it to the playoffs in 1969 only to lose to the “Miracle Mets.” The 26-year-old Upshaw was a dominant closer for the Braves, back in the days that a closer was more of a “fireman” than a traditional “enter the game in the ninth inning up three runs” pitcher. He threw 105 innings with a 2.91 ERA and 27 saves. This followed his 1968 campaign where he put up similar numbers (in 1967, he did much of the same, but in limited time as it was his rookie season). He looked to become a major part of the Braves’ future.

Then came 1970.
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Did a Player Get a Yellow Card for Faking an Injury…When Said Player Was DEAD?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about soccer/football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: A player got a yellow card for faking an injury – however, the player was DEAD!

Something that football often gets criticized for is the way that players attempt to draw fouls on each other by acting as though simple contact (that happens as a matter-of-fact in a game of football) was egregious contact. You know, someone bumps a player and the said player goes flying as if he were just hit by a truck.

The common term for it is “flopping” and while it is a problem in the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, it is most associated with the world of association football.

It is seen as such a problem that they even came up with rules against it.

Soccer uses a “yellow card” system, where every time an egregious rule violation takes place the referee gives the player a “yellow card.”

If you get two yellow cards, you are then given a red card and you are ejected from the game and your team must play with one less player (in other words, unlike a basketball player who has been ejected from the game, you cannot substitute a replacement for the ejected player).

Here’s England star player Wayne Rooney getting a yellow card…

Here are the things you can give a yellow card for…

1. Unsporting behaviour
2. Dissent by word or action
3. Persistently infringing the laws of the game
4. Delaying the restart of play
5. Failing to respect the required distance of a corner kick or free kick
6. Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
7. Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

“Flopping” is specifically codified under rule 1. However, it’s one thing to SAY that you’re going to punish people for flopping and it’s a whole other thing to actually CALL it, as it can often be quite difficult to determine whether a player legitimately fell or is just pretending to be hurt.

That uncertainty was at play in May of 2010 in a fifth division match between Eastern European club Mladost FC and their local rival team, Hrvatski Sokol.
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Did the Coach of Harvard’s Football Team Once Strangle a Bulldog to Inspire His Team to Defeat the Yale Bulldogs?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The coach of Harvard once strangled a live bulldog to death to motivate his team to defeat the Yale Bulldogs.

Percy Haughton was, without a doubt, the most successful football coach in the history of Harvard Crimson football.

One of the first professional head coaches (initially the job was either done by seniors or volunteers), Haughton (a former Harvard football player himself) led the team to a 72-7 record (with 5 ties) in his nine seasons as head coach of the Crimson. The team also claimed three national championships during his tenure. A major factor by Harvard (and perhaps more importantly, the boosters of the team) in deciding to bring in Haughton was Harvard’s record against Yale in the end of the year game (which eventually became referred to as simply “The Game”) the two rival schools had played since 1875 (with some gaps, like when The Game has become so violent that it was canceled for two years. Check out this old Football Urban Legend for a similar situation in the Army-Navy game of the same era). In the 28 games that they had played prior to the 1908 season, Yale had won 21 of them, including the last six (all shutouts!). So Haughton had a strong desire to defeat the Yale Bulldogs in the 1908 match, not just because of the pressure from his new position but because he, himself (as a Harvard alum) hated the Elis as much as anyone. The legend goes that Haughton actually strangled a live bulldog before the game in front of his players to motivate them to victory. They did, in fact, win the game 4-0 (field goals counted for 4 points back then) and the Harvard/Yale rivalry would no longer be a one-sided one from then on (they have basically split the series since 1908). It is one of the most famous pieces of motivation in college football history (right up there with “Win one for the Gipper!”). But is it true?
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Was Grover Cleveland Alexander Either Drunk or Asleep When He Was Brought in to Pitch in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Grover Cleveland Alexander was drunk and/or asleep in the bullpen when he was called out to face Tony Lazerri in the 7th inning of Game 7 of the 1926 World Series.

Modern baseball fans certainly recall the heroics of Jack Morris pitching a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and Randy Johnson pitching an inning and a third of scoreless relief on one day’s rest in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Madison Bumgarner pitching five innings of scoreless relief on two days’ rest in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. Well, right up there in the annals of World Series pitching heroics is Grover Cleveland Alexander’s performance in the 1926 World Series.

The 39-year-old Alexander had joined the Cardinals earlier in 1926 after being cut by the Chicago Cubs (Alexander was still a pretty productive pitcher for a bad Cubs team, but he did not get along with the manager of the Cubs and the thought was that the next good Cubs team likely would not have Alexander on it due to his age, so why not just cut ties with him now?) and had won Game 2 of the ’26 Series against the New York Yankees. In Game 6 of the Series, with the Cardinals trailing 3 games to 2, Alexander pitching nine innings in a 10-2 Cardinal victory.

Now, in Game 7, played the very next day, the Cardinals were clinging to a 3-2 lead when the Yankees loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning with future Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri (the Yankees’ #6 hitter) at bat with two outs. Cardinals player/manager Rogers Hornsby went to Alexander. Alexander came in and struck Lazzeri out. Alexander then proceeded to retire the Yankees over the next two innings, with the last out famously coming on an attempted steal of second base by Babe Ruth, for a Cardinals World Series victory.

Great story, no? Well, over the years, the story has almost always included the extra “fact” that Alexander, figuring he was not going to be pitching Game 7, spent the night of Game 6 drinking so much that by Game 7 he was dozing off in the bullpen with a bottle of whiskey in his pocket when he was roused to go save the Cardinals’ season. Supposedly, Hornsby met him in left field as he entered from the bullpen to see if he could even see straight, noted that he was hammered but figured that a drunk Alexander was better than a sober anyone else, so stuck with the future Hall of Famer. Even better story, right?

But is is true?
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